JACOB HEISLER – APRIL 20TH, 2023
Econ 100A (Microeconomics) is one of three required upper division Economics courses for Econ majors alongside Econ 100B (Macroeconomics) and Econ 140 (Econometrics). Microeconomics is taught by Professor Jim Campbell, who many prospective students will already be familiar with because he also teaches Econ 1 (Introduction to Economics).
The course content covers a wide range of material pertaining to the field of microeconomics neatly split up into 14 topics that each last approximately a week. The topics, while subject to change, are as follows:
- Preferences and utility
- The rational choice model
- Applications of consumer theory
- Choice under uncertainty
- General equilibrium in an exchange economy
- Producer theory
- Perfect competition and partial equilibrium
- General equilibrium with production
- Monopoly and market power
- Public goods
- Oligopoly theory
- Markets with asymmetric information
With three hours of lectures and two hours of discussion sections per week to introduce numerous aspects of a massive subject, there are a lot of concepts crammed into a short period of time. Professor Campbell makes learning the material manageable by supplying extensive resources at the beginning of the semester. Students receive access to a course pack that provides a crash course for every single topic in the course.
Each topic in the course pack begins with a list of resources, such as Campbell’s lecture notes, an optional video textbook, and two optional textbooks. The lecture notes for a given topic are posted well ahead of the time that topic is taught in class, and it is incredibly valuable to prepare for class by examining his lecture notes. Material from the textbooks are not tested; they are simply available resources to use to enhance understanding. Plus, the video textbook and one of the optional textbooks are free and available online! Campbell also presents several articles or papers that provide a real world connection to the concepts being covered. Again, these readings are optional.
In the course pack, Campbell also lists every concept covered in a given topic which is quite valuable when reviewing. There are also around 8-10 practice problems for every topic that are quite similarly structured to quiz questions you will encounter. Finally, there are several open-ended discussion questions for every topic.
At the end of the course pack, Campbell provides an appendix with math tips, past quizzes and final exams, and advice on how to succeed on these tests.
Lectures are taught differently to other Economics classes you might have taken. Campbell does not actually go through his theory- and equation-based lecture notes during class; instead, he spends most of class time solving select problems from the course pack. This is an effective way to teach because students get to see concepts in action to understand how they actually work.
Campbell explains his work clearly and methodically, but if something he says is not understood, he is very open to questions during the lecture. He adjusts his teaching pace of any given concept to the collective understanding of the class. Additionally, he is one of the more entertaining lecturers at Cal. Campbell is very approachable outside of class, and he clearly prioritizes student wellbeing and concept acquisition.
Discussion sections are opportunities to go over course material and do more practice problems. Plus, about a quarter of the time in discussion sections is dedicated to short presentations by students about an optional article from the course pack. Sections are optional, but it is absolutely worth it to attend.
The value you get from this course and the success you have in it are due to what you put into it. Students have access to an abundance of resources, and learning opportunities, almost all of which are optional. You have the freedom to put however much work into the course as you would like, but the resources provided are relevant, interesting, and important to succeeding in the class.
45% of the grade is from a series of quizzes, 10% is a short presentation on an article, 10% is reading responses to required readings, 5% is final exam prep, and 30% is the final exam.
The quizzes emphasize a qualitative and quantitative understanding of the material. There are questions involving equations, graphs, and concept explanations. If you are not a math person, do not worry, because the math gets no more challenging than partial derivatives, which are explained in the beginning of the class.
The other assignments and exams give much more flexibility so you are able to write or present what interests you. Groups of two do a short presentation explaining an article of their choice from the course pack at some point in the semester in the discussion section. Reading responses are short reflections explaining what interests you from interdisciplinary papers that are provided. For the final exam, you will have numerous prompts to choose from that are modeled after discussion questions from the course pack. You pick two questions on topics that interest you and write open-ended responses to them. Since microeconomics is so broad, Campbell gives numerous opportunities for you to discover what you enjoy and dive deeper into it. Critical thinking is assessed, and as long as you are able to demonstrate genuine intellectual curiosity and apply course concepts, you will do well.
Professor Campbell does an excellent job of explaining the basics of an entire field while organizing the course in such a way that each student gets a unique experience tailored in the way they want. Whether you are taking this class to fulfill a major requirement, or you are simply looking to explore the field of economics, as long as you are willing to put in the effort, Econ 100A will be one of the more fulfilling courses you take at Cal.
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