course
Financial Economics

Jan 2021

His class was okay. The lecture notes are hard to read and go over them very fast so you are not able to keep up. If asked to slow down, the TAs and the professor will tell you to watch the lectures again. In the final, he included an extra credit paper which most students did not read. Not terrible, but not good. I will not take him again for any other class, but if it is your only choice, then good luck.

Jan 2021

Professor Gashaw is very intelligent and knowledgeable. However, as with many Columbia professors, that does not mean he is a great lecturer. His lectures are very disorganized. Each class consists of him reviewing sloppily pre-written notes and mathematical derivations from his iPad. He breezes through the material so fast that if you glance away for one second you will be lost for the rest of the lecture. He supplements his pre-written notes with the textbook provided chapter PowerPoints which are not all that helpful either. While the material covered in class might seem abstract and hard to grasp, the tested material is relatively easy and straightforward. My four pieces of advice for doing well in this class: 1. Attend recitation when you are confused on a topic, the TAs cover numerical examples (unlike Gashaw) which are not only helpful for completing the problem sets, but also fully understanding the material 2. Read the textbook, TBH you're better off reading the textbook than listening in class 3. Complete and master the midterm and final exam study guides (he does not provide keys to these which I found incredibly annoying) - the questions on the exams closely resemble these, so if you can successfully complete those without referencing your notes you can be confident you will have a strong performance on both exams 4. Complete all extra credits (Gashaw offers ample extra credit throughout the semester), they can provide you a nice cushion and even boost you up a partial letter grade if sufficiently completed P.S. Don't stress about Stock Trak, as long as you meet the minimum portfolio requirements, you can absolutely tank your portfolio and still get 12%/15%, Gashaw does not harshly punish poor performance, he genuinely wants you to learn and not be afraid to make mistakes

Dec 2020

This was the most unpleasant course I've ever taken at Columbia. The teacher's notes were incomprehensibly untidy (see: sometimes literally writing sideways); the lecture was often so confusing that actively ignoring the lecture might be better than following along. One example included a derivation of a formula involving expected value and variance; the professor (who, remember, has extremely disorganized notes) proceeded with the derivation in a manner that no one could have followed. Moreover, the material on the assessments did not at all reflect what was taught in the course. The only way some of the assignments could be completed was by attending TA recitations (which should not be mandatory in a 3-credit course). Tamrat Gashaw's strengths include flexibility with deadlines, offering extra credit, and allowing students to weigh the better of the midterm and the final more heavily. These gestures were appreciated. However, otherwise, this course is extremely poorly taught. The professor mandated synchronous attendance and examinations, despite many of the students living in alternate timezones (one friend of mine who was in the course with me was compelled to take the midterm, synchronously, at 11:40 PM local times). He subsequently allowed the final to be taken at two different times -- which did not help my friend, who was given the choice between 12AM and 4AM local time. He actively distrusts his students: I felt antagonized, attacked, and hurt when he asked why I seemed "disinterested" because I was looking side to side in what I perceived to be a mocking tone, when in fact I did not know I was being called on because he was mispronouncing my name. I further explained that I had two monitors, but he seemed dismissive of my response. Please note that this is in front of dozens of students; moreover, I would like for it to be known that I was one of a minority of students who had their videos on, and yet I was still accused of being "disinterested;" the experience was humiliating, but I feared reaching out to him about my concerns, lest he be dismissive again and perhaps target my grade. In addition, the professor is one of a small group who uses proctorio during assessments; I found this tactic to be demeaning, given that all Columbia students sign the honor pledge. In addition, numerous students expressed their well-founded concerns about Proctorio's intrusivity in personal computers, but he said he "decided" that these concerns were "minimal" without sharing any further comments. Furthermore, when I posted on the Piazza about an actual security breach on my own computer as a result of Proctorio, he said "you can uninstall it after the exam," completely ignoring the fact about the security breach itself or promising to look into the issue or simply apologizing and saying he won't use the software further. I find it my duty to express in the strongest possible terms that Tamrat Gashaw is not a professor whom I would recommend to any other students or to continue with the economics department of Columbia University. Literally makes me want to throw up thinking about the course. His bio says he came from Western Michigan University. He's probably a smart guy somewhere underneath the spaghetti of notes. But nothing about him says Columbia University professor.

Oct 2020

Columbia has some pretty awful econ classes/econ profs, but this one was by far the worst. while financial econ has the potential to be an interesting class, gashaw's class was a living hell. first of all, he was the only professor I had this semester that had absolutely no respect for students' home and remote learning situations - he required synchronous attendance and exams. if students for some reason couldn't make lecture due to a time zone issue, you had to instead write one page write up every week to make up for missing class. next, we were not allowed to drop a problem set. he also made a problem set due the same week as the exam, in fact, 24 hours right after the exam. thirdly, gashaw was quite often late to office hours. fourthly, he required a stock investing assignment where part of the grade was based on beating the S&P 500 index. HEDGE FUNDS DON'T EVEN BEAT THE INDEX. plus, we were only able to allocate 25% of capital to equities. somebody tell me how 21 year olds are supposed to beat the S&P with 25% in equities and 75% in bonds and futures? i barely know what a future is? fifth - gashaw does not keep his TAs informed about his plans regarding exams or anything important. My TA would often start sentences with, "I don't know if this is important, but I'm going to walk through it" and it was because GASHAW DOES NOT TELL HIS TAS WHAT HE WILL BE COVERING ON THE EXAM. finally, he was awful with remote exams. he was the only prof this semester that I had who required proctorio (which requires a room scane that I personally am uncomfortable with for privacy reasons) and he added a completely new chapter to the exams 48 hours before the exam. I'm pissed y'all I've never written a culpa review before but this class has truly been the worst that I've taken at Columbia no cap and I think everybody should avoid gashaw's fin econ like the plague

