To the Editor:
We read with interest Anish Mitra’s ’10 column on the financial curriculum in the economics department (“A financial curriculum at Brown,” Jan. 22). Part of the motivation for our finance curriculum is to prepare our students for a career in finance. However, the events of recent months show clearly the importance of producing not only better skilled financial analysts, but also citizens, scholars, and leaders that are well-versed in the operation of the financial sector.
It is always good for students to learn more about our courses, so his “view from the trenches” was helpful. Let us add some more information that was not in the column: we already offer a Business Economics track of the Commerce Organizations and Entrepreneurship program and the Mathematical Finance Track of the Applied Mathematics-Economic joint concentration. Both of these programs can help students interested in finance put together a coherent and broad-based concentration in the tradition of a liberal arts education.
Moreover, COE, through the generous support of alumni and foundations and the vision of the senior administration, has had a major impact on the quality of finance education at Brown. For the first time, the economics department at Brown has faculty with research interests in the field of finance. These professors are also popular teachers. The link between research and teaching that is so central to the mission of a university-college ensures that our finance curriculum is focused not just on teaching the technical skills that are in demand at a particular point in time, but on the broader intellectual questions about how the financial sector operates and how it interacts with society.
We are pleased that Mitra agrees that our current finance courses, many of which have been introduced recently, provide “an excellent foundation for an official financial curriculum at Brown.” However, Mitra is wrong about the outcome. According to the Career Development Center, JP Morgan, Citigroup, Lazard and Credit Suisse have recruited at Brown in recent years. This year they are not really hiring very much anywhere.
We are not standing still. This year we are running searches to fill the two faculty positions that were allocated to us as part of the Plan for Academic Enrichment to help develop the COE program. The stiff competition from business schools for the best faculty talent in the area of finance creates a particular challenge for a university such as Brown without such a school. But the opportunity to teach quality undergraduate and graduate liberal students works to our advantage.
In the future, depending on student demand, faculty expertise, and the changing intellectual landscape we may decide that it is sensible to offer a more specialized finance concentration within COE or economics. Until then, you can trust us: we are offering an excellent set of finance courses that allow our students to compete successfully for jobs in finance with their counterparts at Harvard, Yale, Princeton or Penn.
Andrew FosterProfessor and Chair, Department of Economics
Ivo WelchProfessor, Department of Economics