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During the Fall semester of 2020, the first-year seminar, “Freakonomics,” was offered to incoming freshmen. Created and taught by Elizabeth Moorhouse, Ph.D., associate professor of economics at Lycoming College and chair of the department, the course provides students with an introduction to economics theories, and is meant to enhance the transition to and learning experience in college.
Moorhouse designed the seminar with the intention of going beyond regular instruction of economics and applying it to practical and real-life endeavors. “When most students think about economics, they think about graphs and equations, and for good reason. Economists use those tools because they are helpful in demonstrating the unique insights of the discipline. This class introduces students to the foundational ideas of economics, relying less on conventional techniques and instead utilizing a more intuitive, story-telling approach. My hope is for students to learn that economics provides a powerful framework to understand important real-world events but that these ideas can also improve their own everyday decision-making.”
“Such a fun course! Freakonomics taught me how to apply the concepts of economics to everyday situations and to think unconventionally,” said astrophysics major Katherine Travis. “The content of the course is solely based on answering a common question students have: 'Why do we need to know this?' The quick answer is that we use economics everywhere, every day! We talked about everything from sports to environmental protection, and learned that even sumo wrestlers and teachers have something in common. Freakonomics is both interesting and informative, and I have been able to use what I have learned in my own life.”
According to the course description, the purpose of the seminar is to explore the various psychological and economic theories related to decision making, and to understand how they influence behavior at an individual and societal level. Overall, it aims to improve critical thinking and communication skills, as well as introduce students to college-level reading and writing assignments.
“Freakonomics” kicked off by introducing students to the field of economics. Moorhouse enhanced students’ learning experiences by integrating class content with news stories from National Public Radio and popular economics podcasts such as Drs. Stevenson and Wolfers’ “Think Like an Economist.” By mid-semester, students had written brief research papers applying some of the concepts discussed in class to the real world and/or their own personal experiences. The semester wrapped up with writing a larger, much more complex research paper.
“Freakonomics” is one of many Lycoming College First-Year Seminars, all of which offer students an opportunity to explore unfamiliar topics. Their purpose is to broaden minds and help students discover a new interest. Each First-Year Seminar meets a general education requirement, helping to advance students toward graduation. Other first-year seminars include “Zen and Art,” “Medieval Food and Culture,” and many more.