Each year, as the echoes of Welcome Week parties fade and the Ulrich’s line veers dangerously out the door, hundreds of students face the same great white whale — Economics 102. Famous at the University for its rigor and the competitive nature of its students, this class is a hallmark of undergraduate life at the "U."
This year, there is one more person entering the hallowed ground of Lorch Hall — Econ 102’s newest lecturer, Edward Cho. Cho began at the University last year teaching 300- and 400-level economics courses, and is willing to admit the prospect of teaching to 370 students is a new challenge compared to his past teaching experiences. At Wellesley College. the largest class he taught sat 30 students.
“At first I was worried or fearful that the classes would be too big, especially because I like to interact with the students, but it hasn’t been a problem at all.”
Cho’s path to Michigan is unconventional compared to many others — he began his undergrad career as a bio-engineer, before taking an econ course and “feeling everything click.” Despite this initial passion for economics, after graduate school he pursued a career in consulting.
“You don’t actually know what you like and dislike until you do it, and all these conceptions of what you think you want to do, once you get there you realize it’s not what you thought it was.”
In consulting, Cho soon realized the rigorous hours weren’t worth it for him.
“I saw people who were working in consulting, and they were in their 40s and 50s, and still working 100 hours a week … So I decided it was time to go back to what I loved to do.”
He returned to school at MIT, and taught for a short while there as well as at Harvard, before moving to Wellesley College in Massachusetts. At Wellesley, he became close with a professor who he says shaped his growth as an educator. The small class sizes and faculty-to-student ratio at Wellesley allowed him to develop a core tenet of his teaching philosophy — connecting with his students, a skill he has doubled upon since starting at the University.
“Students here like to engage, and I just have to find a way to do it right," he said, "The main challenge is keeping the interaction with students high.”
During his first year at the University, Cho strove to make econ relevant to students — more than just a class taken for a grade, but as an applicable skill base.
Public Policy Senior Harry Kammerman, who took ECON 396, believes Cho’s philosophy pays off in the classroom, saying, “He provides examples that are relevant to current trends in financial markets, helping students apply what they've learned.”
One of Cho’s favorite teaching techniques is introducing real-life examples into his lectures — he will have his pet cat play the stock market to explain the randomness of the success of stocks. He understands the esoteric nature of the topics he teaches, so he tries to make Econ relevant to his students, pulling in current events and campus-related examples.
“Teaching has no limit … There is knowing the material, there is answering questions, being organized — I realized there were so many more dimensions to teaching.”
Perhaps what is most unique about Cho is his real passion for teaching — he isn’t research-focused or gunning for tenure, but loves engaging with students.
“It’s a career I enjoy,” Cho said. “I sometimes ask myself, ‘Would I switch jobs with anyone? Would I switch careers?’ But I think the answer almost inevitably is no … With Economics you can continue to learn, and that’s the fun part.”
As of yesterday, 370 new students have met Cho. He can’t wait to get to know each and every one of them.