Oct 2020

Terrible professor, simply terrible. Can barely understand what he says and the lectures are insanely boring. Stay away if you have a choice.

Apr 2020

She's great: has clear Powerpoints, answers questions well, and teaches well. Has real world research experience and knows what she's talking about.

Jan 2019

Probably one of the worst classes I've taken at Columbia with a pretty mediocre professor. I hate to be harsh, but the amount of trouble I went through for this class...far too much. I had a hard time understanding him, so most of us had to rely on the slides. He posts the slides on Courseworks, so after the first couple of weeks, people didn't come to class, that is until he had us sign as proof of our attendance, although anyone could have forged their friend's name. The class starts off pretty easy...a review of basic financial concepts/principles. The math is pretty tolerable. In fact, you take a quiz before the Drop deadline, and all is fine. But then he gets to higher more theoretical conceptual topics after the midterm, and then your lost. Utterly confused. Tamrat isn't of much help. Recitation wasn't much help. He makes you read some research papers that he may test you on, but these leave you even more confused. The final was pretty bad, since the psets pretty much didn't prepare you for it. He also made class decide when they wanted a formula sheet, during the midterm or final. Kind of a dick move IMO. I can say, overall, I learned nothing from him, had to teach myself the material from the textbook, which is meh. The best part of the class though was the StockTrak investment simulation. Most people had negative returns though cause market was pretty much falling, and the wise Professor Gashaw didn't even teach the class tools of investment until the very final week. Overall, don't take him if you can.

May 2018

Professor Cao-Alvira is an adjunct associate professor at Barnard's Department of Economics. Good thing is he posts the slides and the problem sets are biweekly. Financial Economics in itself is a very rigorous, intriging and practical subject. However, though Professor Cao-Alvira tried to sound experienced and authoritative, he failed big time to engage the class during lectures, manage class time (it often starts late), keep organized and maintain a high academic standards. Here are a few examples. 1. Slides are made of screenshots from the textbook without quoting the source. Plenty of mistakes, some are very significant mistakes, some just typos. 2. His lectures are monologues of himself giving definitions, brushing off most of the complicated and important points such as Why Capital Asset Pricing Works and bragging about himself. His presentations are usually not smooth with a lot of stops and very very few logical transitions. He shows very little passion. I can tell he's usually very tired, which I totally understand. He rarely asks questions in class, which made his lecture very unengaging. He manages class time poorly because there is this student sitting in the front row who'd ask like 10 questions throughout the 1 hour lecture and the Q&A drags on and on and on and his answers are not often unclear. For example, someone once asked him during the IPO lecture whether people who bought Alibaba stock owns Alibaba's Camen Island incorporation, which is like a shell, or its actual assets and operations in mainland China, he answered: "I have helped many company get listed (in Jose's signature self-promo style). There are dual listing and single listings. it is very common for company to do single listing." I'm like did he just dismissed this question? 3. Homework is repetitive, tedious and long. The questions are all over the Internet and I suspect that he copied the homework questions from somewhere else without quoting the sauce. This is bad academic practice. 4. His office hour is extremely bizarre and upsetting. He call it office hours but in fact, you HAVE TO make an appointment with him at least one week in advance. So if you have something urgent, you won't be able to see him. He's very strict about this because one time, I waited outside his office for more than half an hour and he just told me people with appointment came first. So, basically, he's unavailable even during his office hours if you don't have an appointment. Advice for Prospective Students: - READ THE TEXTBOOK! It is awesome! Very clear, well-written and interesting in my opinion with great examples. The book taught me much more than Professor Cao-Alvira did and was the only reason that I stayed in this class. - Skip the lectures if you were bored or really can't concentrate during them for other reasons, if you know how to study the textbook. Make appointment with graduate TAs to figure out things you don't understand from the book. - DO THE BONUS PROJECT EARLY ON! Trust me, it'll help your grades and gave you some ease around final time. The cutoff between A and A- are brutal. My class's A range is above 92% and A- is above 84%. Advice for Columbia/Barnard Econ Department: It is a great pity and irony that both departments were not able to hire competent teachers in Finance to teach undergrads in NEW YORK, the CENTER OF FINANCE. This is a reputation risk. I know many people who have already complained to the department. Please do something.

May 2017

Sally Davidson is amazing. Definitely the best professor I've had at Columbia. She's a great lecturer and very sweet. I also learned a lot from this class.

