Unit: Economics
Program: Economics (PhD)
Degree: Doctorate
Date: Wed Oct 07, 2009 - 10:04:32 am

1) List your program's student learning outcomes (SLOs).

The goal of the Ph.D. program is to train professional economists for careers in teaching, research and policy analysis. 

1. Students will demonstrate an understanding of economic theory and analytical and quantitative tools.

2. Students will demonstrate an ability to understand, integrate, and apply the various tools, concepts, and principles of economics and quantitative methods to analyze and to develop solutions to economic problems in a clear and concise written form.

3. Students will demonstrate a "frontier" level competency and familiarity with the literature in the student's perceived specialty area.

4. Students will demonstrate the ability to conduct independent and original research in economics.

5. Students will have the skills necessary to qualify for teaching positions at the university and college levels, and for research positions in the public or private sector.

6. Program graduates will be able to obtain employment that uses the level of expertise obtained in the Ph.D. program.

7.  Students will complete these goals according to the timeline described in the graduate program guidelines.

2) Where are your program's SLOs published?

Department Website URL:
Student Handbook. URL, if available online:
Information Sheet, Flyer, or Brochure URL, if available online:
UHM Catalog. Page Number:
Course Syllabi. URL, if available online:
Other: In the Dept's intranet website accessible to faculty only.

3) Upload your program's current curriculum map(s) as a PDF.

Curriculum Map File(s) from 2009:

4) What percentage of courses have the course SLOs explicitly stated on the course syllabus, department website, or other publicly available document? (Check one)


5) State the SLO(s) that was Assessed, Targeted, or Studied

 Our entire faculty meets at least once every semester to discuss issues regarding our graduate program and consider proposals for improvements. Since Fall 2008, we undertook global assessment of all seven SLO's listed in question 1 above, with a particular focus on SLO's 4, 5, 6 and 7.  

6) State the Assessment Question(s) and/or Goal(s) of Assessment Activity

A. Curriculum assessment: 

A1. Is the program effective in attracting perspective  PhD students of high quality?

A2. Adequacy  of program offerings in view of the changes in the discipline of Economics, to meet SLO's 1-7 more effectively. Do courses and program offerings adjust to reflect new knowledge and/or changes in the needs of society?

B Assessement of student performance and program success: 

B1. Are students successfully performing in course-work component of the PhD and in passing the qualifying exams?

B2. Do the students make smooth transition from coursework to research activities? Are students successful in following the progress timeline of the PhD program? If not, what are the major diffculties?

B3. Is the program successful in training high-quality researchers, based on PhD students and graduates' involvement in research projects, conference participation  and publications in scholarly outlets?

B4. Is the program successful in placing its graduates?

B5. Is the program growing? Why or why not?

7) State the Type(s) of Evidence Gathered

The graduate comittee and the entire faculty regularly consider the following statistics (using Data from the STAR system, and internal department data collection):

1. Application and acceptance rates to PhD program in Economics.

2. The size of the PhD program and the number of graduates per year.

3. Progress reports for each graduate student, including following the PhD progress timeline

4. PhD student involvement in research activities: working papers and publications, conference participation, involvement in research projects with faculty.

5. Placement of the the PhD graduates

6. Evidence on how the program offerings and course contents reflect the changes in the field of economics, through consideration of courses offered and course syllabi.

8) State How the Evidence was Interpreted, Evaluated, or Analyzed

All faculty members are involved in interpreting and evaluating the evidence from the data.  Ongoing analysis of the perforamce of the program, indentfying  problems and subsequent solutions is provided through discussion in faculty meetings and in meetings of the department's Graduate Committee (chaired by Professor Theresa Greaney) and Assessment Committee (chaired by Professor Katya Sherstyuk).

9) State How Many Pieces of Evidence Were Collected

The performance of each PhD student is evaluated -- 100% of all PhD students, and of the program as a whole. 

10) Summarize the Actual Results

 1. The graduate program continues to produce highly qualified PhD recipients, but applications and enrollments have decreased in recent years.  This is due in part to the decline in real dollar value of UHM graduate assistantships which have been frozen in nominal terms for more than five years.  During the same time period, East-West Center Awards have also decreased in value.  The Department is taking steps to offer more competitive awards to the most qualified applicants and to increase our marketing efforts. 

PHD Degrees Awarded: Calendar Years 2004-2008

Source:  www.star.hawaii.edu

2. Our department is very satisfied with the quality of the graduate students who are in the top tier of our applicant pool but we strongly desire to be more competitive in attracting these students to enroll here.  We often lose the best applicants because our Graduate Assistantship (GA) awards have not kept pace with the costs of living in Hawaii and mainland universities offer more generous funding. The East-West Center fellowships also have been substantially reduced in recent years in terms of stipends so these awards are less attractive to top applicants.  The students who do enroll in our graduate program generally are well-qualified in terms of their economics backgrounds and most are well-qualified in terms of their mathematics background.  We strongly encourage those who have weaker backgrounds to take coursework over the summer and to arrive on campus early to take a “mathematics for economists” review course that we offer to incoming students in August of each year during the pre-semester weeks.

3.  Enrollment in the graduate program by economics majors is down slightly in recent years due in part to the above mentioned low compensation for graduate assistants— the rates have been frozen on UHM for more than five years— and less generous support for EWC grantees. Although the number of graduate majors is down slightly, total graduate course enrollments remain fairly stable  Thus, the graduate program is executed with much efficiency.4. In terms of curriculum assessment, to reflect the changes in the economics discipline in our MA curriculum, we have prompted changes in our core courses and in our field courses.  The content of the core coursework is evolving to cover the new empirical and theoretical methods. In the field courses, instructors typically add new readings every year to reflect the newest topics and methods in the field. 

