College Revives Finance Courses

By Emilie Munson

In concession to strong student demand, the College has agreed to continue offering a finance course this academic year in a last-minute addition to the course catalog.

When the Alan R. Holmes Professor of Monetary Economics Scott Pardee, the College’s only finance professor, announced his intention to leave the economics department at the end of the last academic year, many students were concerned that finance courses would no longer be available at the College.

The economics department received several emails, letters and course evaluations voicing this concern. In response to students’ demands, the faculty has reinstated a finance course within the Interdepartmental category. Corporate Finance and Accounting (INTD 306) was a last-minute addition to the course catalog for the fall semester, and will be co-taught by Professor David Colander and newly-named Center for Careers and Internships (CCI) Emeritus Faculty Fellow Scott Pardee.

INTD 306 will be the only finance and accounting course offered this semester, a reduction from previous semesters when Pardee taught four courses devoted to the subject.

Following the College’s announcement of the course, 48 students enrolled in the class and 80 more were added to the waitlist, in spite of its last-minute appearance in the course catalog.

The demonstrated popularity of this course, in addition to the reduction of finance courses from four to one, has edged out some students hoping to prepare themselves for a career in finance.

“The Economics program at Middlebury is outstanding and I have benefitted immensely from it,” said Jake Feury ’16. “However, I strongly believe that adding more finance courses into Middlebury’s curriculum will help us perform better in job interviews and succeed in a career in finance after college. It would certainly make me feel more comfortable applying for jobs if I had the opportunity to take more finance courses here at Middlebury.”

Even Middlebury alumni are speaking out on the subject.

“As an alum who works in finance and took all of Prof. Pardee’s classes, I can definitely say that my experience looking for a job in finance would not have been the same without the knowledge that I gained in Prof. Pardee’s classes and more importantly, his real world experience in the field,” an online commenter to The Campus’ article titled “College Drops Finance Courses,” published last spring wrote. “When a MiddKid is out there competing with a Finance major from Yale, Dartmouth, it is better for the company to hire someone who needs less training.”

Both Colander and Pardee expressed a desire to spend the fall developing a curriculum of several new finance courses to supplement the current single offering.

Pardee emphasized the importance of these finance classes in giving students a competitive edge in the job search, as well as to the College’s standing.

“If you don’t have somebody here who is teaching that stuff then we lose,” said Pardee. “These schools that we are in deadly competition with have these courses so we have to have them to even maintain the position that we have.”

The debate over whether finance courses belong at the College represents a much larger discussion happening across departments about the role of specialized courses at a liberal arts college based on the current job market.

Christian A. Johnson Professor of Economics and Head of the Economics Department Peter Matthews disagreed, responding that the “out-of-the-box” thinking that a liberal arts education generates will make any Middlebury student marketable.

“The liberal arts experience … prepares students for all pursuits, not individual jobs, [and] for a lifetime of engagement with the world, not specific job interviews,” said Matthews. “I believe that the current Economics Department, with its renewed commitment to ‘research-based learning,’ embodies this experience, and I’m confident that our students are well prepared to excel in the world. I also know, however, that there are more opportunities than ever at the College to acquire marketable skills.”

Many students question if this is enough, however.

“Middlebury needs to reconsider what it means to be a liberal arts college in the 21st century and offering finance courses is part of this,” said Max Kagan ’14. “Students need job skills in order succeed in an increasingly competitive job market. The world is changing; the oft-repeated refrains that a liberal arts degree is a degree in ‘learning how to think’ and that ‘you can do anything with a liberal arts degree’ are under threat.”

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