June 11, 1998
Vol. 17, No. 18

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    Faculty Awards for Excellence in Graduate Teaching: Lars Hansen

    Homer J. Livingston Professor in Economics

    By William Harms
    News Office

    When it comes to teaching graduate students, Lars Hansen is not just up-to-date -- according to his students, he's cutting edge.

    Of course he addresses interesting economic questions, but he also takes the time in class to develop the tools needed to examine those questions. "The material he covers is so unique and recent -- in fact, often beyond 'state of the art' -- that other faculty members routinely sit in on his classes," his graduate students wrote.

    Hansen's research, which addresses how to bridge the gap between dynamic economic theories and data, has led to new developments in models of dynamic economies and improved methods for analyzing and testing such models. His research includes examination of exchange-rate determination, securities pricing and consumer savings behavior, as well as other areas of economics.

    This range is reflected in his teaching; in recent years Hansen, the Homer J. Livingston Professor in Economics, has taught courses in time-series econometrics, quantitative aspects of macroeconomics and finance.

    In coaching advanced students, Hansen said that the workshop format works well for him and his students. "What we find is that this is a good opportunity for students to get feedback from other students, as well as from me," he said. "I learn from the students during these times because not all of the students are my advisees. They are widely read and are able to point out connections between work that I probably would not otherwise have seen."

    The informal workshops help students make the transition from student to faculty member, Hansen said. "The real challenge with teaching graduate students is having them go from doing well on exams to doing original research. These workshops help make that happen."

    Hansen helps students become more adept at individual research by involving them in his own research projects. "It is often valuable for them if they can work with me on a project. They can eventually become co-authors on papers," he said. "That's very rewarding for me as a teacher, because these advanced students become junior colleagues. They become effective in criticizing my work, and I appreciate that."

    Many of Hansen's former graduate students are gaining recognition in their own right. Three are at Northwestern, where Ravi Jagannathan holds a chaired professorship, John Heaton is a tenured full professor at the Kellogg School and Tim Conley is a faculty member in the economics department. Other former students are faculty members at Wharton, Carnegie-Mellon, Ohio State and the University of Minnesota, where they have developed original research programs in such areas as macroeconomics, empirical finance and applied econometrics.

    "I enjoy staying in touch with these former students," Hansen said, "and it's great to learn new things from their research."