Name: Megan Wei
Year: Class of 2010
Hometown: Basking Ridge, NJ
YOUR MAJOR IS WHAT!?
I was one of those kids who knew exactly what I wanted to major in when I came to college. I know a lot of you have no idea as to what you want to study, which is why I’m here to talk about my major: economics. Now I may be a bit biased, but I think economics is one of the best majors here at Hopkins. Not only is the major flexible, but the material is also extremely interesting. Although Hopkins is most well known for their medical school, the economics department has been gaining recognition recently not only in their graduate department but also with their undergraduate program as well.
So what exactly do economics majors do? When a lot of people think of economics majors, they immediately think of Wall Street. Well, I do want to work on Wall Street but that isn’t what the major is all about. One of my fellow economics majors wants to get his Ph.D. in economics and eventually become a professor. One of my other friends is double majoring in economics and biology and eventually wants to go to medical school. So as you can see, there are many different paths one can take with an economics major.
First, the Economics Department recently launched the new Center for Financial Economics (CFE), which is housed within the Economics Department. This past semester, they announced they were going to offer a minor in financial economics, which is essentially the study of finance and its relation to economics. For students who are specifically interested in the finance component of economics (like me), this was extremely exciting news. Along with faculty members from the economics department, the CFE is working with alumni currently working in the finance industry to expose students to the world of finance.
Another unique aspect of the Economics Department is the faculty. Economics is a broad topic; there are different areas within the subject that interest different people. Realizing this, the Economics Department has not focused solely on one area. JHU has attracted faculty with varied interests within economics to create an extremely diversified department. The department is currently broken down into five different areas: applied microeconomics, economic theory, macroeconomics, econometrics, and finance. Within each area is a group of faculty members who have done extensive research on their area of interest. This gives students the opportunity to experiment with the different topics of economics and ultimately focus their interests in one area of study.
I’ve mentioned that my interest within economics is in finance. You may be wondering how I came to that decision. As I said earlier, I was one of those students that knew I wanted to major in economics from my first day on campus. I fell in love with the topic my junior year in high school when I took AP Macroeconomics. I knew I wanted to study economics but didn’t know much more about it. After taking a variety of economics classes at Hopkins, I came to the realization that I loved working with numbers- I love seeing how a company runs behind the scenes. It was then that I decided to focus my studies on finance.
In addition to the variety of courses I’ve taken at Hopkins, this past summer I also had the opportunity to intern at Merrill Lynch. For those of you who don’t know, Merrill Lynch was one of the largest financial services firms in the world, before Bank of America bought it out in September 2008. Luckily, I was able to intern before the financial crisis came to light.
My internship was in Merrill Lynch’s Private Wealth Management division. Within the division are a group of financial advisers, one of which I had the opportunity to intern under. As a financial adviser, my supervisor was responsible for attracting high net worth individuals and investing their money in different securities, hoping to gain the largest return possible. As an intern, I was not getting coffee or making copies all day. I was thrown into a crash course of Excel and was responsible for analyzing the investments of clients. The office was in the Inner Harbor, right on the water. In fact, I had a perfect view of the harbor from my office (yes, I had my own office!). That’s my building all the way on the left of the picture. In my two month internship this past summer, I was not only able to apply information I had learned in my economics classes, but was able to gain valuable experience which will undoubtedly help me in the future.
Now that I’m sure you’re all so excited about economics, let me touch on what the major requirements are. Another great thing about the major is the flexibility—you are not taking solely economics classes from your freshman year on. The economics major only has ten courses, five required economics classes and five economics electives. The five required courses are meant to give you an introduction to both micro- and macro-level economics and allow you to get a general feel for the subject of economics. The electives allow you to pursue a specific topic that interests you. Since the major is only ten courses, this has allowed me to branch out and take courses in other departments. I’ve had the opportunity to take so many courses outside of the economics department that I’m actually considering three minors! I eventually hope to combine what I’ve learned from the economics major and my three minors (entrepreneurship & management, applied mathematics, and financial economics) to pursue a career in the finance industry after graduation.
Since I’m a junior, I have fulfilled mostly all of the economics major requirements. I have taken the five required courses and have one more elective to fulfill before I am done with the economics major (which I’m taking this coming semester). So far, my favorite class within the department has been Microeconomic Theory, taught by Professor Stephen Shore. What I loved about this class was that it combined concepts of economics with math. I’ve always been a numbers person so it was a lot of fun to be able to combine the two topics. The professor also definitely made the class much more entertaining. Not only was he able to make the most confusing concepts understandable, but he also knew how to keep the students’ attention. In fact, to illustrate the concept of bargaining and trade, he had us play a game where students actually won prizes! Can you believe that—I got rewarded for going to class! I definitely enjoyed my time in that class and would recommend it to anyone interested in economics.
I’ve had a great time writing about my major and I hope you’ve learned a lot about the economics program here at Hopkins. Feel free to post any questions you might have and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the Economics question thread.