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August 23, 2007


Edward Taylor

PEIS 101 has been a very interesting class. Given the initial circumstances in which this class did not have a professor or GSI’s a few weeks before instruction started, I feel like Professor DeLong and the GSI’s did a great job of making the class run as smoothly as possible. However, here are my recommendations to better improve the class. First, while I like the web posting idea, I feel it offers little feedback to students about their work. Developing a system in which students receive feedback for their work would benefit this class greatly. Secondly, something that may be very helpful to students with respect to lecture itself is a quick outline of what will be covered in that lecture on the board at the beginning of class. There is so much information given out in lecture it is very difficult to decipher what should and should not be written down in notes. A general outline will help students organize their notes greatly. Lastly, while this is slightly trivial, I would request a different room/auditorium for lecture. The room is so dark that it is very difficult to stay focuses for an hour and a half. Nonetheless, I feel like this was a great class, and it will only improve in the future with our recommendations.

Glory Liu

Taking PEIS 101 has been one of the most rewarding choices I have made for this fall semester. I was wary at first seeing all the seniors in the class and hearing professor DeLong say that we really SHOULD have taken PEIS 100 before (even though the format of the major doesn’t necessarily require us to take the PE series in order). So even though I respect DeLong’s opinion that one should really take PEIS 100 before 101, I personally disagree. People who have taken 100 will probably disagree with me, but I think the material in this course is so distinct and that DeLong provides us with enough background for each thread we study that taking PEIS 100 (while I’m sure there is an advantage) isn’t absolutely necessary.

One thing that I really thought needed to be improved was the feedback in this course. I would like to have known how I did on web assignments in fuller detail (and quicker) so that I could improve on later web assignments or find a new way to approach readings. The web assignments weren’t as bad as they could have been- definitely keep them divided up by section, though.

As far as the actual material, I was a little saddened that it actually “lightened up.” I actually would have preferred reading Stiglitz’full book (either Globalization and its Discontents or Making Globalization Work). Some of the online articles were extremely technical and I couldn’t really grasp any of it (sorry Professor Eichengreen!). If such readings are kept, I would definitely recommend going over them in lecture and in section. It was definitely hard to keep track of the “minor articles” while there was a “major book” to read for one week, especially if some of the “minor articles” were written for economists.

One change that could be made that I think would really help is to make web assignments due on the Thursday of the designated week. I found myself trying to juggle the present readings for lecture while trying to the next week’s readings a week in advance just so I could be prepared for lecture on Tuesday while trying to remember readings from a week prior for section. That was a mess. While it is possible to do everything on time, or even early, time management (and more importantly, material management) would be a lot better if web assignments were do on Thursday. This would relieve some of the pressure to get material read before the week even began, which causes confusion if students are still finishing material from the present week or even the week prior.

Also, I’m going to pitch a class to take in conjunction with PEIS 101 (in the fall): IAS/City and Regional Planning 115 (Global Poverty: Challenges and Hopes in the New Millennium). Taking this class with PEIS 101 at the same time was incredible for multiple reasons. One, much of the material overlapped, not in terms of actual readings, but thinkers and theories. The course timeline is almost exactly the same, and I found it an invaluable experience to talk about theories of state intervention in Development in PEIS 101 by reading James Scott’s book, and then seeing those theories enacted/refuted in “real life” in the Global Poverty course. PEIS 101 is very theoretical and historical, and I would have found the class (let alone, the history of everything) much more difficult to understand had I not taken IAS 115 at the same time, which really put almost everything we’ve learned in 101 into a contemporary applications.

Hye Jin Lee

I found PEIS 101 to be an interesting course. I found the thinkers we have studied to be quite insightful. The lectures were interesting, however I wish that the lectures actually relate more to the readings. I also found the quantity of history to be more than necessary for this course and the lectures had overwhelming amount of information that I did not know how to organize. I did not know what was important and what was for the background knowledge. I have never done online discussion board before, so it was definitely a new thing for me. I found many summaries and opinions that the students posted to be helpful in understanding the course material. Also Professor Delong's notes and online audio lectures were helpful. I found the grading of the first paper to come quite later in the course so I was very nervous as to how I am doing in class. I found discussion sections and especially my GSI to be very helpful in understanding concepts.

