The Epic Economics Study Group

9:00 p.m. As the minute hand was set to rejoin the number “12” on my watch, I found myself speeding up on my way from the Quantitative Skills Center (QSC) to Carnegie Hall. I was in between my Maths appointment with a QSC tutor and my Macroeconomics Principles Study Group session, which goes from 9:00 till 10:30 on Tuesdays, on a voluntary basis.

The Quantitative Skills Center provides whiteboards and quiet study space
The Quantitative Skills Center provides whiteboards and quiet study space

The night sky looked beautiful, as always. Coming from Beijing, whose notorious air contamination has long deprived us of the view of a starry sky, I love to watch the night sky while thinking about random aspects of my life. Tuesday nights do not usually leave too much time for this reflection. In between the two study sessions, my job was to quickly shift my thinking mode from Maths to Econ.

As I approached Carnegie Hall (a very classy building that is home to some of the Social Sciences departments), I found some other students walking into the building. A few minutes afterwards, Prof. Manisha Goel stepped in as well. In addition to holding office hours and ad-hoc appointments, Prof. Goel generously dedicates her Tuesday evenings to the Study Group sessions. While she encourages her students to discuss in groups and try to solve each other’s questions, she is also present to answer any questions.

The way our ECON051 (Macroeconomics Principles) class is scheduled is that we have either an assignment or a quiz (with the exception of the two mid-terms in the mid-term season) every Wednesday. During each class, we also have a short discussion that is usually focused on specific articles that we read in relation to the topics that we have been covering.

28th October was a particularly memorable Tuesday. The assignment for that week was particularly challenging, with questions on the permanent income hypothesis and questions on Vietnam, Greece, and even a hypothetical Utopia. I came into the classroom with my third draft for this assignment. Previously, I enjoyed studying in an informal study group with two friends over the weekend, and had been reworking and reconsidering several questions. For Tuesday night, I had prepared six questions. Although the environment was definitely collaborative, I could sense that everyone was stressed. The air felt intense, not without a tinge of anxiety.

I left the session at around 10:40 pm, but heard that Prof. Goel and many of my classmates kept working in the study group until midnight. From around 5:00 a.m. the next day, Prof. Goel had already gotten up to answer emails. From 9:00 till lunch time, she tirelessly continued her office hours, and from 1:15 until 4:00 pm, she taught two 75-minute Economics classes that were scheduled almost back to back.

Wow. That meant more than 12 hours of teaching / responding to questions, if we subtract the hours of insufficient rest!

I can still clearly recall her jokingly saying, “I have to do it [the assignment] 50 times. You only do it once. I woke up this morning thinking about the problems, and then realized, oh, you need to work on it, not me!”

Although I did the assignment more than a couple of times with edits each time, I could definitely sympathize with her situation, and have been deeply moved by Prof. Goel’s dedication and patience. “You still have the energy to think about my questions!” Prof. Goel was impressed at the consistent responses to her in-class questions even after so intense a study period, sympathizing with us too.

Yes, the academics here can be very intense, but I am extremely grateful for the amount of support that we receive from professors as students at Pomona College.