Eph Business fills curricular gaps

The latest response to the current economic crisis began Monday night with the first lecture in the Economic Crisis Lecture Series, given by Tanseli Savaser, professor of economics, and hosted by Eph Business Association. The corresponding Web site claims that the lecture series will “provide the Williams community with a better understanding of today’s economic crisis in the global economy.”

Both the announcements and the series itself are the work of Eph Business and its two founding members, Peter Huang ’11 and Evan Skorpen ’11. The organization initially stemmed from the sense that there was a general lack of resources concerning basic business skills beyond the world of finance. Skorpen and Huang explained that as an educational resource, the club will organize a quarterly lecture series on various practical business skills, such as using Excel or learning about personal accounting.

According to Huang, the lecture series came about as a response to the confusion that seemed to surround discussion of the global financial crisis. “I don’t really think anyone knows exactly what’s going on,” he said. “Our goal was to put together a class to hear what people who are really at the forefront of their fields have to say.”

With this goal in mind, Huang and Skorpen contacted Williams professors and alumni about guest lecturing in such a course. “The only ‘no’ we actually got was from the one person we asked who had no connection with Williams. With everybody else, it was simply a matter of scheduling,” Skorpen said. Huang added,“The response we got from all these people really is a testament to the Williams community, I think.”

Eph Business’ founders received support from professors in this endeavor. “I thought that any effort in which students are taking the lead in their own educations deserves support,” said Jerry Caprio, professor of economics. Caprio’s interests include financial systems and crises. “I think it’s important to recognize the factors that are behind these events,” he said.

Huang and Skorpen are not the only ones who believe that it is important to understand the current state of the economy. “What’s a little scary is how mysterious this is to a lot of people,” said Ken Kuttner, professor of economics. “I think it’s something we all need to come to terms with if we’re going to figure out how to get out of the mess, and make more enlightened public policy in the future.”

While the first lecture was a general overview of the current economic situation, each following talk will feature a guest lecturer giving his or her particular take on the situation during the first half and answering student questions during the second. Over the course of five weeks, ending on March 19, the series will include five different speakers. Along with Savaser, Caprio and Kuttner, the series will feature Stephan Sheppard, professor of economics, and James Lee, Vice-Chairman of JP Morgan Chase and Co.

Even with the lecturers on board, the two founders said they didn’t expect such a response to the program. “To be honest, we really didn’t imagine so many people would be interested,” Skorpen said. “When we were talking with the lecturers, we told them we thought we’d have maybe 40 people involved in the course, and that was an optimistic estimate. We’re actually looking at about 75.”

As far as the future of the Eph Business Association is concerned, “We would love to see it continue and expand,” Skorpen said. “Mainly right now we’re focused on not doing too much, so we can do what we are doing thoroughly,” Huang added.

Additional reporting by Laura Corona, news editor