By Abby Weingarten
Watching the S&P 500 Index and the Bloomberg Terminal may seem like esoteric pastimes to some, but not to New College Associate Professor of Economics Sherry Yu, Ph.D.
She is well-versed in the financial markets and has been intensely studying the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for months. This fall, Yu will be sharing her wisdom with the campus community in her lecture, “The Economic Consequences and Responses to the Pandemic,” on October 22. It is part of the fully remote course at New College called “COVID-19: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Pandemic.”
“Since this is an interdisciplinary course, I’ll be teaching some students who have no economics background, so my intention is to broaden their view on how stocks—for example—are affecting different groups of people,” said Yu, who will be co-teaching some of the material with New College Professor of Economics and International Studies Tarron Khemraj, Ph.D. “My goal is to train students to think from an economic perspective on how to approach everything in life.”
To this end, Yu will be touching on everything from fiscal and monetary policies to the unemployment crisis. She will be prompting students to identify the major macroeconomic consequences of COVID-19 in the United States and globally, and to examine the implications of the pandemic on income inequality.
The class will explore how governments have adopted expansionary monetary policies (such as a lower interest rate, and temporary lending to business and banks), as well as fiscal stimuli (including money from the CARES Act and individual stimulus payments to citizens).
“Are these policies enough?,” Yu will be asking her students. “What areas of concern could not be effectively addressed by these policies?”
Even if her students don’t have prior knowledge of matters like the stock market, Yu looks forward to giving them a relatable glimpse into it.
“We will definitely be looking at how, because of COVID-19, we fell to a very low recession. But if you follow the financial markets lately, there are record highs, so some people are not concerned. To the mass population, however (not the wealthy holders), it’s a different story,” Yu said. “For the wealthy, their stock prices are not being affected; in fact, they’re growing because the Federal Reserve acted quickly by lending money to the banks and the wealthy. Yet we’re still seeing 15 percent unemployment.”
Because every segment of the population has been affected differently by the pandemic, Yu wants her students to share their own unique stories. One of her assignments will invite students to reflect on how COVID-19 has impacted them both personally and economically (due to the abrupt changes in the costs of living, unemployment, lockdowns and other factors).
Much of what Yu will be discussing in her lecture is directly tied to her own academic research. In June, she and Khemraj co-authored a paper entitled Human Capital and the COVID-19 Pandemic, available in the Munich Personal RePEc Archive. It delves into the effects of socioeconomic, institutional and medical factors on cross-country COVID-19 death rates.
And, before the pandemic caused an evacuation of the New College campus in March, Yu had just completed another project: securing an official university affiliation with the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute for the College. The CFA is a professional association for investment management professionals, and it has the highest level of international legal and regulatory recognition of finance-related qualifications. The CFA affiliation is significant for New College because it allows students to more easily pursue careers in the financial industry.
But Yu believes economic and financial literacy are not just for those in specialty fields; the principles are universally applicable to all disciplines. That is one of the reasons the comprehensive “COVID-19” course at New College is so appealing to Yu and other professors; it invites students in every Area of Concentration (AOC) to expand their scholarly horizons.
Assistant Professor of Religion Manuel Lopez, Ph.D. and former Digital Humanities Librarian Cal Murgu coordinated the three-month-long series, which involves 20 New College faculty members teaching 28 lectures. Sessions are held from 12:30 to 1:50 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays until November 23 on the Canvas online platform. The course looks at the pandemic from biological, epidemiological, historical, political, economic and sociological angles. Points of view from experts in data science, literature, ethics, religion and the arts are also incorporated.
As for Yu’s lecture, she hopes the content will help students build critical-thinking skills and, in a way, begin to see the world through an economist’s lens.
“I always try to advocate for financial literacy and basic economic principles in my classes,” Yu said. “It’s so important for everyone to have some economic knowledge, especially in the middle of a pandemic and a recession.”
For more information on the “COVID-19” course, visit dss.ncf.edu/covid19/index.php/Main_Page
Abby Weingarten is the editor/writer in the Office of Communications & Marketing.