professor
Susan Elmes

This professor has earned a CULPA silver nugget

Apr 2021

For context, I took Prof. Elmes' class on zoom. I thought she was a really good professor, although it was definitely a lot of work. On zoom we would have poll questions every day: 2 points if you got the question right, 1 point if you got it wrong but still answered the poll, and 0 points if you didn't answer. The poll questions ended up counting towards your final grade (mostly in terms of participation) which was a little stressful in the moment. However, in the end, I did not do well on the poll questions but still did well in the class so I wouldn't worry too much about it. The poll questions definitely forced you to pay attention in lecture which I appreciated. The problem sets were time-consuming but manageable with (1) a solid group (up to three people) to work with and (2) going to office hours. I think the key was to start the problem sets early in the week and then camp out in office hours to get help on whichever problems you need help on. TA office hours were great, but I also went to Prof. Elmes' office hours a few times for problem set help and she was also super instructive. And then there were the weekly quizzes... they were the bane of my existence. My technique was to review all of the slides from class before taking the quiz, which never really seemed to be the most effective but "oh well!" All in all, take the class with Prof. Elmes, you will learn a lot from her and if you're on zoom you will occasionally see one of her very cute cats!

Oct 2020

Expects you to do natural logs in your head. That should be enough to get an accurate judge of her teaching style.

Dec 2018

Imagine trying to start a fire after your plane crashed and there's nothing but some kindling and a couple of matches. Now, in the beginning, you may be confused, breaking a few matches as Professor Elmes overwhelms you with the realization that you are maybe not as suited for this as you thought. So you forge onwards, giving up on starting a fire and instead start foraging for food. You do a couple problem sets and realize that like foraging for berries, it is difficult and time-consuming. Yet, they make you whole again somehow and you grow as a person. Soon the first midterm comes and this is the first critical storm that you must weather with the tent of confidence that you have built from your passable problem set grades and the breather of a quiz. Now, this is where the strong persist and the weak succumb. Yet, the midterm was relatively straightforward, and you know that to do well, you merely needed to what you had always done. Study, memorize and repeat. And so life seems better. The next quiz isn't too bad and the sun has started shining and you've figured out a routine. Your problem sets are manageable and though you may be up late one night trying to find the elusive proof for a question out of left-field, ultimately even if you don't get it, it probably doesn't matter, they don't grade all the problems. But then, the hurricane comes. The final storm hits and you feel confident, yet in reality, this is when those true troopers survive, the ones who were somehow bred to survive these catastrophic events float to the surface after a hurricane has drowned the merely adequate. Now whether you have floated to the top, or whether you have drowned, you will have learned something. If you have floated to the top, you have learned what the next three years of isolation in the wilderness of an econ major will be and have acquired the skills needed to survive until the rescue helicopter comes with a banking offer. But, if you have drowned, then there's always poli sci.

May 2015

I have just finished Professor Elmes' micro this semester, and thought I might add sth new to the existing comments. To sum it up, this class is a great class with much hard work. So if you are only interested but not passionate about economics, I would recommend you to take micro from another professor. That being said, Professor Elmes is definitely the best choice for a intended econ major. She is a well-prepared and clear lecturer. She usually recommends us to read the textbook before coming to lectures, but after she explained them the concepts become much more easier to digest. She uses colored graphs, extensively explained formulas, and occasional handouts to help you understand the material in a crystal clear fashion. If you take notes systematically they will be enough for your preparation for the exams (though not for all the homework problems). Professor Elmes is also very approachable. She welcomes questions in class and usually answers them with patience. There are one time or two she answered a question with haste, but that was because we were running out of time and the question was indeed somewhat stupid (she just mentioned the same concept 20 minutes ago). She takes questions in office hours as well and often strikes an interesting conversation with you. The workload for this class is very big. Doing the problem sets themselves usually takes about 4-5 hours per week, but you also need to spend about 3 hours to discuss them with your study buddies. The midterm and the final are both very similar to the problem sets. So if you do all the problems carefully and review them before exams you should do pretty well. Good luck!

Jul 2014

The tenuousness of the Economics Department's relationship with the Mathematics Department was made clear by this course. Calculus III, a prereq for this class, was barely touched upon beyond a couple of instances of the Chain Rule and Total Differentiation. Indifference Curves would be made akin to Level Curves of a surface, only to completely ignore Gradient Vectors and Directional Derivatives. The list goes on and on... What could have been very rigorous use of the concepts taken in the classes before became pedantic and otherwise myopic proofs. A burning desire to apply the deeply entrenched skills honed in the courses REQUIRED prior to this one was met with low marks - seeing the trees, not the forest, is what is tested in this class. One would hope that the "Micro" in Microeconomics would refer to the phenomena studied, not the pedagogical method.

