Teaching Philosophy

Elizabeth Tashjian

At the undergraduate and master’s levels, the business school offers professional programs with a goal of preparing students for careers in business. In this context, my role as an instructor is to provide students with specific quantitative skills and to develop their critical thinking and communication skills so they can evaluate and apply new techniques throughout their careers. I believe that traditional business education often failed to show students how to apply the theoretical knowledge gained in school to practical application in their careers. To address this shortcoming, in traditional classes I give my students assignments and projects that bridge theory and practice. In addition, I have developed both in-class and extra curricular experiential learning opportunities for students to reinforce the application of theory. In each of these endeavors, I am committed to helping motivated students reach their full potential.

Students in my traditional classes make critical, quantitative examination of theories through projects. For example, students in my MBA investments class apply the concepts of risk-and-return and diversification in a trading game and students in my risk management class . About half of my homework assignments are traditional textbook problems where students practice applying portfolio theory, asset pricing, or option pricing models using tractable numbers. However, about half of the assignments require students to use data from newspapers or the Internet to simulate how the students will apply academic models in their professional careers.

Each class I teach has two broad components: theory and application. The bulk of the classroom time is spent on the theory component, where we focus on problems in their most general forms. If properly understood, these general concepts can be applied to solving a wide variety of problems. Because the theoretical paradigms used in finance are evolving rapidly, it is important to convey a sense of theory as dynamic, not static. I try to identify the strengths and shortcomings of each theory, describe the most recent innovations, and speculate about where advances might occur. With this perspective, students should, after they leave school, be able to assimilate new theories as they develop.

The application component of each class consists of a project or assisgnments. Projects are designed to help students apply the insights gained from the theoretical portion of the class to the practical issues involved in managing portfolios, hedging financial risks, or making business forecasts. For example, in the Investments classes students apply the concepts of risk-and-return and of diversification in a trading game; and in the Options and Futures class, the students aapply sophisticated financial models to simulate how dynamic hedging can reduce the risk of holding equities to entities such as pension funds. In the fall of 1998, I started the Student Investment Fund to teach undergraduates investments in a real-world setting by investing real money. In class, students develop an investment strategy, research and invest in specific stocks, provide weekly reports on economic and financial news, listen to investment professionals, and track their investments.

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Last updated 12 July 2010