2020-2021 Year-End Report Summary
This year, the Economics Department created three faculty working groups—classroom climate, curriculum, and resources for advancement in Econ—committed to the following endeavors: 1) understanding the classroom experience of students who have felt marginalized within Economics, 2) exploring the Economics curriculum and textbook used in the principles-level courses to ensure that a diverse group of students can identify with Economics, and 3) expanding resources for students to succeed both academically and professionally in Economics at Oxy and beyond.
While there is much more work to do in the coming years, the working groups met several times throughout the academic year and made several efforts to move the department closer to achieving a more equitable and inclusive major. Specifically, during the 2020-2021 academic year, the working groups accomplished the following:
- The classroom climate/experience working group conducted a survey of students and alumni on their experiences in the classroom and in the economics community at Oxy. The survey responses provided the department with insightful information about the experiences of students, especially those students who have ever felt marginalized in Economics. While students indicated that they felt supported by many Econ faculty members, several students expressed that they felt uncomfortable expressing confusion or uncertainty about course material in front of classmates, felt that some classmates are unaware of discrimination and inequality, felt that some students dominate classroom discussion, and felt uncomfortable in classrooms that have few female students or students of their racial background.
- Using survey responses, the classroom climate/experience working group developed a document with ideas for creating a more equitable classroom. The document, which will continue to evolve, provides a wide range of strategies that faculty may utilize to create a classroom environment more inclusive for students from underrepresented backgrounds.
- The curriculum working group evaluated the current textbook used in the department’s principles-level courses and found the textbook provided an unacceptable discussion of labor market discrimination and bias. As a result, the committee explored alternate texts and the department approved the adoption of a new textbook by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers. The new textbook which will be used in Econ 101 and 102 includes an accurate discussion of discrimination and implicit bias and a wide range of examples that allow a diverse group of students to identify with Econ. To make the transition to the new textbook easier for students, the department will be providing textbook support to students with the highest financial need.
- The curriculum working group received department approval to make labor market discrimination and economic inequality required topics for Econ 101 and 102, respectively. Resources will be provided to instructors to help them incorporate these topics.
- The resources for advancement in Econ working group created and launched the Visible Hands Series. The series is a partnership between the Oxy Economics Department and the College’s Alumni Organizations. The speaker series connects Oxy students with alumni of color with the goals of fostering diverse professional networks and learning about the professional experiences of our alumni of color. In the inaugural event, which partnered with the Occidental College Latino Alumni Association (OCLAA), the Economics Students Association (ESA), and Women of Economics (WOE), our students had an opportunity to engage with a panel of Oxy Latinx alums who occupy decision-making positions in various professional fields (non-profit, government, business owners, administrators) and hear about the different types of decisions they make and the factors that shape those decisions, including their Latinx background. Panelists also discussed their professional journey (e.g., challenges or other personal motivations that helped with their success) and the role that their experiences as Latinx students at Oxy played in their professional careers.
- The resources for advancement working group in partnership with the ESA and WOE held the first roundtable on Students of Color in Economics. The conversation was facilitated by Professor Jesse Mora. Students expressed a desire for more opportunities to interact with other students of color, greater efforts to create more inclusive classrooms, and the expansion of topics in Econ 101 and 102 that are of interest to students of color or that students of color can relate to.
- Other efforts by the department include:
- Expanding eligibility for enrollment in the department research seminar (Honors) by eliminating the first year of studies from the GPA calculation used for eligibility.
- Remsen Bird sponsored speakers from a group of scholars with diverse backgrounds and opinions including Brendan O’Flaherty (The Economics of Race in the United States), Marquise McGraw (Will We Fly Again?), and Jenny Price (Stop Saving the Planet! An Environmentalist Manifesto).
- The Economics Students Association (ESA) and Women of Economics (WOE) hosted a number of events aimed at creating a sense of community within the major (e.g., game night, student-faculty mixers, senior celebration), provided information and guidance about the major for any student interested in Economics, provided peer mentoring and tutoring for students taking Econ courses, and student and alumni panels.