May 2014

One of the best classes I've taken at Columbia and certainly one of the best Economics courses. If you are interested in graduate school or advanced studies in economics, take this course. It requires some pure math, but at a very reasonable level- there are very few really challenging proofs in HW, nothing like you might have seen in Modern Analysis. The tests are manageable to easy (see below), the problem sets long but not too hard, and you can do them in pairs. The material itself is hard, but… Susan Elmes' legendary teaching abilities are even more manifest in this course than in her better known intermediate micro course. She elucidates concepts and performs proofs in such a clear way that you will hardly ever be confused even by very complex material. She's also much more light hearted in the class, so it's a real treat to listen to lectures- I was often on just a couple of hours of sleep in class but never felt even the slightest bit tired or bored. Note: I found recitations pretty useless, since you learn the math through lectures and especially PSets, but it might be different in a different year. The material is extremely interesting, because it is an economics course from a pure math point of view- everything is proven, axioms are created and challenged, and the last chapter has mathematical axioms leading to conclusions about social welfare, like Arrow's impossibility theorem and axioms behind Utilitarianism and Rawlesian theory, which to me was really mind-blowing. However, you don't learn that much that is new per se, it's mostly the same material as intermediate micro, just with a completely different methodology (much like advanced metrics). So if you're looking for fascinating new ideas and new directions in economics you hadn't explored before, and aren't really interested in advanced methodologies and thinking- this might not be for you (especially if you're allergic to proofs and higher math). But otherwise- you owe it to yourself to check this out. It's a sight to see, and legitimately fun and awesome.

May 2014

Elmes is a very clear lecturer. Your class notes will be the only things you need for the homeworks and exams. The class is essentially the micro half of Principles, but with more math. I'm honestly not sure if it was worth it if you're not an Econ major. The weekly homeworks are ridiculously long. They take 5-8 hours each, and if you want to do them properly, they take even longer. You can work in groups of 3, which makes it worse since you spend so much time just to coordinate with your teammates. I ended up spending roughly 10-12 hrs/week on these. Exams are not bad. They are often very similar to the problem set questions. The exams are however really time constrained. So practice doing problem quickly when you do the homework. She's a pretty strict grader - curves to a B.

Jan 2014

I'm mostly writing to disagree a bit with the September and December 2013 reviews. This despite the fact that I ended up with a slightly lower grade than any of my previous econ classes (her curve is much lower, IME). I found the textbook entirely unnecessary (seriously, I only used it like four times all semester). Elmes' lectures were so well organized and scripted that my notes were a much more useful reference. Her problem sets weren't nearly as bad as I expected. Find a good partner (maybe not a trio), and you can easily get through them. I didn't find them particularly challenging or time consuming. However they were great preparation for her exams, which are EXACTLY like the problem sets. I found the calculus to be perfectly fine, but I'm a double major in CS (focus on machine learning), so I've probably taken a few more math based classes than many econ majors. If you aren't afraid to take a derivative, and understand why/what it means, Elmes is a great micro professor.

Dec 2013

This was a very interesting class, with plenty of real world applications; the scope includes consumer theory and risk preferences, tax policy and welfare economics, several types of competitive equilibrium, and plenty of everything else in between. Professor Elmes is extremely knowledgeable in all of these areas and lectures are thorough and engaging. I rarely yawned. The biggest issue with the class lies in the actual graded work - the quizzes, problem sets, and exams (surprise, I know). As mentioned, Professor Elmes gives one hell of a lecture, but in most cases, the lectures are not sufficient ammunition for the assignments. At this common juncture, most students turn to the textbook, but unfortunately, those mentioned on the syllabus do not supplement material discussed in class in a symmetrical fashion - most of the time, Perloff (author of the required textbook) goes into depth in areas that the Professor glosses over in lecture, and vice-versa. Many weeks were spent reading hours of intricately developed systems in the book, only to incorrectly apply them on homeworks and tests. What the class lacks, then, is a solid reference for the material covered (you know, that moment at 2 AM where you've typed "concavity test for expected value of homogenous utility functions" into Google); in short, Elmes could probably write her own economics textbook, instead of assigning one and recommending two others for additional reading. Recitations and office hours were helpful, but the questions asked are so nuanced that recitation needs to be coupled with several office hours each week in order to succeed here. In many cases, the TA's had as little of an idea as to what a problem asked as I did.

Sep 2013

These people write as if "including advanced calculus in every problem" meant actually teach something. The class was so focused in calculus all the time that sometimes I had problem referring back to economics, consequences, etc etc. Elmes surely try to complicate every fuction, so as to you have to use advanced calculus to unwrap, derivattives, etc etc. Not really something bad, but I wish the conceptual approach was there too. I love teachers who give a lot of homework. But in her class I was mostly copying problem resolutions from the board as fast as I can so I could at home try to comprehend what I actually wrote. All classes follow the same model and it can get tiring sometimes. Her handwriting could be clear and a better introduction to derivatives would do wonders too (Nicholson's book is very straightforward too and is the book she uses/bases the pace of the class). Deep base in Calculus and knowing all about derivatives of U(x,y) is a must for this class for a start.

