Accessibility one of keys to good teaching
Ait-Sahalia receives Emory Williams Award for Excellence in Teaching Yacine Ait-Sahalia, Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Business, is this year's winner of the GSB's Emory Williams Award for Excellence in Teaching, presented for enthusiasm, clarity, accessibility and innovation in teaching.
Ait-Sahalia, who teaches classes in finance, uses e-mail frequently to communicate with his students outside of class time, often sending them news items and asking them to apply the techniques they learn in class to analyze topics in the news. "For example, last winter we took a look at the recent Barings derivatives fiasco in Singapore and tried to analyze it," he explained.
Students appreciate the personalized feedback, Ait-Sahalia said. "They say they also like the way the material is demystified and integrated with current events," he said.
Even with such response from his students, the award was unexpected. "I was surprised and honored by the recognition," he said. "I've been at the GSB for just two years, and there's so much quality competition."
Ait-Sahalia received his Ph.D. from MIT in 1993. Prior to that he attended the Ecole Polytechnique and the Ecole Nationale de la Statistique et de l'Administration Economique in Paris. His research focuses on fixed-income and derivative securities, continuous-time models and nonparametric econometrics. He teaches two classes at the GSB, Investments and Financial Engineering.
"Financial Engineering is a doctoral class, but a lot of second-year M.B.A. students take it," Ait-Sahalia said. "The class exposes the students to current research. Although it's very technical, I try hard to make it accessible. Fortunately, the quality of GSB students makes that possible.
"I have a lot of fun teaching these courses," he said, "and I think because I'm having fun, it's enjoyable for the students, too."
Ait-Sahalia will receive the award, which was created in 1984 by Emory Williams, former CEO of Sears Bank & Trust Co. and the Chicago Milwaukee Corp., at the Dean's Award Luncheon in November.