May 2016

1.) LECTURES Professor Davidson is probably the best professor I have had at Columbia (and I am pretty picky when it comes to professors). She genuinely cares about her students. She is also alright with not covering as much material in class in order to leave ample time for questions and make sure that she thoroughly answers those questions. CAUTION: IF YOU DO NOT ATTEND CLASS, YOU WILL NOT DO WELL. She does not have Powerpoint slides. Everything is done on the board. That being said, SHE IS A FANTASTIC TEACHER. She has taught this class for a while and has developed an organized way of presenting the material while making sure students truly understand step-by-step how to do a problem. She won't just write a formula on the board and expect you to understand it. She will explain conceptually why that formula makes sense, then go through a concrete example of how that formula is used. 2.) HOMEWORKS These are not terrible. They take about 4-6 hours each. They are very doable though given that she literally does examples that are the same as the homework in class to give you a solid foundation. The TAs are very helpful in their recitation and are willing to help too. 3.) MIDTERM/FINAL These are extremely straightforward. She does not try and trick you. If you understand the homeworks/readings in and out, you can 100% get an A in the class. Her office hours are amazing too. She will go through any concepts you are struggling with very clearly on the board in her office. She is also super friendly and approachable =).

May 2014

Awesome professor -- Sethi obviously knows his shit. As other reviewers have mentioned, I think Sethi probably does more conceptual stuff than Davidson (not that I know, since I didn't take her class, obviously), but I think that makes the class more interesting and when you know the theory behind the financial instruments discussed it makes doing the problems more intuitive as well. As such, Sethi stressed intuition when studying for exams, not plug in chug math, so I thought the exam problems could get difficult (you lost a lot of points for not understanding the "why" behind things) but overall I learned a ton in this class. Lectures were great -- this is one of few Econ classes I've taken where I think attending lecture is imperative to doing well, and Sethi is obviously really into the material, very engaging, you will want to go to lecture (except that it was in Milbank which was a long ass walk, so I didn't actually want to go, but you'll want to be there, is what I mean). The transition between one lecture to the next is seamless, and he does a brief review of the last lecture every class which I thought was really helpful because then you can actually see how each topic is connected to the next. He also in the first lecture did a pretty good job of laying out the plan for the whole semester which I found really helpful. Problem sets were useful for applying lecture concepts and preparation for exams. They could get difficult but it was really satisfying to finish them and feel like you understood the material better. Grad level TAs were helpful, the undergrad TA was pretty useless... she didn't know how to answer any of the midterm questions during OH. Grading on the problem sets was generally fair, if not a bit sloppily done. Midterm was good prep for final, so it's nice that the midterm was only worth 20% and the final worth 50%, since then you get a basic feel for the structure of the exams. Exams were generally fair (see above on intuition), but the curve was pretty hard in my opinion ... this class was not heavily curved, and the average on the midterm was (in my opinion) a lot higher than expected. Grading on the midterm was kind of harsh (not tons of partial credit given). The midterm was a huge time crunch (I barely finished), but then the final wasn't at all (I finished in like an hour and a half, then spent the next hour going back, checking work, trying to figure out the parts I didn't get), which was bizarre. Overall, great class, I really learned a lot and Sethi is a great prof. Only complaint I have is that he's fairly unapproachable. He was unwilling to reschedule any exams, midterm or final, also not great about responding to emails... insisted that we post any questions we have on the CW discussion board that probably only 15 students ever looked at, and wouldn't respond to questions via email. He's not mean, just strict and unfriendly.

Jan 2013

This class was one of the best classes I've taken at Columbia. It was difficult, lectures were interesting, but Davidson never expected you to figure out some theoretical part of finance by yourself. Everything in the problem sets and everything on the tests was taught in lecture, which was really awesome. She went REALLY fast. Also, the classroom in NoCo that we had made it so that if you weren't sitting in the front, you were pretty much helpless to see and hear what was going on. She regularly asked the kids in the back if they could hear here, but they were all asleep anyway. The TA's were okay - homeworks often had points taken off for really useless things. They were graded out of 40 and you could lose 2 points for one calculation error! Davidson is a great professor. She makes everything interesting and always relates the material back to something from the real world (i.e. the financial crisis) but doesn't really test you on that historical knowledge. The class is very formula/calcuation-oriented, but it's really not that difficult if you get the intuition down.

Dec 2012

Sally Davidson, is a nice and earnest individual, but whether it was her style of teaching or the nature of the material (or the combination of the two), I got very little from this class. Lectures consisted of rapidly scrawling notes on the board which consisted of formulas, calculations and seemingly disjointed examples (which, when confronted with the first problem set, you quickly realize you must copy down or be left helpless to complete the homework, which will take you 3-6 hours regardless). Class time was spent frantically trying to copy down the long numerical notation that the professor would spew, with little time for any sort of comprehensive examination or understanding of the principles behind the material. Problem sets are essentially plug and chug, tedious version of the material covered in class, which provided some practice working with the material, that is if working with the material means copying down equations from your notes. The midterm (and I imagine the final) was entirely too heavily weighted toward multiple choice which was a surprise given the computational nature of the course. The average was a 71, and the test seemed to favor tricky questions that tested the material in a way entirely different than it was presented (we were taught how to use formulas and do calculations, not how to solve trite questions where the answer was a trick.). The professor also inspired little to no interest in the field and was overall lacking in critical thinking or the encouragement thereof.

