Extract meaning from balance sheets and quarterly reports.
Steep yourself in business and economics, all in the context of current events.
What You'll Study
M.A. students in the Business and Economics concentration will develop a deep understanding of the forces driving the global marketplace and the interconnected decisions that determine how we live and whether we prosper. Developing skills to unmask false promises, they aim to expose the fault lines in the global economy, the national economy, the financial markets, the corporate world and the individual household. They can test whether a worker’s experience is singular or indicative of something much broader. Critical thinking and historical context will be emphasized, with assignments geared toward weaving analysis and key data points into writing of all forms, from news to features to investigative endeavors.
With the world's economies so intricately linked, perspective is essential. In the fall, students will examine economies that are now thriving, like the United States, but also learn about the warning signs of stagnation, downturn and decline. They will discuss capitalism's shortcomings — as well as various new proposals like a living wage, employee business ownership and the breakup of powerful technology titans. Stripping away political gamesmanship, they will contemplate failing economies, such as Venezuela's, to analyze what went wrong and sketch out possible future courses. They will gain a greater appreciation of the extraordinary long-term impact wrought by very gradual shifts, like more women entering the workforce and labor's move away from unions. Through data analysis, students will learn how to estimate the impact of government policies, central bank actions and legal decisions on the population as a whole. From guest speakers who are economists and journalists with decades of experience, they will discern the economic ripples that ultimately dictate everyday life, including an individual's ability to buy a house, pay for college and retire in comfort.
Building on that foundation, students move on to the basics of financial reporting in the spring semester. After an introduction to capital markets, they analyze the corporate building blocks, from the assets and liabilities on a balance sheet to income statements. Timely case studies will be introduced on companies like Tesla (What is it really worth? Is it in financial trouble? Will it go private?) and Disney (Why did it merge repeatedly with other big companies? Why did it diversify into Broadway shows? Can this classic entertainment company survive the disruption of the Internet?). Students will consider whether chief executives have ethical responsibilities that extend beyond shareholders. They will ask, what are the warning signs of trouble in a corporation: in accounting, in the way the company is run, in the way the board of directors is structured? Similarly, what are the clues that politicians may be enriching themselves, their associates or favorite industries? Lawyers and accountants will illuminate the financial enforcement of crimes like money laundering, securities fraud and insider trading. Along the way, students will assess the true value of an enterprise and glean whether they — and investors of all stripes from hedge funds to college endowments — are making wise investment decisions for tomorrow.
Olivia Carville worked as an investigative reporter for the biggest newspapers in Canada and New Zealand before enrolling in the M.A. program in Business and Economics. Her thesis reporting led to this story about an activist investor taking on the gun industry, which ran in The New York Times. Olivia is now a reporter at Bloomberg News.
Sara Jerving, '14 M.A. Business, wrote her thesis on how Liberians thought Ebola was a government scam.Read her article published in The Nation.
Karen K. Ho , '17 M.A. Business, went to work for the Columbia Journalism Review, where she wrote features about teen investigative journalists, turbocharged poker research, Jay Caspian Kang, and Consumer Report's fight for its audience. In August, she wrote TIME's international cover story on the movie Crazy Rich Asians and why it will change Hollywood.
After more than five years of writing for The Wall Street Journal's "Heard on the Street" column, Miriam Gottfried, '09 M.A. Business, is now covering private equity for the Journal. In July, she wrote a front-page profile of Robert Smith and his firm Vista Equity Partners' unconventional approach to private equity.
After graduating from the M.A. Business & Economics program, Antoine Gara ’11 went to work for The Street. He now covers investing and finance for Forbes, where he profiles investors and analyzes a changing Wall Street. He’s recently published features on Brookfield, BlackRock and the best female investors you’ve never heard of.