Ellen Dobie

I echo my classmate's comments that I have enjoyed PEIS 101 very much, especially considering the time restraints under which Professor DeLong and our GSIs have faced. A few suggestions that I feel would better facilitate the fluidity of the course:

First of all, I would have enjoyed paper topics more closely aligned with the work we do in this class instead of revisiting themes from old PEIS courses. While I understand that an important component of the PEIS major is always incorporating old ideas into the new frameworks we learn, I did not feel like I ever really had the chance to fully build upon the ideas we had learned in lecture and section. That said, paper topics engaging this class's material would have been more appropriate.

Secondly, I too would have liked blog entry dates for Thursday afternoons--and I think keeping it divided by section is appropriate as well. The smaller the blogging population, the more concise and specific responses can become.

And of course every student would like more feedback--but I understand that the demands on this class's authority figures are great, while the actual number of figures is few. And that is just something that will improve with time, I suppose.

Kinzie Kramer

This class has a lot of material, both in lecture and in the readings. I think that it would have been helpful to absorb all of that material if the class were a little more structured. For example, if at the beginning of every lecture there were an outline on the board of the main points/concepts that should be taken from the lecture. Also, it would have been helpful if the webpage was not in a blog format, just to make it easier to find certain items. One thing that I really liked that my section did was compile a summary of the readings- that way I at least had the basics of what each political theorist was saying. All in all, this class offered a lot of interesting information; it's just that there was a lot of it and I ended up getting confused at certain points.

Roushani Mansoor

As a PEIS major, I found this course intriguing and extremely relevant. I appreciated the different perspectives presented throughout the readings Professor DeLong assigned. Despite the fact that each reading was interesting and useful in their own right, the quantity of reading was the most the difficult aspect of this course. I personally found it challenging to given the amount of analytical attention each individual piece deserved. Either I found myself skimming all the pieces or only reading the article or book the web assignment question pertained to. Either way, it is a slight disservice to the authors and their work. In addition, while I thought the paper topics were interesting, it was hard to develop a well thought-out and persuasive argument in the 1000 or so words we were allowed.
The web assignments and their respective discussions I thought were practical. They forced a critically reading as well as preparation for discussion section, especially when the assignments were divided by section.

Andrew Gurwitz

My classmates have already done an excellent job raising improvements for the present course (More feedback, Outlines, Thursday postings) so I’m going to answer this question in terms of how PEIS 101 can be a more effective capstone course for PEIS. As such, I argue the following:

1. Get everyone on the same page. If you want to build on what the students have been learning so far in their PEIS set of courses, you need everyone to have taken those courses. Both PEIS 100 and Macroeconomics at the very least should be required prerequisites. There’s an argument to be made that the course has value for non-PEIS majors and this would almost entirely exclude them, but such an argument is at the detriment of the PEIS majors. PEIS majors seriously lack a course or a set of tools to adequately tie together their interdisciplinary studies. Short of requiring a thesis for everyone, this class is the only way to provide that. It is unfortunate that parts of this course that were meant to build on other courses had to be removed. Classical Political Economy should be viewed as foundation for this course and should be required. After all, you wouldn’t take multi-variable calculus before you took single-variable.
2. Integrate the economics. It seems like we tend to say away from the economics of this course, to treat it as a political theory course, and to only engage the economics as indicators of ideology. I think we really need to engage the economics itself to grasp the nature of the problems and the solutions. The structure of this course should be more similar to Economic History courses in which problem sets and written assignments co-exist. Let us try some problem-solving for ourselves and wrestle with the economics underlying many of these arguments.
3. Filter. We are undergraduates, not graduate students. Too much reading assigned means less actual reading. The result is discussion sections where nobody has read the same parts of a book or the same readings. There is value in learning to find the important parts of books, but in a class like this where the discussion is important for distilling the concepts, it can be detrimental. Also, each week’s reading almost always introduces completely new concepts and ideas and there is not enough time in section to process everything. Assigning articles or chapters with the occasional book will likely produce more knowledgeable and well-read students.
4. Develop a story. Finally, this class lacks a story or stories. It lacks central motifs and themes. As it stands, it is a collection of theories and readings which can be posited against each other. We are expanding our library of knowledge and our worldview, but what themes do we take out of the class? It often seems to me that I could have done many of these readings independently and derived similar value. What this class must do is force us to apply these theories and thinkers to themes and recurring stories. Then we can take these thinkers and apply it to problems we engage in our concentration.
5. What are the tools political economists use?