May 2013

Hands down the best class I have taken at Columbia. The material in this class is much more difficult than anything you've ever had to do in your econ classes, but I couldn't imagine anyone better suited to teaching it than Susan Elmes. As other reviewers have mentioned, her ability to elucidate difficult concepts is basically unmatched and she will teach you so much. Looking back at the first couple of classes, I remember being very challenged by the material then, but a semester later I was able to easily use those concepts in new ways and apply them to the material from the later part of class. As someone who took this class with the bare minimum of math (Linear Algebra + taking Analysis and Optimization concurrently) I thought that the math was challenging, but by no means impossible as she makes a point of introducing every advanced concept from mathematics, and I found myself learning a lot not just about econ but about math as well and improving my proof-writing skills immeasurably. In fact, she would often explain concepts to completion that we would go over in my Analysis and Optimization class weeks later (sort of defying the purpose of making me take that as a co-requisite...). The material in the class is basically the same as in Intermediate Micro presented in a much more generalized/abstract manner. It's not exactly the kind of material that most people want to learn because they really want to know, but there are nonetheless many interesting results that are achieved in the class and I recommend it to anyone who wants to challenge himself or improve his mathematical abilities. Professor Elmes will teach you a lot, she is nice and funny in class (dry sense of humour) and she will push everyone to the border of their abilities and even further, without ever being unfair. Some of the stuff she does in class is rather insane, but she doesn't ask you to reproduce proofs of similar difficulty on the exam, and it is a rather impressive testament to her knowledge of the material. She's doing insanely long, involved proofs on the board without so much as glancing at her notes as if she were doing basic arithmetic. Really quite impressive to even just watch, and probably the best professor I've had here.

Jul 2012

This class was exhausting. Not only does the class take up so much time (at least twice as much time as any of my other classes did), the material is very challenging and I felt constantly overwhelmed by the amount of it. In addition, Elmes covers a lot of material per lecture so it was essential to pay attention for every second of class in case it would show up later on a problem set or midterm/final. The textbook is useless, I don't think most people even bought it. That being said, it is difficult to deny that Elmes is an outstanding professor. She is clear, concise, and extremely knowledgeable. Her lectures are often very interesting (I found the trade lectures to be boring but that's my preference only, others seemed to enjoy it) and she makes it easy to take notes that will be your study material for the midterm and the final. Whether the notes actually prepare you well is debatable-- the problem sets can be much more difficult than the class examples, but the midterm and final questions were not as difficult. Overall, I think this is an important class to take. As head of the Economics department, Elmes clearly knows her subject material, is a great lecturer, and is also a pretty nice person. However, be prepared for late nights and a lot of self-doubt in your abilities as an economics student. Also, free up all your Tuesday evenings, nights and sometimes Friday mornings.

Dec 2011

Touted as one of the most sought-after yet demanding professors to teach Microeconomics, Susan Elmes' reputation precedes her. Although she has an intense and perhaps over-confident persona and commands attention in the classroom, she is approachable - even almost grandmotherly, as classmates of mine have described her. Although many students do prosper with her highly dogmatic style of lecture, I happen to be in the camp that flounders with such a prescribed learning format. Despite her rigorous and thorough class instruction, Elmes' lectures do not adequately prepare you for her problem sets. While the examples demonstrated in class are sufficient for the tests, the problem sets are significantly more challenging. Often times, the problem sets will test material that has only been glibly and hastily taught... In many other classes - especially in the hard sciences - the textbook is the primary source from which you are able to decipher exactly what your barely cogent non-english speaking professor is expostulating. In Microeconomics, however, the lecture notes are the sole resource available to you as a student in Elmes' class. Thus, you will encounter much difficulty in completing the problem sets, especially on areas Elmes' skims over in lecture, with the expectation that the Gods of Economics (or Google) will miraculously install this knowledge into your brain. As a student enrolled in Xavier's Macroeconomics and Elmes' Microeconomics simultaneously, I would also like to point out the disparity in workloads. Realistically, I spent around 4-5 times the total number of hours I spent studying Macroeconomics in Elmes' Microeconomics. It's curious why one is so much more academically rigorous than the other if they should be analogs of each other... All in all, Elmes' is a great teacher but her problem sets are certainly unrealistic in their expectations. That said, her tests are fair and Elmes' ensure that her T.A.'s are very accessible.

