Saturday, March 03, 2007

Prof.Xavier!

Have you ever heard of Professor Xavier Sala-i-martin of Columbia University?

I’ve never taken his class nor have I met him, but today I intend to talk about this professor whom I believe to be one of the coolest I’ve ever known.

I first came across his (weird) name a few years ago when I was taking an economic development class at UC Davis. My TA at that time, Mr.Chad Sparber, gave us the link to his website.

After visiting his site once, I knew this guy isn’t just another professor.

Prof.Xavier was born in Catalonia, better known to most people as Catalan, whose major city is Barcelona (in Spain).

He got his PhD in Economics from Harvard. He currently teaches at Columbia and was once the acting President of Barcelona Football Club!

Why do I find him interesting enough to write about?

Well, first of all, his work is mainly about poverty reduction, world income distribution and economic growth, certainly the areas that are of utmost relevance and importance in Economics, at least in my opinion.

These issues may appear to be boring to some people but I truly believe they are really interesting and important. To me, the most relevant and interesting questions in Economics are: Why do countries grow? How to make a country kick start and sustain economic growth?

After all, it has been proven that long-term economic growth is the best way to reduce poverty and improve people’s standards of living.

I shall find some time to write about all these development issues later but let’s now come back to Prof.Xavier’s life story.

Apart from his highly recognized work, Prof.Xavier is a great teacher.

One of my close friends is currently attending his Intermediate Macroeconomics undergrad class at Columbia and she REALLY likes him.

She told me Prof.Xavier always wears very unique (well, might as well say weird) clothes to class and he also wears an afro hat.

My friend recalled...

On the first day of the class, Prof.Xavier walked in and began his lecture with

"The first lesson you will learn in Macroeconomics is... my name."

"Xa, as in shah of Iran... and then... B-A, instead of A-B.... so... shah-B-A (= Xavier)"

Then, he would go on and say,

"The difference between micro and macro is that... Micro is useful and macro is useless..."

Well, it wasn’t really how you would expect an Economics professor to begin his class, but that was quite a great way to begin the class and make the first impression, right?

I mean I prefer to start the class this way to the traditional way in which the professor comes in, says his name, and go directly into the course outline and assessments and all those boring stuff.

After all, the most important thing to get students interested in the subject.

My friend also says his class has never been boring. In fact, it has been great fun! (a visit at his website would strongly suggest that he’s fun and funny to be with)

He also has this "Question of the Day" award in every class, and the first one to answer it correctly gets an award.

Just like himself, his questions are random. They aren’t difficult nor tricky, but certainly challenging.

One day, he was teaching the IS-Lm model to illustrate the effects of monetary policy. He drew so many lines and graphs on the board using so many different colors of chalks.

Then he asked... "When this happens, what will happen to the graph?"

A student answered "the LM would shift to the right..."

"Yes, I know... but here’s the question of the day... which of all these lines is LM curve?"

Then the one who answers correctly ("The purple line!") would get the award.

Well, I know that each professor has his or her own unique style of teaching.

But for some lecturers who feel like their students often aren’t paying attention or are falling asleep in class, I suggest they try to be more innovative in their teaching methods and techniques.

.........

I think that should be enough for the short introduction to Prof.Xavier’s stories.

So far, if you like him, I leave it to you to visit and explore his website. It’s full of interesting, funny and useful stuff. (Try to click and see every single link in his page, they are all really cool!!)

For those who find him to be silly, it must be because of my failure to introduce him properly. So I suggest you visit and explore his site anyway.

Enjoy!

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