Kenichiro Nakahara

Coming into this class, I had this certain image towards this PEIS 101 that Professor Zahidi had been teaching for past semesters. Since one of my teammates had taken this course before, until the first day of school I expected a course that was based on Japan and Iraq and themes like democracy.

So from what I had imagined this course to be, it was completely different concept and I guess style as well. This course was actually very similar to PEIS 100 with Professor Karras but was more based on background history where his class was based more specifically about the authors and "their" background.

One point I would like to suggest for the future is that I know that Professor DeLong is a truly knowledgeable man and is amazing. But the slight problem which occurs is that since he is so smart and knows so much about modern political economy, he tends to go off the topic and give us "trivia" which we would be amazed but then be like "how do salmon relate to Orwell again!?". So in order to solve this problem, it would be great if a guideline could be printed out...(I understand that he is busy...) and the lecture would clearly based on that guideline.

The one really big thing I like about this class was the quality of our GSI. (varanya for me) In a class where there is enormous amounts of reading and theory, it must be really hard to help us students to understand what to get out of it but I feel she did a phenomenal job of picking it up for us and that really helped. There were assignments that were due in class where we all collaborated our thoughts and I hope that guideline would help us greatly in the upcoming exam. I would like to thank the Professor and the staff for setting this course for us in such short notice and I understand that it was tough but I feel that I got the skills I need from it. Thanks!

Chun Chung Chan

I have taken IAS 45 with Professor Pearson and PEIS 100 with Professor Stimpson prior Delong’s PEIS 101. As Professor Delong said in the first week: “This is his version of PEIS 101,” I can feel the difference. The lectures of IAS 45 and PEIS 100 are coming from the assigned reading while the lectures of PEIS 101 are providing a background for us to understand the reading. This distinctive difference, honestly, made it harder for me to understand the course material. It is shameful for me to have a low reading ability, and I truly wish Professor Delong can guide us through the reading more. Yet, this is the point where the GSI becomes very useful. Varanya did a good job in discussing the arguments from the assigned readings, and relating to the background/ period that happened in the lectures. Moreover, I agree that it would be useful for the student to have a guideline to follow in every lecture. It is hard to concentrate in the big and dark theater for 90 mins. An outline is like a map, and it will be harder to get lost. Moving on to web-posting, I like the idea very much. It is an incredible way to keep up with the reading and to understand what other students are thinking about. It is a good chance for people who are reluctant to speak up in class to participate. However, it would be better if we can get some feedbacks on the short postings that we wrote every week.

Danielle Mahan

Lots of good suggestions have been made before me. I agree that an outline accompanying lectures would be VERY helpful and integration of more economics would be interesting. I liked the weekly web assignments, but I think they have too much weight on our grade compared to our papers. Because each one is already out of so few points having them assigned less often or only 10 of 14 required (so students don’t have to worry about the web assignment when other classes pile on the work) would be the best solution.
I really began to enjoy lectures more toward the end of the semester when I had a better grasp of the structure of the course. However, I would have gotten more out of the first few weeks if I know what was going on. The readings were (for the most part) interesting; however, the load was at times overwhelming. Cutting down entire books to a few important sections or reading articles by other scholars about the works would alleviate the problem and take little away from the course material.
I am really happy I took this class and am walking away with a lot of new knowledge. Thank you Prof. DeLong and Varanya!

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