Alessandra Casella

This professor has earned a CULPA silver nugget

Dec 2020

I have a lot of mixed feelings about her. Let's start with the positives and work our way downhill. She is a very nice Italian lady. Her personality makes her approachable and someone you can go to if you're in the middle of a global pandemic and you need extensions, are going through something, and just need a break. I will say she has been one of the more lenient than other professors, but she is WAY too comfortable being online. I don't know if she's better in person, but I hope so. The lectures were great, honestly. She clearly knows what she's talking about but isn't stuck up and caught up in her own world that she goes way too deeply into the content that no one will understand. I do think there's an okay structure to her lectures, the topics are definitely interesting and something I do think I'll be applying in my everyday life for sure. Let's talk about what didn't work. She abuses the online format. The exams this semester were literally insane. The midterm was over a paper that we never discussed in class, and it was "only" supposed to take us 4 hours, and we had a 48 hour period to complete it. It was so difficult and unnecessary, especially because we didn't get tested on any of the topics she covered. The final was a lot more doable in my opinion, but the 4-hour thing is kind of ridiculous given a midterm exam would have only been an hourish and a final only 3 hours. Did she cancel any classes because of the midterm though? Absolutely not! She held it over a weekend and made us have more classes than we normally would in person. What boils my BLOOD is that she had class over thanksgiving break because she couldn't make the last class, so she made everyone readjust their schedules and plans to go to online school the day before thanksgiving. If you're looking to lose your virginity, take this class because the problem sets will screw you harder than any other thing in your life. They were insanely hard without any real explanation. Thank god they were graded based off effort and not correctness, because everyone would have failed them. I really would not recommend taking this class with her.

Dec 2020

I thought the class was good but not great. Casella keeps your interest but is not the clearest lecturer. Strengths: content is more applicable than most econ courses and obviously political, the problem sets and exams are also well-written, in my opinion Weaknesses: The course implicitly assumes knowledge of game theory that might technically be part of intermediate micro but really nobody remembers. Lectures could be more structured, which would help. The class demands a lot of math knowledge (and I'm someone who has taken a lot of math), but even so, some concepts are given only half explanations b/c the math is out of reach. The problems the class focuses on gets mathy quickly Readings and assignments: readings are largely irrelevant or unnecessary, problem sets are good practice for exams and rather interesting

Dec 2014

Casella clearly cares about the topic and does a decent job making you care about it as well, which is impressive given that this class seems to be given the shittiest room and the shittiest time slot (Mine was in 7th Floor of Hamilton at 8:40am). However, I have a huge problem with the way you are tested on the material. I guess to describe it, we are rushing to cover the material in class, during which we explore the issues at an intensity level of say, 2 or 3 on scale of 10. In the end we ended up covering only 3 out of the 4 major units. Then, for the problem sets, we are expected to solve problems that are at a level 6 or a 7, and in order to do these, you will have to go to office hours and recitations and spend quite a long time figuring out stuff on your own since there isn't a textbook and you're going by pretty much just lectures, which once again, are rushed. If you're unlucky like me, you will only be able to make one recitation, which occurs after both classes, so you can't get much help. Luckily, despite being frustrating, these are worth only 10% of your grade. Then, for the exams, she suddenly decides to kick your ass and test you at level 9 or 10, except this time you don't have hours and office hours to figure it out, but 75 minutes or 3 hours for the final. You have no way to prep for the difficulty because what you are tested on is different from previous years because of the pace at which the class was covered and so that at least half of the material on practice tests are irrelevant. This is extremely frustrating because while there is a lot of conceptual stuff, there's also a lot of algebra that needs to be done, so you need to be very good at jumping between the math and the conceptual stuff. I really liked the material itself, but the way that the class was run and we were tested made me feel extremely inadequate. Her explanation is that everyone gets screwed, but I feel like there has to be a better balance between challenging us and making it too easy.

Jun 2011

Professor Casella was given the challenge of motivating a class of econ and polisci majors to trudge up to the seventh floor of Hamilton on Monday and Wednesday mornings at 9 to attend lectures involving mathematical proofs. The inherent difficult of this challenge should not be underestimated. As previous reviewers have noted, Casella displays an immense enthusiasm and sense of wonder for many of the topics discussed, and her excitement motivates you to pay attention and try to understand. Not the easiest class in the world, and it would have been helpful to have had better textbooks, but try to keep up with her assigned journal articles (it would help if she posted the electronic resource links to courseworks). The articles tend to be interesting and helpful.

May 2011

This is an Ivy League class. The material is very interesting (well, except for the silly firm/fishery stuff at the beginning) and is a great example of how economic theories can explain, or rather reflect, real life situations. There's a lot of math, more in class than in the problem sets and exams, that often makes following a tough job. The problem sets are optional, but if you do them and try really hard you get this great feeling of achievement. Professor Casella will often ask you to appreciate how wonderful something is: even if you don't do so expressively, there is a lot of stuff to appreciate in this class and I can recommend it, but only if you are truly interested in the material and aren't afraid of challenges. As for teaching itself, Professor Casella is generally helpful in class although her handwriting can be a pain in the ass to decipher and you will often find yourself asking her or your neighbor what something means. Also, she does a great job of explaining theoretical concepts and their math proofs side by side which is very helpful.

May 2010

Casella seems like a real person you'd like to know, a super-cheerful person with a family and personality quirks and beloved hobbies (which may or may not involve Nash bargaining games to a disturbing degree). I loved her class; I was sad when we had to miss 15 minutes for a fire drill. You can't help but get excited about the material because she, clearly, loves it just as much as when she first encountered it 25 years ago. The class is hard, and her tests are more like IQ tests than the usual Columbia prompts for you to regurgitate what you've learned from problem sets. But she curves generously. Another issue is that political economy is basically collectivism 101, and this European-born professor is really into centralized power. But you'll forgive her for that, too, because she is just so spirited and fun. TA recitations and office hours are essential. That's where the math starts to make sense.

May 2009

Prof. Casella is definitely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about what she teaches. It was at times almost embarrassing to see her getting so excited and worked up at 9:10 am, when most of the class was still asleep (intellectually and sometimes even literally). Political economy is slightly boring, and Prof. Casella teaches it at a very high level -- expect the exams to kick your ass! -- which is good if you are as interested in PE as much as she is, but it is often annoying if all you want to do is to get this requirement out of the way (for Econ-PoliSci majors). Overall, I can't say that I enjoyed the class, but this was mostly because I did not like PE and did not agree with many of the things PE is about. Yet I liked Prof. Casella: she's a good lecturer, she is very organized, enthusiastic, accessible, and, given the proper class, I am sure she would have had me sitting on the edge of my seat.

Mar 2007

A wonderful professor. Prof Casella is extremely interested in the topics she teaches and clearly shows her excitement in class -- which is commendable if only because we were a 9am and could use the upbeat attitude. She can get a little behind in covering all the material, but what she does cover, she does very very well. She comes into class knowing what she is going to teach and the format in which she's going to teach it. That said, Casella doesn't have the best handwriting and shorthand. Her p's and q's are switched so the shorthand of "public good" becomes "gp". Ask her to clarify things though and she'll be happy to do so. Also, take advantage of her TAs; mine was an amazing amazing supplement to Casella's lectures and helped a lot in understanding tricky material.