May 2012

A fantastic professor who does an amazing job of explaining concepts to his students. Though he can rush through things at times, he always makes sure to pause and make sure that everybody is following. If not, he is more than happy to go back and clarify. His course covers a lot of topics and is a great way to build a solid conceptual understanding of these topics. His lecture slides do NOT cover everything he will go over in class, so you will benefit greatly by printing them and writing on them in class. The workload is extremely manageable for the class and does a good job of reinforcing asking you to apply the concepts taught in class to solve the problems. Definitely would recommend attending lectures if you take this course. HW 30% MT 20% fair Final 50% cumulative

May 2011

Professor Sethi was a pretty good teacher, able to fully explain the details of various financial instruments and markets. His lectures were always interesting and very detailed, even more so than his lecture notes online, so if you didn't go to class, you missed out, which would be the biggest problem with his class (it was at 9AM in Barnard). If you're looking to understand finance, take Financial Econ with Sethi; he'll explain everything, making sure it's crystal clear, and if you even have further questions about finance, he's willing to answer them as well to your understanding (someone asked about swaps, which were not covered in the syllabus, but Sethi still gave a detailed answer). Another issue with this class though would be the TAs; I feel like most of the problem sets were graded rather harshly and unfairly (I lost points multiple times because I didn't explain my answers, when the questions never asked to explain, and even when the answers didn't have an explanation...).

May 2011

One of the best classes I have ever taken at Columbia or Barnard. Professor Sethi is a good lecturer, very organized, and strikes a good balance between theoretical and applied. He uses both the board (for more theoretical derivations) and his powerpoint slides/information from the internet and even showed a news clip from MSNBC (I think it was) once (for the applied aspect). I learned quite a bit about portfolio selection, arbitrage, and finance from this class. He also managed to hold students' attention for most of the 75 minutes and his class was quite fully attended.

May 2011

Sethi's Financial Econ is one of the best classes I have taken at Columbia. I'd say that if you're looking for an Econ elective and can't decide, look no further. This course is practical and useful, and not like other overly-theoretical and often vague econ courses. My suggestion would be to attend every lecture and focus more on understanding than just taking notes, because most of the stuff he writes on the board will be there on the slides too. The structured finance reading assignment was particularly interesting to me. The highlight of the first part of the course is the Portfolio allocation theories, and for the second part it is arbitrage. Overall, an excellent use of Monday and Wednesday mornings.

Apr 2011

Sethi's class is a must for anyone interested in Financial markets. It provides a sound foundation in most of the concepts which you should know if you want to go in this industry, but will also please those who are more academically-driven. This class is fairly mathematical and deals with a lot of concepts which can seem abstract - for more applied finance, you should consider Corporate Finance. Sethi is a very good instructor and his slides are basically all you need. Print them and go to class. He sometimes gives more examples and goes deeper into certain concepts, but the core of the class really is in those slides. The first lectures are extremely descriptive and will be boring to anyone with basic knowledge of finance, especially all those who read the technical guides for banking interviews. After that, the course becomes much more analytical. It is overall a quite demanding class, but definitely worth it.

Jan 2011

I took this course this past semester, and I overall liked it. Like has been said, Professor Davidson is really nice and a really good teacher. She is extremely clear and makes and effort to make sure that people understand the material. She also tries to make class fun through discussion and a sort of "game" where we bought a futures contract predicting the outcome of the 2010 elections. She even came in for a long review session on Saturday before the final and stayed until well into the evening. That being said, I found the course a bit too focused on the math and how to do these things, rather than on the theory of finance. I would have preferred a more theoretical approach. However, this is more of a personal thing and I imagine much of the class enjoyed the practical and calculation based approach.

Jan 2011

Taking Financial Economics with Prof. Sethi was one of the best course decisions I have made at Columbia. Prof. Sethi is clear and organized. There were no surprises, no BS. If you print out the slides, go to class and do the problem sets, you will do well and learn the material surprisingly well. Prof. Sethi is a great teacher, and very intelligent, but he expects a lot of his students. Similar to Gulati and Elmes, this class is difficult but 100% worth it. Even if you are not intending to head to Wall St, definitely consider taking Financial Econ with Sethi. You'll learn a lot and have a basic understanding for finance that will come in handy later on. Hint: Sethi posts the slides before the class. Print them out and write on them as he goes through the lecture. The slides have the basic info, but he says a lot in class as well. They won't made as much sense if you don't write notes on them as he goes along.