4. Our Department has developed initiatives to get our graduate students involved in conducting research at an earlier stage in the program (i.e., in the field courses in their 2nd year) and in completing publishable-quality research. We also maintain an active Department seminar series with weekly seminars that include many visitors and have prompted the graduate students to run their own “brown bag seminar” series to encourage more research presentations by students.  University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization employs several graduate students each year for their research projects in health economics, environmental economics and Hawaii economic forecasting.

5. The department has been successful in placement of our PhD graduates. We have been successful in placing our graduates in tenure-track positions in recent years at the following institutions:  the California State University at Bakersfield, Chulalongkorn University and Thammasat University (in Thailand), HEC Montreal (in Canada), Kobe University (in Japan), Southern Illinois University, the University of Hawaii at Hilo the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the University of Puget Sound and the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater.  We also have placed recent graduates at excellent international organizations (e.g., Asian Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank) and in prominent government posts (e.g., the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and South Korea’s Ministry of Strategy and Finance).  The job placement archive is available at the Economics web site.

6. An identified weakness of the PhD program is a slow transition for many PhD students from coursework to conducting research.  The students on average are still taking too long to complete the doctoral program, in part because the students often struggled to decide on their research topics after completing their coursework and exams. This problem was identified several years ago. In response, the department decided to eliminate qualifying exams in our field courses and replace them with term papers in these courses to emphasize to students the importance of initiating and pursuing research early in their doctoral program.  We also added a 3rd-year research paper requirement and more hands on statistical work in the core econometrics course in an attempt to encourage our students to transition more quickly into the research stage of our doctoral program.  However, the 2008-2009 assessment findings indicate that many PhD students still do not complete their 3rd year research paper on time.

11) Briefly Describe the Distribution and Discussion of Results

The results have been discussed by the entire economics faculty at graduate committee meetings, faculty meetings, and informally among faculty members.  

The results obtain by the end of 2008 were also supplied as part of the College of Social Sceince External  Review, which took place in Spring 2009.

12) Describe Conclusions and Discoveries

1.  Overall, the MA program is doing well and continues to produce high quality PhD students and place them well.  

2. Efforts should be taken to advertize the program better to increase student enrollment.

3. The identification of time-to-degree as an area in which our department could improve suggests tha changes in the graduate curricula and requirements are necessary to encourage the students to follow the PhD progress timeline.  

13) Use of Results/Program Modifications: State How the Program Used the Results --or-- Explain Planned Use of Results

1. The Economics PhD program is maintaining its high quality through continuous update of its curriculum, high research orientation and involvement of graduate students in research and outreach activities. 

2. The graduate economics programs need to improve their effort in effective recruiting of the most promising graduate students.The following steps are being undertaken and are currently continuing to meet this objective:  During AY 2008-2009, the Department’s Graduate Committee developed a new graduate program brochure and a colorful poster to use in our marketing efforts.  A copy of each was sent with a cover letter to the chairs at 124 economics departments in the US and 85 economics departments abroad, mainly in the Asia-Pacific Rim.  Several of our faculty who traveled to conferences this fall took along multiple copies of the brochure to hand out during their trips.  In addition, the Graduate Chair annually encourages all Department faculty to join in the marketing effort by emailing colleagues at other universities to let them know of our active recruitment efforts, our program’s strengths and our funding opportunities for prospective graduate students.  This effort continues currently into AY 2009-2010. Our Department’s website is also been extensively improved and updated so that prospective students can obtain a lot of relevant information—details on our program, funding opportunities for students, life in Honolulu, research interests of our faculty and the job placements of our recent graduates.

3. To shorten the time-to-degree, the Assessment Committee in cooperation with the Graduate Committee are currently considering increasing the penalty for falling behind the normal progress timeline. In particular, the committees are suggesting to consider not turning in the 3rd year paper on time equivalent to failing the field qualifying exam, and making financial assistance conditional on following the normal progress timeline. The proposal will be presented by the Graduate Chair to the entire faculty at the next faculty meeting.

4.  The department is engaged in ongoing evaluation and calibration of the policy changes that have been made.  We also leave the door open to further future changes in these graduate curricula and requirements if deemed necessary.  

14) Reflect on the Assessment Process

The department is engaged in ongoing evaluation and calibration of the policy changes that have been made.  We also leave the door open to further future changes in these graduate curricula and requirements if deemed necessary.  The creation of the department's Assessment Committee (headed by Professor Katya Sherstyuk) will help facilitate ongoing evaluation and possible further  policy changes.  Ultimately, program modifications will be made through discussions in faculty-wide department meetings.

Other improvements in assessment may include increasing the feedback from the program graduates and soliciting suggestions for improvement from them.

15) Other Important Information

Visit http://www.economics.hawaii.edu/graduate/graduate.html for more information on Economics graduate programs

16) FOR DISTANCE PROGRAMS ONLY: Explain how your program/department has adapted its assessment of student learning in the on-campus program to assess student learning in the distance education program.

17) FOR DISTANCE PROGRAMS ONLY: Summarize the actual student learning assessment results that compare the achievement of students in the on-campus program to students in the distance education program.