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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

IBS’ Mann nominated for EIU business professor of the year

Published: November 9, 2012
Section: Features

Professor Catherine Mann (IBS) was nominated last month as Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Business Professor of the Year. Mann began teaching at Brandeis in 2006 and spent 25 years prior to that working in Washington, D.C.

Mann has taught at least one course every year since she completed her Ph.D. at MIT in 1984. Before coming to Brandeis, from 1990 to 2000, Mann would fly back and forth on the weekends from Vanderbilt to teach. She taught a class at the school of management every spring semester and continued to do so for 10 years.

Mann is no stranger to the act of teaching.

“You can say that every time you stand up in front of a crowd you are teaching. One thing I found interesting was in my Washington time period, based on my research, I would not go and give the same talks but similar talks day after day after day to different groups, either about the global or local economy, or role in information technology and outsourcing,” Mann said. “When you come to teach, you have the same group and you are giving different talks, each one growing on the next. So, in a way talks are the same thing as teaching.”

While in Washington, Mann describes how her “academic part was part-time and my policy was full time,” a switch, for “now the university setting is full time and policy work is part-time.” Even though she now teaches at Brandeis, Mann is still involved with the Federal Reserve, the World Bank and sometimes the Peterson Institute for International Economics. All of her work is project-based and is more directly involved with policy questions.

Mann teaches a wide variety of students on campus. Teaching undergraduates, graduates and students aiming for their Ph.D., Mann teaches international macroeconomics and finance to the undergraduate student body; the primary students in that class are juniors and seniors. Her work with the graduate students involves their core courses. She teaches two of the five courses all first-year graduate students must take.

One course she teaches is Global Economic Environment. The format of the course is the illustration of major economic concepts through case studies. The class is broken up into smaller groups, so the international students feel more comfortable speaking. Mann then hands out different roles in each case study. This week, the class worked on a case about the economic concepts underpinning productivity growth in Singapore. The question on the case was whether or not Singapore should try to enhance its economic growth by targeting an investment in government or in the biomedical sector.

Another course she teaches on the graduate level is Advanced International Macroeconomics. That course discusses what determines exchange rate, the international traffic flows and other topics. On the Ph.D. level, Mann teaches a reading course. Once they finish their formal program, meaning their courses, they have to begin the process for their theses. Mann pulls together 25 or so different working papers to show the process of writing a paper that will eventually be part of their thesis. They have to present the paper of their choice, which is based on their interest, as the author would. They are taught to use advanced econometrics in this class in addition to being provided with a lot of literature with which work.

Her recent nomination was due to student nomination. Current and former students can vote for her, among 250 other professors from all over the world for the EIU award, a division of The Economist. The committee assesses factors such as how the number of years the professor has been teaching and the size of the school when determining the final four professors. Once the final four are selected, they travel to London to present a talk on a topic of their choice, somewhat reminiscent of a teaching competition. Mann was the only Brandeis professor nominated for this award.

Mann expressed optimism about her role in teaching economics to the Brandeis community.

“I really like what I do; I’ve done it for a long time,” she said.