June 12, 2003 – Vol. 22 No. 18

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    2003 Graduate Teaching Awards in the Professional Schools: Kevin Murphy, the George J. Stigler Professor of Economics in the Graduate School of Business

    By Jessamine Chan
    Graduate School of Business

    Kevin Murphy
    Kevin Murphy, the George J. Stigler Professor of Economics in the Graduate School of Business and in Economics, is the recipient of the school's 2003 McKinsey Award for Excellence in Teaching.

    Murphy's approach to teaching can be summed up as dishing out old-fashioned hard work. As a teacher, he jokes that he enjoys making students suffer.

    He is best known at the GSB for his rigorous "Turbo Micro" class he developed for students who already have a strong background in microeconomics. The course covers introductory topics in six weeks instead of 10, with the remaining weeks spent on applying microeconomic principles to problems such as the solvency of the Social Security system.

    "I really enjoy when my students return a few quarters later and tell me 'Boy, when I was taking your class, I was dying, but now I really appreciate what I learned and how hard I had to work,'" said Murphy.

    Murphy also co-teaches an innovative course on the economic analysis of major policy issues with Gary Becker, University Professor in Economics and Sociology, and Edward Snyder, Dean and the George Pratt Shultz Professor of Economics in the GSB.

    Course topics have included the environment, taxation, antitrust, intellectual property and globalization. At the end of each year, Murphy, Becker and Snyder produce a volume of student papers from the course that serves as a record of GSB work on current policy issues.

    In the tradition of the "Chicago school of economics," Murphy said that understanding the basic principles of economics is essential to understanding the world, whether the focus is business, policy or human behavior.

    "I'm a firm believer that in economics, there are a small number of tools in the toolbox," said Murphy. "The trick is figuring out which ones to use when."

    Established in 1979 by the management and consulting firm McKinsey & Company, the award is given every other year to a GSB faculty member who has been teaching for at least two years.

    Murphy, a GSB faculty member since 1983, earned his Ph.D. in Economics from Chicago in 1986. In 1997, he was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal in Economics. The following year, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.