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.