Microeconomic analysis with Professor Richard Kihlstrom

February 12, 2013

Most universities divide their academic year in two parts, and call each part a semester, or divide it into 4 parts, and call each part a quarter. At Sasin it works differently; we have quarters but there are only three of them which makes me wonder why they call it a quarter and not a trimester. And to make it even stranger, they divide each of the three quarters into 2 parts resulting in an academic year divided in 6 parts – each part should then be called a hexamester?

The main reason to have the courses over a shorter period of time, more intensively, is that many professors are being flown in to teach at Sasin and even though they probably enjoy a trip to Asia every year, I doubt they would want to spend months in a row here away from home and family. Last hexamester two professors were flown in from the US to teach us two different courses; one was Professor Richard Kihlstrom from Wharton who gives the course “Microeconomic Analysis”.

Professor Kihlstrom teaching at Sasin

Professor Kihlstrom teaching at Sasin

During the first class Professor Kihlstrom  extensively explained what we could expect the coming weeks and the schedule did not look too demanding to me. But he also gave good reason for the seemingly low pace by asking about the background of the class by show of hands. It appears only about 30% of the people are familiar with, at least, the basics of microeconomics, but an even larger group, about 40% of the people in the class, has never done anything related to supply and demand curves for as far as they can remember. The advantage of this diversity is that we, as a class, are able to hear many totally different points of view in group discussions, as soon as everybody starts participating actively at least, from people with totally different backgrounds, but the disadvantage is that courses in the first year will be very low pace and everything needs to be explained from the beginning.

That many colors in one graph? This is probably not made by a man.

That many colors in one graph? This is probably not made by a man.

During the classes we cover perfect competition, monopolies, Cournot-Nash equilibriums, and demand and supply curves. Since Professor Kihlstrom is from an older generation the concepts are explained with the help of an old-fashioned overhead projector – it surprised me Sasin still has these things available – instead of a slick Powerpoint presentation. In one of the sheets he even showed a demand curve for VCRs but when he noticed the blank faces in the classroom he started by explaining what VCRs are.

While we mostly used Excel during the exam, the lectures were totally covered by overhead projector.

While we mostly used Excel during the exam, the lectures were totally covered by overhead projector.

For the course we had the same book as we used partly for the class of Management Analysis by Brett Saraniti, but looking back there has never been the necessity to open the book; everything you need to know is available in the thumbs thick handout and available on blackboard.

Required reading, but not necessary

Required reading, but not necessary

The exam for the course Microeconomic Analysis is open book, but during the exam I did not even had the urge to open a book to find something I was unable to remember. I didn’t even bring any books into the exam room since the exam mainly consists of finding equilibriums in different market situations and is therefore mostly a test if you can create adjusted supply and demand tables and decide on the actions each participant should take. Luckily we were allowed to use a laptop with Excel, but on the other hand there was no printer available so we had to manually copy each applicable table on the exam booklet when answering a question.

All the Excel models can be made before the exam, so all that is left during the exam is to enter the prices and quantities in there and interpreting the results.

All the Excel models can be made before the exam, so all that is left during the exam is to enter the prices and quantities in there and interpreting the results.

For future classes taking this course at Sasin I can recommend to start looking at past exams early so you know what is being expected from you on the exam and you know what to focus on. Besides the Excel spreadsheets and shortcuts to finish each question on time it is also important to understand the concepts behind what you are doing because this was the first exam where I was positively surprised by a question where we were asked to analyze a situation not earlier discussed during a lecture or in a previous exam. The question surprised more people around me, less positively though, because many hands were raised to ask the professor to come over to explain what he was asking here exactly.

For questions/remarks you can contact me at: eric@stuckinthailand.com

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