Jan 2011

Professor Elmes is an intense professor. She's got a good understanding side though. The lectures are organized, but very fast-paced. She draws LOTS of graphs, and uses many colors of chalk. The lectures are mostly examples, and you're supposed to learn how to do problems in general off of those. Sometimes it's possible, sometimes it's really difficult. The lectures don't always relate to the homework. Also, be sure your question makes sense, is pertinent to the topic at hand, and hasn't been answered before you ask it, because Professor Elmes will NOT hesitate to throw you down. A student once asked a question, and she gave him two reasons why it wasn't a relevant question, and then told him that even if it was relevant, it was still pretty much a stupid question. It was the classroom equivalent of getting dunked on. She was good humored about it though. She had plenty of recitation sections, in which TAs did problems similar to what would be seen in the problem sets. The exams and quizzes weren't always fair. Sometimes she would throw things on the exam to see who would really understand how to do problems in general. I consider this unfair, however, because she never wrote general cases down in class, and the book didn't do a very good job either. Standard Columbia curve: half the class gets at least a B+. And of course, the thing Elmes is most famous for: the longest problem sets in the university. Each problem set has between 8 to 10 problems, split at minimum a-d, and usually going through at least g. And each subproblem usually has two, three, or four subproblems. And lots of graphs. You get to work in groups of three, which normally results in each person taking 1/3 of the problems. Still, you shouldn't plan on having Thursday nights free.

Mar 2010

Prof Elmes definitely lived up to my expectations. homeworks are long and hard but it's definitely worth it. i'm really glad i chose her class and she's just amazing. the TAs this semester however are extremely disappointing, especially WooRam. the other two are better i suppose. Numerous typos in homework solutions and we still haven't gotten our homeworks back from 3 weeks ago. plus the fact that WooRam never responds to any questions/emails, administrative or homework/exam-related. very very disappointed and i think the TAs are just trying to minimize their work/effort. i really wish that for some class like this (where u need to put in a lot of effort for the hwks, etc.), we could have slightly better TAs and at least get our homeowrks back in time and questions/concerns answered.

Jan 2010

Susan Elmes is by far one of the best instructors I've had at Columbia. I agree with the earlier reviews that she is crisp, clear and has a no-nonsense attitude with a dry sense of humor that makes class interesting and engaging. I have no doubt that I wouldn't have learnt half this much or grasped the concepts as well as their permutations and consequences half as well had I taken this class with someone else. She renders the textbook completely useless and is so thorough that you don't need anything other than to pay attention in class, and take notes, and do all the work she assigns. The weekly problem sets killed Thursday nights, but they were so rewarding at the end of the day. Leaving them until the last day is definitely not a good idea, unless you want to spent entire nights in Butler and still not get everything on them. Because she is as good as she is, she obviously expects more from her students than the other instructors, but she provides you all that you need to match up to these expectations. While I did have a few doubts during the semester, especially when the work load got a bit much and her exams were killing my morale, but never did I doubt that she was the best Columbia had to offer.As long as you put in the work, its definitely possible to land up in the A range at the end of the class. And more than that, this is the kind of class you imagine yourself taking when you first arrive on the Columbia campus, it is the kind of class that makes people passionate about the field again and deepens their understanding and interest. If you are willing to work hard, and don't want to take one of those easy and mind-numbingly boring classes just to get a good grade, this class is a must.

Dec 2009

Susan Elmes is outstanding. She's clear, crisp (mildly intimidating?) and never fumbles with words. Microeconomics may not be the most interesting subject in the world, but you'll never not want to go to her class. Information loaded lectures, need to note down every word that she says. If you do that, don't buy the textbook. You won't need it other than to reinforce concepts, which if you go to class, will never be the need. Her dry sense of humor, and occasional jokes she cracks have a lasting impression. She knows exactly what she's doing, and she's darn good at it. Plenty of work. Frat row isn't exactly buzzing on Thursday nights, but even if it was, you'd find it hard to party. Her assignments are due Friday, and you'll probably be working late into Thursday night. Good thing - can work on assignments in groups. Avoid dividing work though. It'll all come back on the exams. Plenty of Calculus, no other section of Micro uses even a tenth the amount that Elmes does. Brush up on total derivatives for function of two, three variables. They'll appear on the final. There are other options for Micro. But take Elmes. It's a thrilling ride, and you'll probably be happy at the end, regardless of your grade. All in all, easily the best instructor I've had at Columbia.

