The Williams School of Commerce, Economics and Politics
About the Major
Economics is the study of decision making under scarcity and it permeates almost every facet of political, commercial, industrial and even familial behavior in society. Do financial markets reflect rational behavior? Will Google, Apple, and Tesla displace VW, GM, and Toyota? How has the birth control pill affected women's education and labor market decisions? Does corruption grease or sand the wheels of economic development? These are just a few examples of the wide range of questions that we discuss in class at Washington and Lee.
Focus on Teaching and Learning
Small classes allow the Economics faculty to adopt a conversational style in the classroom, conversations that often spill over into a professor's office. A core set of intermediate courses in theory, statistics and econometrics introduces our majors to the tools of modern economic research methods.
Faculty with interests in specific fields of economic research teach our upper-level classes in fields such as international trade, labor, and environmental economics. Sections are small to facilitate engaged discussions that integrate theory with empirical analysis to gain a deeper understanding of market behavior and explore policy implications. Project based writing assignments develop critical thinking skills and teach students the economic research process which is about bringing real world data together with theory to produce analysis helpful to businesses and policy-makers.
Economics is Interdisciplinary
As a social science that uses formal modeling and statistical techniques to answer questions about human behavior, economics is, by necessity, an interdisciplinary endeavor. Economists regularly draw on history, sociology, mathematics, psychology, law and environmental sciences among other disciplines.
Both our majors and our faculty are active in and contribute to Washington and Lee's many interdisciplinary programs including the Shepherd Poverty, Environmental Studies, and Gender Studies. Our travel-based courses which expand to multiple continents are typically co-taught with faculty from other departments including Anthropology (SOAN), Religion and Politics. This approach is ideal for teaching students to integrate insights from other disciplines into economic analysis and articulate it in writing.
The Economics Department organizes a trip biennially to Washington, D.C., for students to explore career opportunities. Students also are welcome to attend the research seminar series that the Economics Department co-hosts with VMI. W&L's prestigious Summer Research Scholar program (January deadline!) provides opportunities for students to work in the summer on faculty research projects. In addition, the department supports other types of opportunities for majors. Interested students are encouraged to talk to their professors.
Recent graduates work in government, policy research, investment and commercial banks, nonprofits, businesses, and start-up companies. Click on this link to access the W&L Office of Career and Professional Development. Graduates also go to law school, graduate school for a master's or doctorate, and to MBA programs after several years of work.