Dec 2010

Absolutely one of the best classes I have ever taken. Her lectures are extremely clear and never boring. She engages the class and encourages participation--which is a nice change from the typical lecture. She relates everything to current events, and gets very excited when something happens in the markets that she can talk about in class. Probably the best part about this class is that it is very practical for anyone who wants to do finance. She does not teach from a strictly theoretical standpoint, as is all too common at Columbia. Instead, she makes sure everyone has a practical understanding of the concepts that she is teaching. The problem sets do require a lot of work, but they are extremely helpful when it comes to studying for her exams. It is certainly more of a math oriented class, but none of the topics are too complicated. She provides all formulas in class and gives several examples illustrating each one. If you go to lectures and take good notes you will have no problem completing the problem sets. Her exams are very fair, which makes finals time much less stressful. She held a review for our final on a Saturday night, and did not get even remotely cranky when students who clearly had not been coming to class all semester suddenly showed up and kept asking her stupid questions. Sally really is a gem and I cannot say enough good things about her. I HIGHLY recommend this class for anyone with an interest in finance.

May 2010

After a few lectures, you realize that most of the people in the class have aspirations of Wall St. For these people (and I knew a few), the lectures were always attended, the book was read in sync with the lecture notes, and office hours were regularly attended. These students probably shared some previous knowledge of assets and arbitrage etc., and I'm guessing did pretty well for themselves in the class. Now, I was not one of those students, so my review will reflect that to some degree. I am an econ major, but am not that interested in pursuing a career in finance post-grad. I took the class because finance was still something I thought might be interesting, and most importantly, I figured would be more mathematical than analytical. After completing the course, I would say that the class dealt with 'numbers' less than I thought it would (not necessarily bad), and stressed hypothetical situations/analysis. Lecture: Sethi's lectures are very structured, and are all accompanied with lecture notes that are posted online (he may not always refer to them in lecture, but they will be posted). These notes contain 95% of what you will need to know for the class, meaning that the many "fresh faces" to show up for the final exam were not likely in any disadvantage. Sethi speaks quickly but clearly, with a slight Indian accent that is easy to understand. I think he does a good job of keeping the class as involved as possible, and does so by carrying out "experiments," by asking the class to offer their own ideas/reasons, and even facilitating a debate. I was not someone who was interested in debating the merits of Goldman Sachs or structured finance, but that didn't affect anything in the end. Those who do participate in these activities are more likely to get a 5/5 on the participation aspect of the grade (5% of final grade... I got 4/5 w/o doing any of the extras), but that's the only benefit I saw. Overall, not a terrible pace to each class. Participation: Very minor part of grade, but an easy one to fulfill. Based on 2 readings/posts and if you do a class presentation. Do the posts, get 4/5. Do all 3, get 5/5. Maybe you can get 5/5 by just doing the posts and other stuff... I'm only speaking from my own P.O.V. Problem Sets: There are only 5 (due bi-weekly), which is a huge bonus to this class. Each of the PS's took me between 2/3.5 hours to complete, and ranged from straight-forward to downright confusing (...maybe they were just hard). I felt that the easier ones were those that were more mathematical, with the harder ones requiring much more internalizing and research through the slides/book/elsewhere. These were fairly graded, as one might expect when the answers are pretty objective. Midterm: Took the class period to complete (1:15). Was 4 equally weighted questions, all could be studied for via the slides. 2 involved math, 1 t/f based on concepts, 1 analysis based on concepts. Final: He allows the entire 3 hrs, but I feel that a lot of people are finished before that. I was done in 2:30, and I'd say that a little less than half the class still remained. The final was 6 questions, similarly structured to the midterm in that there was a mix of questions that tested pretty much every aspect of the course (some more directly than others). --- Sethi tells the class on day 1 that he assumes that no one in the class has any prior knowledge of finance, asset markets, etc., and he does a pretty good job of teaching with this in mind. I didn't read the book once, and I don't think that really hurt too much. Attending lecture and studying the lecture notes he provides online is enough to get by in the class. Those who really pour themselves into attending office hours, reading ahead, and understanding the material are going to be those that end up in the A range.

May 2010

If I am not dazzled by the final, i should be right to say that rajiv was proctoring it with an ipad, quite a tech fashion guy you can see, but what the he** he was doing with ipad in final(?) His slides are really good, making the textbook become useless. the textbooks are good for solving some homework problems though as they often share simlarity. His lectures are not very interesting, just going over slides. I think it is just easier to learn from the slides than his lectures. If i did not have a class at 9, i probably would skip his 10:35 class. as someone who attended every lecture, i saw lots of unfamiliar faces in midterm and finals, you can expect the attendance rate. Tests are of very liberal arts, much less quantitative than my other econ classes taken in Columbia. most questions require "explain" only. ironically, most materials are just maths, equations that produces non-arbitrage condition. it could be more practical to be more quantitative. SEAS students are crippled in this class. But i like this class for there are only 5 problem sets. and the problem sets are more interesting as you are really doing the math about financial econ. final is cumulative. from my experience on his midterm and final, you can just disregard those examples covered by notes and practice tests. sethi knows everyone knows those stuff well. he would always test what you ignored or what you have not seen.

