Economics professor blends classroom learning and real-world applications
When Assistant Professor of Economics Marcus Bansah was interviewed on CBS affiliate WCCO-TV last month discussing when we should start worrying about rising inflation in the United States, he was brought back to a discussion he had with his Contemporary Issues in Macroeconomics course at St. Olaf College this spring.
“During the semester, we were able to speak about these issues I just spoke to on television. Because in class, when inflation went up to 4.2 percent — which is the first time inflation is increasing — we realized that inflation is going to be an issue. We discussed that in class, and we were wondering ‘What is the Fed going to do?’” says Bansah. “So when WCCO interviewed me, it made me go back to see what we were discussing in class, and I believe that course is very, very relevant now. It’s very important because students get a chance to be analyzing the issues of the day. That class will always be changing depending on what is happening; we bring it into the classroom and we interrogate it using the tools of economics.”
It’s very important because students get a chance to be analyzing the issues of the day. That class will always be changing depending on what is happening; we bring it into the classroom and we interrogate it using the tools of economics.Assistant Professor of Economics Marcus Bansah
Prior to joining the faculty at St. Olaf College, Bansah received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in economics from the University of Ghana, Legon before completing a second masters and doctorate at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Today he specializes in macroeconomics, international economics, and the economics of developing nations — three specialties that he’s been able to blend into work both in and out of the classroom.
“My research is focused on being a voice for the issues in the developing world. Because most colleagues are not from the region, not a lot of people are interested. But coming from the region, I have a personal interest in trying to bring some of these issues so they can be discussed in international settings,” says Bansah.
Bansah also led three students — Belkys Arbizu Barcenas ’22, Jobanjit Singh ’22, and Pollen Khosa ’22 — in a Collaborative Research and Undergraduate Inquiry (CURI) project this summer focused on resource endowment, public debt, and economic growth in African countries. A paper explaining the findings of their work has already been accepted to be presented at three different economic conferences both domestically and abroad, including the Department of Economics Alumni Congress and International Conference at the University of Ghana, the Conference of Macroeconomists from Liberal Arts Colleges hosted by the University of Richmond, and the Southern Economic Association 91st annual meeting in Houston, Texas.
Bansah will also lead a first-year seminar course at St. Olaf in the spring of 2022 focused on the findings of the research. In Interim 2022, he will lead a directed undergraduate research course. Students will have an opportunity to work on new research projects in this course as well.
“Everything is blending quite well, doing research, bringing it to the classroom, so it’s really working well. I’m enjoying my time at St. Olaf, and a lot of things are happening,” says Bansah.