Jan 2009

I feel obliged to write another good review for professor Elmes. She is an extremely organized professor, and her TAs are amazing. They make sure all the homeworks are handed out and graded on a timely basis, and answer your emails in no time (15 minutes, and maximum 12 hours.) But be warned, as there are a lot of talented kids in class, the curve can be a bit harshed. I personally worked very hard for the mid-term (I re-did the homework for three times...), but still got an A-. The problem with her test isn't so much about memorizing the concepts, but about understanding them and able to adapt to a new scenario. Also, you need to be very accurate when doing arithmetic, as the TAs are pretty strict about numbers. Lot of times, I feel that most of people in the higher range of the class can do the test correctly with sufficient time, but it is those who are accurate that will earn the top seats. 5 A+, 11 A. for a class around 80 persons.

Jan 2009

Excellent teacher. Her lectures are extremely clear and straightforward, and consequently you'll never really need to read the book. Go to class and be prepared for a tough midterm with a slightly easier final. The weekly problem sets are very long, but it helps that you are allowed turn them in, in groups of three. Studying the problem sets will help immensely on the Midterm/Final, as the topics and problem types covered, are often similar.

Jun 2006

Let's keep it simple. This class covers some basic concepts with alot of added complications by Elmes. However, if you paid attention and knew how to do a little math, it was all VERY doable. Overall I thought the class served its purpose in terms of getting you prepared for the Econ electives. Granted I didn't get the grade I wanted because I'm not a great test taker, I did learn what I needed to get out of the class. If you are interested in Micro concepts and truly earned your spot at Columbia, this class won't be a problem.

May 2006

Just finished freshman year. I had a lot of good professors this year, but Elmes was the best. As someone else said, archetypical great-but-difficult professor. The best compliment I can give her is that she renders the textbook unnecessary. Her lectures are amazingly clear, and she covers a lot of ground. If you go to class and study your notes you should be pretty set. I read the textbook as review during reading week. Problem sets are especially useful for anyone interested in public policy. In a lot of problems we had to evaluate the economic merits of different policy proposals. Elmes is really no-nonsense. She never wastes a minute, and jokes are far between (always good though). Always answers questions, though, in class or afterwards (students kept her around afterwards for ten minutes or so every class). Do your work and you'll come out with a great grasp of micro and maybe an A.

May 2006

I would vote Susan Elmes as the best professor that I've had this year, and I have had some great professors this year (some with gold nuggets on culpa). First of all, Prof Elmes' lectures are always extremely clear. She teaches so that you don't actually need to read the book (even though she might tell you to) - everything you need to know and understand from Intermediate Micro, you can get from the lectures. She might present ideas that are abstract, but then she will always take you through examples that show you exactly how to approach a problem. Then, she will stop to ask for questions and will pretty much answer all of them. That said, classes, while not entertaining, actually ARE interesting and will keep you focused, because 1) the material is clearly presented, 2) Prof. Elmes engages the students by both asking and answering questions, and 3) she will make funny jokes from time to time. Besides the lectures, other aspects of the class are also very well-structured. Prof. Elmes is very approachable during office hours, which she has every week. Also, she regularly gives handouts in class that make note-taking a lot easier, and she always makes sure to post these handouts, homework assignments, and homework solutions on Courseworks. The recitations are also very, very helpful in doing the problem sets. In other words, yes, this class might be more challenging than the other Micro section, but I think it's definitely worth it, simply because Prof. Elmes is an amazing lecturer, and she makes sure that you have all the support and resources that you need to do well in her class - you just need to be willing to put in the work. To that end, I disagree with all the previous reviews that were somewhat negative. I've really enjoyed Intermediate Micro and have learned an incredible amount of economics from it. Yes, I did stay up until 4:00 a.m. once because of a problem set, but ultimately, I put in all the necessary work and did very well. This is not a class that you should shy away from - in fact, I would say that you should go out of your way to have Intermediate Micro with Prof. Elmes. P.S. If you want to save money, seriously, don't buy the book, because you really don't need it.

May 2006

Go to class...the textbook is useless and unnecessary. If you pay attention in class and do the problem sets you should be fine. Material is not difficult, but the quizes and tests are long and time is an issue. She is also a tough grader.

May 2006

I don't see why anyone who posted before is complaining; I and a lot of my friends would agree that this class is not as hard as everyone makes it out to be. Elmes is a solid teacher, and by that I mean that she explains stuff clearly so that you don't have to go read the book. If you pay attention and take good notes, you will do fine. Someone mentioned before that the class was repetitive; it definitely is. We learn the two first order conditions the first class, and we basically apply them again throughout the course. The problems sets were long, but they weren't too difficult, and since everyone gets to work in groups of 3, one of your groupmates should get it, and if not then ask somebody else. The midterm was long and a little difficult, but it's nothing that bad. Again, everything was covered before. I actually misread a problem and messed up on it, so I was kicking myself at the end. The final was ridiculously easy. I mean, Elmes gave out a data sheet that said that around 30% got a 90 or above without the scale. The median was in the 80s; that's pretty high for an economics class. I ended up getting a solid A without doing much work, except paying attention in class and working on the problem sets for about an hour or two a week (and the last few I slacked big time). Maybe Elmes has changed, but this class was definitely a lot easier than I expected, and overall, it was a very good course.

