Featured Story

Erbil Supports Interdisciplinary Approach to Economics

As a young man, Can Erbil saw his love for economics emerge. Fueled by his entrepreneurial nature, he got an idea in one of his marketing classes: to begin a school-logo sweater business at his university in his native Turkey. By identifying a previously untapped market, the venture took off and became a resounding success. Since then, he obtained his master’s and his Ph. D. in economics from Boston College and currently serves as a professor within the department.

Today, economics has become the most popular major here at BC, with the number of students choosing to focus on it exceeding 1,000, according to Erbil. His classes are some of the most popular on campus, with some having as many as 40 students on a waiting list to enroll.

As soon as someone enters even one of his lectures, it is not difficult to identify the inherent qualities of the environment that make a seat in his Principles of Microeconomics course in Devlin 008 such a commodity. The music he plays before class makes for an interesting guessing game—as does the color and design of the bowtie he wears on any particular day. Nevertheless, the class itself is a testament to Erbil’s can-do nature—“I do not like when people tell me something cannot be done,” he said.

“In a class of 300 students, I try to make it as much of a personal experience as I can,” he said. “I believe in the concept of teamwork together with my students and teaching assistants.

“If the professor gets bored with the class, then so will the students. That is why I need to keep myself entertained to be effective,” he said.

This is a trait many of his students thoroughly appreciate—“dynamic energy and extensive knowledge creates an environment that is not only enjoyable but also cultivates a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter,” said one of his current students, Rayne Sullivan, A&S ’18.

During class, Erbil uses both “econ” and plain language, as that “teaches the importance of being able to communicate the concepts … of being able to put them in such a way that my 10-year-old daughter understands,” he said.

In today’s world of higher education, where the focus has been shifting toward an interdisciplinary education, with an effort seen in the upcoming changes to the University Core requirements, economics will reap the benefits of this shift. “The department has a lot of potential for interdisciplinary collaboration,” Erbil said.
As such, Erbil, along with professor Christopher F. Baum, also of the economics department, decided to create a course where students would be able to “really bring a lot of the lectures to life … put boots on the ground,” according to Erbil. Thus, Economic Policy Analysis in Turbulent Times: Europe and Turkey was born last summer.

This course “aims to analyze the broad range of economic policies implemented by the economic engine of Europe: Germany and by one of the rising stars of emerging market economies: Turkey,” according to the economics department’s website.

“We both combine our past experiences, extensive networks in both countries, and apply it to the course,” Erbil said.

During the course, students get to travel to Berlin and Istanbul, where they find themselves immersed in the history, culture, and richness of each country. By listening to guest speakers composed of experts in different industries in each country, students get to experience the theories and concepts they learned in class being applied in a tangible and real setting.

When asked at the admitted Eagle Day what advice he had for those considering the major, he replied: “If you can focus for 20 minutes on a specific task, then you can do anything, even get a Ph.D. If you enjoy economics and are passionate about it, but you do not have the mathematical background for it, it can be fixed. But if it’s the other way around, you can’t be helped.”

One of the many benefits of teaching in the field, he said, is that “the course changes every year … I use different examples depending on what is happening in the world,” as the material lends itself to be applied to current events.

Featured Image by Emily Sadeghian / Heights Editor


November 23, 2014

The Heights is an independent student newspaper that relies partly on donations to continue its award-winning coverage of Boston College and beyond. During College Media Madness, consider supporting the 501(c)3 nonprofit.