Friday, May 24

New course “˜Economics in Practice’ provides hands-on experience with case-based learning method


For many business economics staff, alumni and student organizations, it is time to get down to business.

Equipping business economics students with the necessary tools for success in their future careers, the Department of Economics has been increasing career resources and bringing in courses to train students in the art of obtaining and excelling in the jobs of their choice.

To further their efforts, a new interactive course, “Economics 188B: Economics in Practice,” will be launched spring quarter.

Currently enrolling, the four-unit course will admit 56 students by way of applications through bruinwalk.com, bringing students interested in business-related careers together in an analytical approach to integrate economic theory in real-world business, finance and public policy cases. Called the case-based learning method, students will work to solve hypothetical business cases and present their solutions both orally and in writing.

Established by the UCLA Sustainable Business Council, Undergraduate Business Society, Bruin Consulting and the Undergraduate Students Association Council, the course is open to students of all majors and years, said John Milinovich, USAC general representative project director.

“We anticipate enrollment to be very competitive,” he said.

The concept of the course originated in a collaborative effort between Professor Andrew Atkeson, business economics program director, and Brandon Watkins, Undergraduate Business Society president.

Watkins said that after speaking with business recruiters and alumni on the strengths and weaknesses of the UCLA business economics program, he was told that the current theory-based approach is not be the best way to train students for the business world.

“The overall goal is for students to apply analytical skills to solve real-world problems, because at the end of the day, that is what matters, just having strong communication skills to express it,” Watkins said.

With the case-based teaching method, students will have an opportunity to work with graduate students from the Anderson School of Management in a setting similar to professional business firms, said Addison Huddy, USAC general representative, who helped launch the course.

“In a real corporate environment, you have your director and you have your managers and then you have your analysts,” Huddy said. “In this course, the undergrad is learning how to interact with the MBA, and the MBA is learning how to manage their analysts, because that’s what they’re learning in Anderson.”

The class will involve bi-weekly presentations of various case studies to challenge students’ problem-solving skills and will culminate in a case competition Weeks 7 to 9, which will be evaluated by top business professionals in the Los Angeles area, Watkins said.

“All students enrolled in the course will be divided into 14 teams of four, who will be the ones participating in the competition,” Watkins said. “This is just a great opportunity for students to showcase their abilities in front of recruiters.”

The first course of its kind, Economics 188B hopes to function as a stepping stone to a newly revitalized economics program on campus, said Atkeson, who teaches the course.

“We should make a sustained effort to solve real-world problems and present analysis both in writing and in person,” he said. “UCLA graduates are smart, but not as polished, because they don’t have the communication skills to do that.”

The new course is an addition to an entire “package of changes to address deficiencies,” according to Atkeson.

To support students with resources to begin their careers, the economics department hired a business career counselor in the Career Center last year and is developing relationships with alumni as undergraduate mentors.

The department also created the Sharpe Fellows Internship Program in 2007 to connect top students to prestigious internships and careers. A recent course addition, “Economics 188: Career Development,” was also launched last fall under the instruction of Professor Steve Ross, a former Wall Street executive. The course aims to guide undergraduates to the careers of their choice and to equip them with the knowledge needed to obtain and excel in their jobs.

“Our view is that the package, if we pull it off, can ensure that UCLA is a first-rate place to go for a career in business,” Atkeson said.

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