When I first registered for this course at the end of the Spring 2014 semester, I really was not sure what to expect. The title, Economics of Organizations, gave me a general sense, but the topic that came to mind was still very abstract. I thought to myself, "How exactly would an economist look at organizations anyway? Maybe this class is about management skills? Are there even any models out there to describe how an organization works?"
A few months later I found myself sitting in Professor Arvan's class with a small group of fellow students. Although eager to satisfy my curiosity regarding the course, I was still uncertain of the material itself and how the class would run after the first class. As the course progressed, however, I started realize that our efforts were aimed at using the lens of microeconomic analysis to understand how organizations behave. After the first few weeks I found myself falling into a strangely natural rhythm: A blog post to introduce an idea before the weekend, a class discussion, a math-based Excel homework, and then another discussion. This format was new to me, and it was by far the most intimate economics class I have taken here at the U of I. However, I found that over time the structure of the course did very well to present me with a challenging idea and then allow me to gradually refine my understanding through both mathematical and conceptual channels. The blog post would get me thinking. Sometimes the ambiguity in the response requirements pushed me to frustration over what exactly the professor was looking for... But that was ok. Even if I struggled with the core idea initially, I knew I could count on the upcoming class session to clarify the subject with a tactfully guided discussion. Once an idea was introduced and we had taken some to time to familiarize ourselves with it conceptually, the real analysis could begin in the Excel homework. I certainly struggled with some of these, but I found that the Excel homeworks were just like the blog posts. Working through the guided problems would progressively construct the model in my mind using familiar microeconomic tools, but present just enough of a challenge to make me reach to understand the mechanisms involved. Even if I wasn't able to figure every question out, I knew that the next day Professor Arvan would not only clarify the math involved, but also provide enriching connections and applications to real-life situations.
Now, as we approach the end of the semester, I find myself with a very different perspective of organizational behavior. Before I had never really thought about why a team or company behaved a certain way or made a particular decision. If I did, I would simply dismiss it as a result of bureaucratic action only understood by the individuals involved. This course took the knowledge of economics I have built up to this point and equipped me with the mentality and tools to apply them not only to organizations, but also to myself. Hopefully, as I continue into my future and try to navigate through organizations big and small, what I have internalized throughout the duration of this course will allow me to not only adapt, but to thrive.