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Learning Goals

Learning Goals

I.     First and Second Exam Learning Goals
II.    Dissertation Learning Goals
III.   Professional Development and Ethics Goals

I. First and Second Exam Learning Goals

The primary objective of the Economics Program at the Graduate Center has been to teach the students mastery of the discipline of economics in general, and their own specialization in particular, at a level that would permit them to find employment as professional economists in academia, business, and government.  To achieve this end, our graduates are expected to demonstrate (1) broad familiarity with economic theory and with statistical and econometric methods; (2) in-depth knowledge of two fields of specialization chosen among the fields offered by the Economics Program; (3) ability to design and perform economic research in specialized fields with an original contribution in the field.

(i)  First Exams

Program Learning Goals
The first examination assesses the students written communication skills and the depth and the extent of their mastery of the core of economic theory, and it consists of two sections in each of macroeconomics, microeconomics and econometrics.  Students are required to take this examination and succeed in passing it by no later than June of the second full academic year after they entered the program.

To complete the First Examination successfully, students must pass written, “closed-book” type examination in at least two areas of macroeconomics and microeconomics and econometrics.  The third area can be satisfied with an average grade of B or better in the first year courses for that area.  A grade of Pass or Fail is assigned to each question by a committee consisting of at least two graders.  The subject matter in each examination is related, but not confined, to material covered in two semesters and is designed to assess students’ familiarity with the economic theory and the current knowledge of statistical and econometric methods.  

(ii)  Second Exams

Program Learning Goals
The second exams measure students’ written communication skills and the depth and extent of their mastery of two fields of their choice in Economics, as well as their ability to design and perform original economic research in the field.  The successful completion of the second exam requirements demonstrates that (i) the students have background in the fields’ published literature at a level that would be required to write a dissertation research proposal; (ii) they can apply economic reasoning and principles to the field; (iii) they can complete a scholarly paper in the students’ field of specialization; (iv) they confirm their competence in applying econometric and statistical techniques to conduct scholarly research in economics.

To complete the Second Examination successfully, students must:

  • Pass a written examination in one field; A grade of Pass or Fail is assigned to each question by a committee consisting of at least two graders.
  • Obtain a grade of B+ or more in both course sections of the second field;
  • Successfully complete ECON 88000 (Research Methods and Writing in Economics).

II. Dissertation Learning Goals

Program Learning Goals
In the Economics Program the dissertation stage assesses students’ written and oral communication skills, the depth of their knowledge of the research area, and their mastery of the quantitative skills as applied to their research.  The learning goals and their assessment occur in four stages:

(i)  Dissertation proposal

After completing the level 2 requirements by successfully passing the second examination and satisfying the 60-credit requirement of the GC, the student moves to level 3. The student prepares the dissertation proposal under the guidance of faculty mentors.  The dissertation proposal is a document that describes the intended content of the dissertation.  Insofar as applicable, the dissertation proposal defines specific research hypotheses, demonstrates a familiarity with the relevant literature, outlines the contribution to the literature, and describes relevant data sources, the econometric methodology and theoretical context proposed to conduct the research.  If the dissertation will comprise several essays, each proposed essay will be defined in these terms, and the proposal will offer motivation as to how the essays will jointly constitute a dissertation.  

Learning Goals 
The written proposal demonstrates the student’s mastery of the field, quantitative skills, and written communication skills.

(ii)  Oral Defense of the Dissertation Proposal

In Economics, the presentation of the dissertation proposal occurs within 12 months after moving to level 3.  After each committee member  approves that the proposal is suitable for an oral proposal defense, the oral defense is scheduled.  The defense is open to students and faculty of the Graduate Center. The examiners consist of three permanent members of the dissertation committee but the student can also invite faculty outside the Graduate Center faculty.  The intention of the defense is to show the examiners that the subject builds and significantly contributes to the existing literature, with an up-to-date methodology.  

Learning Goals
The oral defense assesses the same skills and prospective contribution as the written proposal in addition to the oral communication skills of the student.

(iii)  The Dissertation  

After a successful defense of the dissertation proposal, the student continues his or her research towards the completion of the dissertation under the guidance of the dissertation advisor and the permanent advisory committee.  During this process, the student critically reviews the literature, explains how this research fits in the literature and how it makes a significant contribution.  The student specifies the methodology used to analyze the data, presents the original findings of the research.  During this process, the student gets frequent feedback from the committee members and the advisor, incorporates them into the revised version of the dissertation.  After the final version is approved by all members of the committee, an oral defense date is scheduled in conformity with the university regulation.  

Learning Goals
The written dissertation process helps to assess the student’s mastery of the field, quantitative skills, and written communication skills.

