Works and Days

McGill Lawrence: Research and Training Program at SUFE

Daily economics class as SUFE, Shanghai.

In the past summer, I spent two months at the research and training program at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (SUFE). The education of economics has undergone significant reform during the past thirty years in China -- students used to study the political philosophy of economics, whereas now, the neoclassical economics becomes the mainstream among Chinese universities. The economics department at SUFE ranks among the top in China and it has been a pioneer in the economics education reform. The summer program attracts students from all over China. During the two months at SUFE, we had a chance to take advanced economics classes, attend academic conferences, assist professors with their research projects, and so on.

For four weeks during the program, I took advanced microeconomics and advanced econometrics classes, which were taught by Professor Du Ninghua and Professor Tao Ji, respectively. Professor Du obtained his doctoral degree from University of Arizona, and Professor Tao from Ohio State University. Both classes were taught at a graduate level and each had forty hours of teaching within four weeks. Although it was quite difficult to master all the class material under such an intensive teaching style, it was really worthwhile because the classes allowed me to have a clear sense of what I will encounter in my future study and they reminded me again of the importance of mathematics in the field of economics.

In addition to studying the theoretical side of economics, I also learned how economics can be applied in solving crucial real world problems. As part of the program, I had a chance to attend academic conferences and talk to economists on a one on one basis about a variety of topics, including the education of economics, Chinese economy, experimental economics, etc. In particular, I learned a lot about experimental economics from Professor Du Ninghua. From his lectures and our conversations, I realized how useful experiments could be in exploring any potential causal relationships. This reminded me of the book, Poor Economics (Banerjee

, Duflo, 2011), which I read in the Development Economics class at Reed. In the book, the authors make an extensive use of natural experiments to explore policy that could improve the wellbeing of poor people. The summer program stimulated my interested in this fast-developing field and I look forward to learning more about it in my future study.

The research and training program at SUFE taught me a lot of things that I did not have a chance to learn at Reed. A particular example is my conversation with Jing Zhang, a graduate student who was also taking the classes. He was in the second year of his Master’s program at a university in China. He wished he could study economics at a top economics program in the US, however, due to many constraints, it was not quite feasible for him. During the time we spent together, we talked about economics teaching in China and the US, his daily life as a graduate student, and so on. By talking to him, I realized that many Chinese students wish to study in the US but do not have the opportunity. This reminds me that I should work hard to take full advantage of the study abroad experience.

Although my job as a research assistant in the program mostly consisted of the basic work, I still got a sense of how an economic research project is conducted and I believe this will be very helpful in my thesis writing. Last but not least, I greatly appreciate the McGill Lawrence Award for making this impressive and inspiring experience possible for me.

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