May 2006

Prof. Elmes is dedicated, knowlegeable, and very fair. She has an exceptional grasp of her subject; I never once saw her make a mistake in class, she's very, VERY competent and on top of her material. Quizzes and exams I felt were very fair. However, the one big complaint was the homework. The problems sets are STUPIDLY long and involved; I'd say they actually detract from learning. It wasn't uncommon to spend between 6 and 8 hours per week on them, and much of that time was chasing down minute details that never showed up again and didn't really assist learning. Most of the PS are 6 questions, with multiple parts; making them less involved/complex, or cutting it down to 4 questions per week would fix this I think. As it was, I spent so much time rushing to finish the details that I actually didn't have the time I wanted to focus on some of the fundamentals, and this hurt me on exams. Prof. Elmes, please consider, we do have other classes besides yours!

Jan 2006

Excellent class and teacher. She can teach like a high school teacher (as opposed to most columbia profs) yet is sharp as can be and knowledgeable about all that goes on in the department. The class was the most organized I have had. It is not nearly so hard as many say, if you are bad at econ, don't take this class, for the only reason is for the major or minor. If you did well in principles and have a trivial knowledge of calc you will be more than fine.

Dec 2005

A previous reviewer referred to this class as "tough love" and I have to agree. Elmes is a very good lecturer and breaks the material down very effectively. We had some extremely annoying kids in the class who she wasn't afraid to shoot down for being annoying, which earned her some serious points in my book. The problem sets are definitely difficult and extremely time consuming, but the recititation helps a lot. The midterm and final weren't particularly difficult, the questions were totally fair, the tests were just really long. Basically, micro with Elmes is no joke but you'll learn the material pretty well, I would definitely recommend her as a professor.

Jan 2005

If you want to find yourself up late at about 4:00 in the morning shouting aloud please go ahead and take this class. I hope you are a chick cause in my opinion Susan has an enormous chip on her shoulder. She must have been double crossed by an Australian guy named Bruce because he is the brunt of every economics example she can muster.

Jan 2005

I'm a type 2 person (if you don't know what i'm talking about look at the review halfway down the page ). This class was rough. From the very first day Elmes told us how hard this class was. HA! I laughed in the face of difficulty. Elmes told us to do well we needed to go to lecture, go to recitation, and do the reading. I did all 3 and I did "well enough". Elmes was not joking and she's no joke. I fell sleep almost every class just because I had 5 classes on those day and I got screwed over. The book teaches you concepts but you dont' want concepts you want help! and the only help you're gonna get is by paying attention in her lecture. In the lecture she explains how to do problems ACTUAL: economic problems. Her recitations are the only way to be able to do the problem sets if your'e a type 2 person. All in all I got destroyed by this class but I think Elmes did actually teach me a lot. In two words: tough love.

Dec 2004

Elmes is a brilliant lecturer. You will learn an enormous amount in her class. That said, it will be very difficult -- class itself is interesting but very intense and she covers daunting amounts of material in each class. Problem sets take several hours to complete and are graded and count for 25% of your grade. The midterm is the most difficult exam I have ever taken as you are forced to do difficult problems in a very short period of time. The final is difficult but time is less of an issue as you have slightly more time to finish the exam. Curve is somewhat stiffer than most classes for two reasons - 1. She curves more to a B than to a B+ as many other teachers do and 2. The kids who choose to take her class are typically of higher quality as it is understood that she is the better/more challenging professor (there is always another professor who teaches micro simultaneously). So, though you may not get an A, you will learn an enormous amount about Microeconomics which will prepare you well for future courses. It all depends on what matters more to you.... ALSO, make sure to go to recitation.

Nov 2004

This class was hell. Not because it was difficult--not at all, it was appallingly simplistic. The amount of work required for this class was unbelievable. Basically, everything you need to know for this class is taught in the first two weeks: draw the graph, take the derivative (which is always y/x ), set it equal to the slope of the line, and plug in the numbers. Admittedly, sometimes there are variations (there could be two curves! sometimes you have to work backwards!). But that was THE ENTIRE CLASS: solving the same exact problem, over and over and over and over again...in the extremely long problem sets...in the extremely long midterm and exam...and in the lectures, with her combative style of teaching. If you can figure out how to do this one problem (and you'll have many chances to practice), the only difficulty of this course will be getting all of those problem sets done on time. But if you can't, go to recitations: the TAs all but do the problem set for you (often, only the numbers are different). And don't even bother with the book, it's utterly useless (way too advanced, and written abstrusely).

