Making Sense of “Economics” in a Complex World

Professor Hady George Kahy, the Economics major coordinator at TUJ, loves to talk about economics and its role in our everyday lives. He says that every step we take is the result of some kind of economic decision: “Although we do not realize it […], every single person makes decisions […] very similarly to the way economics describes him.” Therefore, economics is a study of human decision-making processes within the constraints of their personal circumstances, companies they work for, countries they live in, and global economic trends.

Economists examine decision making from a micro (personal) and macro (the entire economy) levels. Students majoring in economics learn to see things from very specific and very broad perspectives. The curriculum equips them with the knowledge and skills to analyze economies, state policies, financial markets, social trends, and individual economic decisions. After completion of the program Makoto Tanaka, an economics instructor at TUJ, expects “students to realize the important insight of Economics; everything in society is connected.” The program also devotes significant attention to Asian in general and Japan’s place in a globalized world in particular.

Three Things to Learn

Economics program courses range from micro- and macroeconomic principles and analyses to statistics and business analytics. Students can take classes from the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Science and Technology as electives and delve deeper into interdisciplinary topics. More generally, Kahy emphasises three things that economics majors should study to become successful economists: Observation methods and skills, approaches to modelling reality, and mathematics that helps in building economic models.

Attention to detail and the ability to analyze data are important components of these observation skills. Kahy says that sometimes it is not necessary to travel to a given place to get a clearer picture of its economy. He advises looking at numbers: “The data of the country reflects the country.” Developing appropriate models based on statistics and drawing conclusions takes a lot of work. Yet it is very rewarding, the major coordinator says.

Photography by: Olga Garnova

Models Are Just Models

Models are a cornerstone of economics as a discipline. They aim to describe macro and micro processes in the language of mathematics and frequently reflect their creators’ worldview. This is one of the greatest advantages and, at the same time, shortcomings of models. They help us make sense of complex phenomena and generate recommendations based on predictions. However, even the most complex models are no more than approximations of reality and should be adjusted to reflect specific countries’ situations or events accurately.

To take full advantage of economic models, Kahy encourages students to read as much as possible, to gather information about their specific cases, and to brush up their mathematical skills. These are essential for applying models to real life. Keeping an open mind is also important. The Economics curriculum introduces students to a wide variety of economic models and theories. Some of them are well-known today, some have been forgotten, and others have never had a chance to get tested in real world environments. Kahy believes that it is important to know about all of them. “There are no bad answers,” he says. The real-life applications might not have been very successful, but the theories themselves are solid and deserve attention.

Fostering Spirit of Respect and Healthy Competition

One of the greatest advantages of TUJ is its diversity. Students meet people from all over the world with various socio-economic statuses. They are exposed to opinions and feelings reflecting this variety of backgrounds and need to learn how to be open to new ideas and respect differences. Open-mindedness and tolerance of competing ideas broaden understanding of economic processes and the cultural and ideological influences on them. This is a great asset, especially for those who aspire to work internationally.

Another important skill is teamwork, which can be challenging when people do not share the same opinions. Professor Ferdinand Max Maquito, who taught at TUJ until Spring 2017, shares that he wants his students “to give their best efforts in learning the subject based on cooperation with their teammates and intense competition with other teams in a spirit of good sportsmanship.” To promote team spirit and healthy competition he allows the highest-ranking teams to choose the next group activities, for example problem solving, case presentations, or debates.

Aim Higher

When it comes to employment, Kahy’s mantra is keep looking and aim higher. He insists that students should not be fully satisfied with their current positions and should keep searching for better opportunities. He also encourages them to apply for higher level jobs. He advises to look for positions which allow students to show off their skills and learn new ones, for example in management, strategy development, or planning.

According to Kahy, everybody should dream bigger and strive to become their best self. And he has a proof that his advice works. As a boy, he liked martial arts. He never stopped dreaming. He worked hard and aimed high. In 1992, he participated in Barcelona Olympics as a member of the Lebanese judo team. He is confident his students can become Olympians in their chosen areas if they keep pushing for bigger goals.

By Olga Garnova (Class of 2017, Double major in Communication Studies and Art)