Aug 11, 2020  
Rensselaer Catalog 2015-2016 
Rensselaer Catalog 2015-2016 [Archived Catalog]


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Department Head: Shawn Kantor

Director Ph.D. Program in Ecological Economics: Ken Simons

Department Home Page:

Economics training provides students with a set of analytical and empirical tools to understand economic decision-making, industry or economy-wide dynamics, and public policy. The major enables students to engage in active learning, through their own independent research, to think critically about real-world problems in a rigorous manner. Economists are widely sought as potential employees by leading financial institutions, businesses, consulting firms, and the public sector. Economics training at Rensselaer also provides a solid foundation for graduate work in economics or professional training in such areas as business or law. At Rensselaer, undergraduate students are introduced to the key ideas of economics that revolve around scarcity of resources and the function of market, political, and social institutions. They learn to evaluate choices among alternatives that may only achieve some desirable outcomes. An education in economics helps students to delineate clearly the benefits and costs of choosing one course of action over others.

Through a sequence of progressively more advanced courses, students learn the concepts and analytical and empirical tools of economics. These tools are applied to a variety of different settings ranging from business decision-making to public policy issues dealing with economic growth and technological change, resource scarcity and environmental pollution, unemployment, inflation, poverty, government spending and taxation, and regulation. Primary emphasis is on the analysis of how markets perform the central economic task of allocating scarce resources among competing ends. However, several courses such as public finance, government regulation, and cost-benefit analysis focus on public-sector decision-making. For engineers, scientists, and managers, career options often heavily involve work that requires the ability to analyze economic data, to evaluate economic tradeoffs, and to critically assess policy choices.

The basic one-semester course, ECON 1200 Introductory Economics, creates an awareness of the central ideas in economic analysis and furnishes students with the basic tools with which they can reach independent, rational judgments on economic decision-making and public policy questions. The course provides a general introduction to economic principles and institutions. It is a self-contained course and is also a prerequisite for other economics courses.

Prospective students should also be aware that the department administers the Edward J. Holstein Memorial Award for Excellence in Economics and the Shavell-Weinman Fund. Faculty members are actively involved in research that provides numerous opportunities for undergraduate students to engage directly in research projects.

Research Innovations and Initiatives

At the graduate level the program allows students to apply the body of economics knowledge and techniques to a variety of issues in academic, government, and business settings. Department faculty and students focus their research in selected areas, including economics of technological change, environmental economics, law and economics, behavioral economics, economic regulation, and international competitiveness.

Undergraduate Programs

Rensselaer’s undergraduate major in economics differs from other programs in three important respects. First, it requires that about one-fourth of the student’s program be in mathematics and the natural sciences. Second, students must apply quantitative tools to real economic problems, notably in problem labs that employ regression, linear programming, and risk analysis. Finally, in addition to dedicated courses, students can pursue various courses relevant to their interests and other courses at Rensselaer. Students interested in economic policy questions or data analytics will find a wide array of course offerings.

Outcomes of the Undergraduate Curriculum
Students who successfully complete this program will be able to demonstrate:

  • an ability to apply the concepts and models of microeconomics to current events and issues facing today’s domestic and global economies.
  • an ability to apply the concepts and models of macroeconomics to current events and issues facing today’s domestic and global economies.
  • an ability to use mathematical and other analytic tools to rigorously model economic behavior and market performance.
  • an ability to analyze economic issues using an appropriate theoretical framework, designing an empirical analysis that formulates testable hypotheses, applying statistical and econometric methods, collecting data, and using statistical software.
  • an ability to communicate the results of economic and empirical analyses in written, verbal, and visual forms.

Dual Major Programs

Students are encouraged to consider a dual major as a means of enhancing their employment and graduate school prospects. Training in economics can provide an edge in either situation. A dual major is NOT a double degree, which requires 30 additional credits beyond the first degree. Dual majors may use their economics courses to fulfill the social science portion of the 24-credit HASS Core. Otherwise, the requirements are the same as for the single major in economics.

For those students who are interested in a degree that emphasizes both science and technology and environmental issues there is an opportunity to pursue a dual major in Economics and Science, Technology and Society. This combination of majors combines the best of both departments – economic analysis and a broader humanities and social science analysis that emphasize the role science and technology plays in today’s global economy and culture.

Special Undergraduate Opportunities

Accelerated Programs
In consultation with an academic adviser, a student may design a five-year program to complete requirements for the Bachelor of Science in Economics and the Master of Science in Operations Research and Statistics or the Master of Business Administration. Participation in these programs may require admission by the Office of Graduate Education. They are designed to prepare the student for employment or for advanced graduate or professional training.

Graduate Programs

The Department of Economics offers a Master of Science degree aimed at developing skills in economic analysis and an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Ecological Economics. These programs stress important applications in industry, government, and education.

Graduate level research projects cover a wide range of economic issues, including technological change and the structure and scope of economic activity, energy and environment, international competitiveness and global economic cooperation, industrial development, regulation, and other topics in law and economics.

Master’s Programs

Though students must become competent in certain fundamental areas such as economic theory and econometrics, programs in economics are quite flexible and can readily accommodate those wishing to combine a graduate-level major in economics with a minor concentration in some related area. An economics minor can also be developed to complement a graduate program in another discipline.

Course Descriptions

Courses related to all economics curricula are described in the Course Descriptions section of this catalog under the department code ECON.



Duchin, F.—Ph.D. (University of California, Berkeley); input-output analysis, structural economics, ecological economics, economic development, technological change.

Estrella A.—Ph.D. (Harvard University); macroeconomics, econometrics, financial modeling, financial regulation.

Gowdy, J.M.—Ph.D. (West Virginia University); ecological economics, industrial organization and public regulation, regional economics.

Kantor, S.—Ph.D. (California Institute of Technology); political economy, law and economics, economics of innovation, U.S. economic history, economic development, and public economics.

Associate Professor

Simons, K.—Ph.D. (Carnegie Mellon University); industrial organization and technical change, dynamics of economic systems.

Assistant Professors

Gutberlet, T.—Ph.D. (University of Arizona); industrial organization, economics of innovation, economic geography, economic history.

Shawhan, D.—Ph.D. (Cornell University); environmental and resource economics, electricity markets, experimental economics, behavioral economics.

Weinstein, R.—Ph.D. (Boston University); labor, econometrics, economics of education, industrial organization.


Jones, R.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); money and banking, macroeconomics, introductory economics, econometrics.

Parrales, S.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); introductory economics, money and banking.


Emeritus Faculty

Hohenberg, P.M.—Ph.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); economic history, economics of technological change.

Vitaliano, D.—Ph.D. (City University of New York); private and public sector efficiency, corporate social responsibility, gender pay differences.

* Departmental faculty listings are accurate as of the date generated for inclusion in this catalog. For the most up-to-date listing of faculty positions, including end-of-year promotions, please refer to the Faculty Roster section of this catalog, which is current as of the May 2015 Board of Trustees meeting


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