Jan 2010

She is a nice teacher and is good at math/stats but make sure to choose the P/D/F option if you can. (read: her grading is rather harsh even on a curve; also assignments don't count much.) Although this course guides you to basic finance, it is very much math-oriented course and I felt like more than a half of the semester was spent on portfolio allocations/management. If you aspire to be an investor or an investment manager, this is great. However, you will be disappointed if you want to know in-depth valuation methods, financial statement analysis or more ibank-related subjects, take financial accounting instead.

Dec 2009

I disagree with the below reviewer who probably was upset that s/he didn't do very well on midterm judging from the date it was posted. In my opinion, she's one of the best econ professor I've ever had. Her background; she had previously worked at JPMorgan rates trading desk(?) and for the Federal Reserve, and where did she go to grad school? MIT? I’m not sure. Although I've taken several econ courses, I am a philosophy major with no knowledge of finance and have taken this course just for fun. In retrospect, I think I’ve learnt a lot about finance in this course. The textbook (Investment 8th Edition) was also good. The other section was taught by Rajiv Sethi, and I attended both during the first 2 weeks to see which would be more appropriate for someone like myself. I chose Sally Davidson because Rajiv seemed to assume that we already knew the basics of finance and didn't explain much when introducing a new term and also because he used PowerPoint, which means that I would not have enough time to take notes. Yeah, I know it's my personal preference. Sally didn't use PowerPoint because it is a 9AM class and people would fall asleep but she’s very articulate, sometimes too loud. What I liked most about her is that she always gave us several examples to demonstrate how to use formulae or whatever she presented. Weekly assignment consisting of 5 questions was based on what we had covered in class, so it was, for the most part, very straightforward and was simply designed to concrete your understanding. I always fitted it in 3-4 pages, although it took me more than 7-8 hours. As I said I am not an econ major, so don’t worry about it and besides, you’re allowed to work with your friends. On several occasions, however, we had to draw a graph or compute numbers using Excel, which was not easy for me, because there was no instructions on how to use Excel. One thing that I agree with the Oct. 28 reviewer is that solutions to problem sets are not helpful at all, but you probably wouldn’t need them. If you do, just ask a TA or Sally. Midterm consisted of 9 multiple choice questions (5pts each,) 1 true/false explanation question out of 2 (15pts) and a longer problem (7 questions; 40 pts) Although I screwed up multiple choice questions because I am not a good test taker, the exam was not very difficult when I revised it at home. Since she’s cut the length of the exam this semester, I don’t think it was impossible to finish it within 75 mins. As for grading, she didn’t give you a letter grade for the midterm, but I find her grading very fair. Also, she grades exams herself, which is nice. Final was, of course, longer and covered more topics (quasi-cumulative - 75%) but about the same level of difficulty. She doesn’t ask you to give definitions of terms but you need to know what they are. Another good thing about her was that she invited guest speakers to talk about things (Lehman collapse, asset management, money market mutual funds and reserve Primary) from insiders point of view. (She brought sweets that her sister made :p) She’s clearly passionate about what she teaches and makes herself available when you need her outside her office hours. She is a very nice person and a professor, and I’m glad to take this course with her.

Oct 2009

Sally is all about mindless number crunching. She teaches a tedious and pointless statistics class rather than finance. You won't learn anything you can apply in the real world besides using your calculator. Sally rushes through the material and gives problem sets that take 10-15 pages to solve each week. She asks you to buy a textbook but she never teaches the material. Instead, she is all about obsolete statistical analysis that nobody actually uses anymore. Her exams are 100% based on tedious number crunching. She doesn't care if you understand the concepts as long as you come up with a number. The exams are extremely long and even if you know the material you won't be able to finish. Sally's grading is also very harsh and will ruin your GPA. She is not a good teacher, murmurs silently things that half the class doesn't understand, doesn't give review sessions before the exams, and the "answers" she gives to her problem sets are simply the final numerical result, but no explanation of how she got there. The worst class I have taken at Columbia. You will learn more if you just read the newspaper.

Dec 2007

This is the first class I've taken (outside of Miyagawa's Microeconomics) where the professor is more clear than the textbook. It's no wonder why her class has 99% attendance. Sally is nervous up there, and the material, for a lot of the course, is pretty boring, but she's a very clear teacher and you actually learn something in her class.

May 2007

Class is very easy. Tests are unscaled, so there is no curve. Tests are also ridiculously easy, and it's very very easy to screw up. However, I know of several people who got A+s, and several people who were more knowledgeable, but made some stupid errors on the exam and got B+s. In class, he is very clear and goes straight from the book. Also goes very slowly, and honestly I was pretty bored since the material was pretty easy as well. Easy professor; would recommend if you want an easy class.

May 2007

Good God, run for the high heavens if you have this man. First of all, he is always late by at least 10 minutes. Then once he got there he did one or two sample problems with most of the time taken up with what other books we should read, his life as a washed up I-Banker, and how half of the people sitting in the room won't be able to cut it for I-Banking. Oh, and to encourage us, he would lament on how boring and tedious the work was. Whatever I learned from this class I taught myself with the book, which was actually pretty good. And the TAs had section each week and NO ONE could make it because it was like 9:30-10:30 when most people had class. So instead of switching the sessions as people requested (including myself) they ended up canceling them, citing the reason "because no one came." Are you kidding? Also, I Googled him because most professors at Columbia, especially in the Economics department, are highly distinguished. Go ahead and do it and you'll see what the first link is. Not good at all.