Nov 2004

I think all the reviews for this lecturer are all somewhat true. She is an amazing lecturer-articulate, intelligent, and no question ever stumps her. but it's also true it's a tough class, but not impossible. the psets are long and tough. but her TA's are amazing, recitations are well-organized and extremely helpful. my advice is...go to class, pay attention (which isn't hard actually), go to recitation, and DO THE PROBLEM SETS, and it will become a pretty rewarding class for you.

Oct 2004

There are two types of successful Columbia economics students: the first usually understands the material immediately, applies it regularly in everyday life and problem-solving outside their coursework, typically does not need to study extensively for exams, and truly enjoys the classes in their major. The second does not easily extend one concept into new areas, gets to know the TAs and recitation times very well, may not see a connection between economics and real life, and has to study for many hours in order to manage exams. If you are of the first type (as I would consider myself), Susan Elmes' lectures will be the highlight of your day--and your week. If you are of the second type, this course will make you want to cry. And if you're somewhere in between, then so be it for your reaction. No one will contest that Elmes is quite possibly Columbia's most talented lecturer. Her presentations of the material are more carefully scripted than a political stump speech, and better-executed at that. She never misses a beat and never, ever loses her place or gets confused. She understands this material better than any of her students know arithmetic. And if you hate that person who likes to ask stupid questions, argue with professors, or question their conclusions, then you'll be amazed when Elmes, without even taking a moment to re-think her argument, will *take* *them* *down*. But for the second-type people, it's important to know that her explanations are sufficient and thorough, but if you are not the type to thoroughly understand material immediately, you may get lost once she has moved on expecting that you're all set. Don't expect any help from the book; it is completely conceptual, a stark contrast to her highly quanitative lectures. The problem sets are often longer than other professors assign in similar classes, and will frequently ask you to use your brain a bit and extend the class discussion to think about new problems--again, not much of a problem for type 1s, but a source of major frustration (and recitation attendance) among type 2s. And the exams--they're tough. In my class, no more than 5% of the class even had time to completely finish the midterm. If you're not sure if you're a type 1 or a type 2, then go for Elmes. I can't guarantee it'll be easy, but I can definitely guarantee you will not be bored in lecture, and you'll probably even learn a thing or two even despite your best intentions. You'll also forevermore go to other classes wishing that every Columbia lecturer met the gold Elmesian standard which you, as a naive freshman, had once thought would be the norm at an Ivy League institution.

Feb 2004

this class is not really a class of learning at all. It's actual purpose is to provide a significant barrier to entry to the economics major. The material is made difficult for the sake of being difficult, not facilitate learning. Elmes' indifference and general apathy for undergraduates is made quite clear through her "I'd rather be painting than teaching you economics" lectures. Faculty such as Elmes that are so dedicated to making academic life miserable are the reason why Columbia has the lowest alumni donation rate amongst the Ivy League.

Jan 2004

Look-- Micro is a tough class. Period. I made it my focus and got a good grade, but it was hard and involved lots of work and study. Given all this, Susan Elmes, while not making the class magically easy, managed to do an excellent job. She is clearly masterful when it comes to economics-- a total genius. And on top of that, she is able to present the information clearly and precisely; she never pauses to check anything and never stumbles over words. If you go to her lectures and work hard, you will do ok in the class and learn the material well. It's a classic case of great teacher, tough grader (bc of the class difficulty mainly).

Dec 2003

Elmes is an awesome professor, but this class is not an easy A. Problem sets are long, and the exams--especially the midterm--are difficult. Thankfully the class is curved. I really felt that Elmes made this course increadibly interesting and gave me a very extensive understanding of micro.

Dec 2003

What a good teacher! GO AHEAD AND TAKE EVERY SINGLE CLASS SHE TEACHES. She explains everything step by step and when you walk out of her lectures you really know and understand more about Microeconomics. Her homeworks are not easy but they will make you understand the material even better. Her exams are challenging but doable. You will never see any weird questions. All exam questions are very similar to homework problems. So, if you understand the homework problems you should be fine in the exams. However, you should be careful with her wording since she wants to make you think and not solve the problems like a machine. You need to go to every single class if you want to do well in this class. There is absolutely no need for the book since everything is explained in the lecture. She may seem mean and tough at the beginning but you will understand what a good teacher she is at the end of the semester. Most people will screw up at the midterm (this semester the average was 57) but if you improve at the final she gives you some bonus and considers this improvement when she assings the final grade for the class. In addition, there is always a huge curve if you are worried about how low your grade is. Again, if you want to learn economics this is absolutely the right class for you.

