Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Member Profile: Matthew Rousu

Micro and Macro with “Mamma Mia?”

Learning the Laffer curve with “Les Miserables?”

Surely Adam Smith would have enjoyed a session on surplus singing along with “Miss Saigon.”
Welcome to the world of Broadway Economics, starring AAEA member Matthew Rousu, Interim Dean and Professor of Economics of the Sigmund Weis School of Business at Susquehanna University.

“I started working with some outstanding economists who showed how to make economics classes more innovative,” Rousu said. “Some of them even did it through songs. Others had websites illustrating how to teach using television shows.”

Rousu is now, as his website puts it, “teaching economics through musical theatre.” Why show tunes? Rousu became a fan of theatre in college, and married a music and theatre double major. That helps, but Rousu says it’s a classical learning tool.

“Musicals tell stories, and many of the stories contain economic lessons. While I, and most people who receive a Ph.D. probably don’t need a song to learn an economic concept, there is a significant amount of research that shows that some people learn much better if a concept is reinforced through music.”

Rousu says he uses more than just the songs you’ll hear on Broadway, in fact he says he’s had students tell him they heard a song on the radio and remembered the economic concept he tied to that song. While you don’t hear of a lot of students loading up their playlists with show tunes, Rousu says he’s had some converts.

“I have introduced many students to the musical ‘Hamilton’ and then they’ve become fans of the show!”

When he’s not thinking of ways to work “Phantom” or “Sunny Afternoon” into the syllabus, Rousu says his research is on a wide range of topics; although he says most projects have involved experimental auctions.

“My work has varied from using experimental auctions to assess the value consumers place on information, examining the impact of labeling policy, to examining the value for products. But I’ve also done work examining the effectiveness of alternative experimental auction designs.”

As for his time with AAEA, Rousu went to his first Annual Meeting in 2001 and says he finds the meetings “valuable.”

“Many of the ideas that eventually turned into papers came from attending sessions at the AAEA Annual Meeting, during discussions at the reunions or by just running into colleagues at the meetings and chatting about ideas.”

Rousu has advice for some of the younger members finding their way in the profession: “You can follow a non-traditional path and be successful. There is no one way to have a successful career and sometimes following a different path can be a lot more fun.”

Get to know AAEA Members:

Matthew Rousu: “From 2004-2011 I was a semi-professional poker player.  The “semi” part of that statement means poker was not my main job.  But the “professional” part means I treated poker as a profession. I took the game very seriously and earned some income over that stretch of time, mostly by playing on the Internet.  I also competed in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas in six different years, with two cashes in eight events played.  When the U.S. government essentially shut down Internet poker in 2011, however, I stopped playing as seriously.  Now I get to a poker room a few times a year, but that’s about it.”

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