May 2007

Ok. Straight talk here. This guy sucks. It's clear that he doesn't prepare for class, and doesn't really care about it in the first place. For every class, he comes in and just whips out the textbook -- regurgitating everything from it. You learn nothing from him, unless you're one of those who are impressed by his ploy of "name-dropping" big-wigs. That said, if you want an A in economics, this is a class for you. You can virtually skip all the classes and read from the textbook and still get an A in the class

Feb 2007

In the first week of the course, he was unconventional, even brilliant. He depicted the complex interaction between firms and consumers by simply drawing a few diagrams: a house with stick figures and factories with chimneys. Wow, brilliant, this guy just reduced the complex system into concepts we could actually understand. But after the semester was over, it was evidently clear his simplistic reduction wasn't a product of a brilliant, illuminating mind: he simply didn't have the depth of understanding. If he did, then he didn't know how to present the material and with what priority. With many of the key concepts that all students of FinEcon class should take away, like CAPM and Arbitrage Pricing Theory, he glossed over, flipping through the PowerPoint slides. And he barely explained the CAL line in the class. A day before the mid-term, someone asked a rather blunt question to the professor after he announced that there would be five questions on the exam: "how could there be five questions on the exam, when we haven't yet learned five things?" He ridiculed the student; but everyone in the class could knew it was a legitimate question. I've had many a great courses from some of the best economic thinkers in this great Econ department. So it boggles my mind how this the department ever chose to hire someone as poor and inexperienced as Prof. Santangelo.

Jan 2007

Well..... Prof. Santangelo's class was a lot like his jokes: a big lead up with no punchline. I was waiting the whole semester for this magical insight to the financial world only to be left at the end of the semester wondering what was the point of the class. The first description of his class on CULPA is fairly accurate, but here are some additional observations: The class was a circus. To be fair to Sangangelo, he didn't exactly draw the sharpest tools in the shed with his students. Many missed the whole semester, didn't bother to look up how to compute simple interest, but expected an A+. But Santangelo was a mean one though, forcing them to learn what a bond is and all. Oh that Santangelo was such a hard a*s! When I looked across the classroom at many of my peers who will be the future investment bankers of the world, I could only wonder what major global financial crisis they will be responsible for creating one day. Now, instead of wasting his time selling PS3's on e-bay, Santangeo should've charged a cover charge to watch people taking the midterm and the final. I've never seen anything like it. These people were like pack hunters. One student would quitely ask Santangelo for a little help on a question, and then suddenly, 1/2 the class would swarm around Santangelo's podium. The questions naturally progressed from "Where do I write my name?" to "How do I do this problem?" to "TELL ME THE ANSWER TO THE DAMN QUESTION SANTANGERLOW! DO IT NOW!!." Now the biggest star in the Jack Santangelo Show was none other than the TA, Thanavadee Rewatbawornwong. People were mad about her misgrading our homework, midterms, and (more likely than not), our finals, but people just need to lighten up; grading papers just wasn't her thing. We all have our natuarl talents, and grading just wasn't one of hers. Yeah, Santangelo could've given her the right answer key a few times instead of another student's homework with the wrong answers, but hey, sh*t happens. Besides, standing in the 30 man line for half an hour after class to get her to fix her mistakes when we got our homework and midterms gave us the opportunity to talk about the last hour of the George Santangelo's Stand Up Commedy routine we just watched and speculate about how much we weren't learning. It also gave me the chance to compute her average error on the midterm (about 15%). Some people say he wasn't that funny, but they are dead wrong. For example, the midterm had all the formulas we needed. Then, he told us not to worry about the formulas we would need for the finals either. But, guess what? He didn't give us the formulas on the final. So hardly anyone remembered the formulas, and boy were we shocked when we found we had been duped by Jack Santangelo. Isn't that hysterical? LOL How could you not find commedy in that? Besides, grades are over rated. Getting lower grades builds character. If a book exist labeled anything similar to "The Lazy Man's Guide to Half-Assedly Teaching Financial Economics," Santangelo probably wrote every edition.

Jan 2007

I can say one good thing about Prof Santangelo - he is entertaining. i'm not sure how much of his stories are true and how much of them are made up, but they are funny anyway. However, there were times when we spent the WHOLE lecture talking about movies and play station 3 (ok, so selling toys on ebay at a higher price is an arbitrage opportunity but he spent way too many lectures repeating that). I learned what I needed to know only by reading the assigned textbook, which he emphasized in the first class that it is a complete waste of money to buy one but I honestly don't see how I would learn anything from this class without it. Also he gave a rather vague syllabus and didn't really follow it, so we didn't really know what we had to study for the exams until he gave out practice exams which was maybe one lecture before the exam itself. The material overall was easy though since we covered so few things so briefly. This class wouldn't take half as much of your time as other econ electives usually take. If you just want to complete your elective requirement without putting in too much effort (and without actually learning too many new things) this is a class for you. If you actually want to learn, take it with another professor!