Dec 2003

I agree that this class was definately taught at the graduate level when I thought at least in the beginning of the semester, she would bother to teach us the fundamentals. I found the textbook worthless because I needed to buy another one just to understand it, to then try to understand the lectures. Needless to say, this class is extremely advanced and theoretical and I would not suggest taking it unless you are dead set on being an econ major or you really, really care to quickly learn advanced microeconomics

Dec 2003

All right, after reading the many positive and negative reviews about Susan, I'd like to give my own take. I've had her the last 2 semester for Principles and Micro, and some of the stuff that people have said is downright inaccurate. To characterize her behavior as "ridiculously cartoonish," as the most recent reviewer has done, is absurd; hell, I don't even know what that means! To call her arrogant is also unfair. I would instead say that she's extremely confident in her teaching, which she should be: no one is in as much control of the class as Susan is. What's more, she is the clearest, savviest, most organized, and best lecturer that I've so far encountered in my time at Columbia. She's also funny (in a slightly sarcastic way) and more than willing to answer students' questions--as stupid as some inevitably are. Here's the catch: the problem set's are INCREDIBLY long and difficult. My best advice to anyone taking her class is to work in a group (with smart people, if you can) and always attend recitation. More about the problem sets: they are usually mathematically based, they DO often require obscure maneuvering, and the book will not help. HOWEVER, both Susan (or Elmsy, as my friend and I like to call her...not to her face, of course) and the TAs are very willing to meet with you, and they post solutions that are more detailed and helpful than anything you've ever seen (occassionally over 10 pages). Study these solutions well! One last note about the class: the 4 TAs are great. Special props to Regina Almeyda Duran for being an incredible TA; if she's there again next semester, and you need help with the material, go to her.

Nov 2003

Only in academic environment can someone get away with her rediculously cartoonish behavior. Susy is always upset because she can't differentiate betweeen an undergraduate and graduate courses. A as a result, this class is taught at the graduate level. Her problem sets are actually taken from some microeconomic theory course at SIPA. This all becomes clear as the text gives no insight to the problem sets whatsoever. Undegraduate classes are supposed to focus on learning concepts, not advanced theory and research. However, that is unfortunantely the direction of the course. Heavy student demand for the economics major has somehow pushed this woman, who shouldn't be in an undergraduate teaching position, not only to teach, but to head the department. It scary what demand can do.

Jun 2003

Having no background in economics/business at all, I found this class fairly easy to understand and follow. Professor Elms is great in her lectures, comes very very prepared and makes good use of the chalkboard when drawing lots of diagrams. Sometimes she can be a bit sarcastic in her jokes/comments, but I found it a bit funny (and apparently other students as well, since I wasn't the only one laughing/giggling). Her lectures follow the book almost exactly, though she adds a bit more examples from current events and makes other points clearer. The textbook (Principles of Economics by Mankiw) is actually one of the best ones I've seen. Very clear and concise, with lots of examples and graphs/diagrams, and not boring at all. The TAs were not as competetent as they could have been, and the whole TA / Recitation structure could have been much improved or maybe just eliminated. The recitations were mostly for going over homework problems, so they could have just had a few "open recitations" where anyone could show up and get questions answered, instead of making you go to assigned weekly recitations that sometimes were a waste of time...

Feb 2003

She is almost arrogant in her presentation of the material. The lectures are based on pretty general stuff, but the problem sets involve ridiculously complicated manuevering that is almost impossible to accomplish. Better luck elsewhere

Jan 2003

Professor Elmes' section was a good one for micro. She initially comes off as harsh and no-nonsense but relaxes during the course of the semester. By the end, she was cracking jokes with us. (I disagree with the previous reviewer's comment about her being nasty to a student who asked a question. She was never dismissive of any student's question, to the best of my memory.) Whatever you think of her personally, however, I think it is hard to argue with the fact that she is an excellent, clear, and thorough lecturer. Going to class (or at least getting someone elseÂ’s notes) is pretty necessary, since the book tends to cover topics in a much less quantitative manner. Her exams are not difficult, just a little long, with problems that require a thorough knowledge of material that was well covered in lecture. If you take the time to do the homework well each week, studying is no problem at all. By the end, I really felt like I knew the material really well, a tribute, I think, to how well she teaches.

Nov 2002

At first, Susan seemed pretensious, obnoxious and just purely cruel. She'd make nasty remarks to people who asked below-par questions and seemed to want us to fail. As the term went on, she calmed down a bit, and started to joke with us more instead of trying to put us down. She's really smart and important at SIPA as well as in game theory and the math of economics. As a teacher, aside from her sometimes cynical comments, she is organized and competant. Her lectures are also good- almost no need for the book. She draws graphs and covers all the boards. However, if you don't want to go to class, you'll be fine too as long as you read the book. The midterm and final are hard - so little time to do some much work. You really need to know your stuff, and how to do it really fast. There are always TAs for the class, and if you go to the recitations, they basically do the homework problems for you.