(iv)  Oral Defense of The Dissertation

When the dissertation is ready to be defended, an oral defense is scheduled.  In addition to the three members of the permanent committee who must be CUNY doctoral faculty, two additional readers may be appointed to the oral examining committee.  The oral defense meeting consists of two segments.  The first segment is open to students and faculty (including the oral examination committee), during which the student will first make a presentation summarizing the dissertation and then answers questions from the audience.  The second segment is closed to the public, during which the student answers any remaining questions of the oral examination committee.  

Learning Goals
The oral defense is the final confirmation of the depth of the student’s knowledge in his/her chosen field, the original contribution to the literature, and the student’s oral communication skill as a prologue to job market interviews.  

III. Professional Development and Ethics Goals

Graduates from the Doctoral Program in Economics will demonstrate that they have achieved the program’s professional development goals and show commitment to the standards for conducting ethical research.  These goals are measured by the following:

1.  Professional Development 

Program Learning Goal
Students are expected to have demonstrated mastery of the discipline of economics in general, and their own specialization in particular, at a level that would permit them to find employment as professional economists in academia, business, and government.
To achieve this goal, The Economics program pursues two broad objectives.  First, students must have the skills to become successful employees.  Common between these employment targets is a need to make effective presentations, to conduct high-quality research, and to write well.  Second, students must have the skills to make both successful entry and productive transitions in their employment market, key to continued growth on the career path.

(i)  Development of the presentation, research and writing skills 


  • Successful completion of a course entitled Research Methods and Writing in Economics, a required element of the Second Examination.  In this course, students write a paper that is graded by both the course instructor and a second reader who is a specialist in the field that the paper addresses, and they make presentations on their research topic.
  • As part of the Level 2 requirements, successful completion of the course in Applied Macroeconomics or Applied Microeconomics.  The course provides students with state-of-the-art tools in applied econometrics, which they use in their dissertation and providing them with skills to advance in their career.  

  • Incorporation in field courses of term papers, referee reports on published works and short essay assignments as part of their course grade.

  • Successful completion of the department’s Applied Economics Seminar as part of level 2 requirements.  This seminar features guest speakers and resident faculty giving presentations of their research.  Students discuss the presented papers and write reports on them.  Those preparing to go to the academic job market are required to present their dissertation research in this seminar.   Students in the health and demography field are expected to attend the monthly Health and Demography Seminar each semester.

  • Participation in the student-run seminar that meets bimonthly where students present their preliminary research in front of their peers.

  • Conference participation at NBER’s annual spring and summer Health Economics Meetings in Cambridge, Massachusetts, funded by The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) for students specializing in health economics.

  • Completion of the course in Teaching Strategies in Economics. The course is required for the Graduate Teaching Fellows and other students planning to take adjunct jobs are invited to attend this semester-long seminar on teaching during the first year of their appointment.

  • Teaching Evaluations: the EO collects the evaluations sent by the HR and monitors the progress of the Graduate Teaching Fellows, and keeps a close contact with campus chairs concerning the students teaching in the campuses.

(ii)  Development of Skills In Job Market Search


  • Seminar series on information about job search: At the beginning of the last year prior to graduation, students are invited to a short series of seminars where the hiring process in the field of economics is described: preparing the application package; locating job market opportunities; anticipating the timeline of evaluation and invitation to job interviews at major economics conferences; the fly-out; the campus interview; Students are invited to submit their application package to supervising faculty and to the Executive Officer and Deputy Executive Officer for comment.
  • Mock interviews: Students are invited to participate in mock interviews that resemble conditions at the job interview at the conferences or at the academic campus or corporate office. 

  • Job talks: Students are invited to present their “job market paper” in front of faculty and peer students, and feedback is provided.  

  • Contacts with Alumni:  The Program organizes an annual Alumni Day at the Graduate Center where alumni come and meet students, and where a Roundtable Discussion addresses an important topic of current interest.  Faculty also keeps close connection to alumni for placement purposes.  The Program maintains a current list of alumni that is accessible on our website.

2. Ethics Goals  

Program Learning Goals 
Students should develop the ability to adopt and demonstrate commitment to the standards for conducting ethical research.  Economics Program three aspects of ethical behavior: (i) data mining, selective reporting of results, falsification of results, and providing data for replication; (ii) research data, which describe individuals or firms are confidential, therefore must be carefully protected in order to safeguard the privacy of survey respondents; (iii) avoiding plagiarism and documenting sources properly.  

The Economics Program assesses students’ grounding in professional ethics in several ways:

  • Successful completion of the course in Research Methods and Writing in Economics, which covers plagiarism and documentation, the ethical aspects of the range of issues on “data mining”, selective reporting of results, falsification of results, and providing data for replication.  
  • Completion of the IRB exam about data confidentiality (in specific courses).

  • Completion of the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training as directed in CUNY’s RCR Training Plan.

  • Incorporation in Econometrics I and II the statistical and econometric consequences of data mining.