Dec 2006

STAY AWAY!!!!!!!!!!!! While at first you think Santangelo is simply this querky guy... he is really an awful teacher. I use the word teacher lightly simply because i havent learned anything this semseter. This is my first culpa review and i am a senior so i know how classes at columbia are and should be, Santangelo belong back in your local elementary school. Beyond not knowing the material well enough, Santagelo makes no effort before class to learn it. He simply reads of the presentation provided by the textbook and doesnt explain anything. Thank god i had taken Accounting and Finance and knew some of the stuff, because if you didnt this would have been a nightmare for you. Santagelo will come in on a monday and spent half an hour talking about the films he or the class saw over the weekend. Then he will proceed to tell us random dumb stories that are supposed to be funny, granted some are, but most arent. He loves telling us that he bought a play station for $600 and sold it on ebay for $1200-- he must have said this 400 times and must have waisted hours of class time. If you know the material before hand, you'll do ok. Santangelo wont teach you anything because he doesnt know it. For everyone else STAY FAR AWAY!!!

Mar 2005

Certainly an interesting and useful class if you want to do anything in finance. Lectures are straight forward and the material is not too difficult- I know of several students who followed the textbook, did not attend lectures, and did "fine" on the exams. Ancona is very approachable, pleasant, even funny at times.

Feb 2005

Fairly approachable and friendly, although lectures are dry and boring. Workload isn't bad, a problem set every week. The midterm was pretty easy if you did the problem sets, but the material after the midterm is much more challenging and the final was pretty tough.

Aug 2004

In my opinion, this woman should not be teaching: the only good thing about this course was the textbook - it was really good (though not elementary) but you can read it without taking the course. Viviette Ancona just does not know what teaching process is about, what and when should be done, what structure is appropriate for an exam or a problem set. Besides, there was not a SINGLE problem set without an error (like missing or wrong data). You can only guess what she means when she formulates questions. With all these annoying things, she is also too old and too nice/naive to get really angry with her - so if you take her course, prepare to take it with humour. Math-wise, the course isn't really hard - but you should have stats background (econometrics also helps).

Jun 2004

Professor Ancona was an extremely nice person, but not a very good professor. She is an adjunct professor who seemed to understand Financial Econ at a very broad level, but did not have a clear grasp of the underlying details. And if we were covering quantitative material, she would gloss over it as quick as possible. All quant questions were referred to the TAs. Also, she is new to teaching (or at least gives that impression) and is still figuring things out.

May 2004

Some people, however nice they may be, simply do not make good teacher. Vivette is nice. Vivette is not a good teacher. It was more than obvious that this was her first time in front of a classroom. She didn't know how to conduct simple things. She unwisely indulged pointless inquiries that managed to get large chunks of the class off track. It is obvious that she was more comfortable with certain topics than others. Those for which she was shaky, it showed. Lectures consisted of re-stating what the text had to say on such topics. If asked a question, she would nervously defer to the TA. As a result, multiple lectures, even for the most attentive student, were incoherent and desperate sprints to make it past the topic. What was more frustrating, however, was the fact that such topics were explored on the problem sets -- and often the class was left without the tools to solve them. She also was hell-bent on covering an entire 700 page text in one semester. Each chapter was given a lecture. Some chapters were over 50 pages long and contained extremely detailed information that should have been given considerably more time. Other chapters were vague, soft sketches that could have been condensed rather than dwelled on for entire lectures. Basically, better planning regarding lecture content would have been appreciated.

Aug 2003

He is a good professor. His lectures are well organized, clear and cohesive. He responds to e-mails rapidly and is always there if you need his help. At times, his lectures could be boring, but in general he is good. Overall, I would recommend him and would take another class with him.

May 2003

Excellent professor [though a litlle on the anal side]. The thing I liked the best about him was that he presented everything in a real coherent manner. Even the problem sets were incredibly clear unlike most econ classes. While the first half of the class was excellently taught, the second half after the mid term was a bit of a drag. He was a little too repetitive on the options part, and the material got a bit boring. But on the whole you will learn a lot from this class and its no pushover.

May 2003

Prof. Sethi's class is very organized and he presents the material in a clear and understandably way. All lectures are put online as powerpoint slides so you don't have to take extensive notes in class. Prof. Sethi is very approachable and welcome to questions. The problem sets due every other week makes the class easier to handle in terms of work.

Jan 2000

Although this class is offered by Barnard, expect to find all the hardcore Economics majors from Columbia in this class. Yes, it's a Barnard class, but it's no easy A since it's mainly Columbia students. That said, this class is a very good introduction to those who may want to work on Wall Street or in finance. Prof Sethi does a good job of stripping away the glamour and details by presenting a clear picture of finance and the financial markets. A good econ elective to take, in my opinion.

Jan 2000

A good introduction to the financial markets. Prof Sethi is genuinely interested in the subject and more importantly, interested in imparting his knowledge to the students. Don't worry about his English--he has an accent but he's very understandable. Expect a standard curve as this is a large class.