In our Spring 2021 issue, we had shared exciting news about our recently-acquired Wharton Research Data Services (WRDS) subscription and the opportunities this development would bring. We are happy to provide an update on some positive student learning experiences that have arisen from our use of WRDS and to highlight how modern access to up-to-date business data can transform learning.
In ECON 2301, Principles of Macroeconomics, Dr. Ryan Mattson, Associate Professor of Economics, has used WRDS to help students understand the impacts and outcomes of fiscal and monetary policy adopted by the Federal Reserve. To begin, Dr. Mattson produced a one-sheet handout to orient student awareness of WRDS as a long-term data source to better understand markets and economic theory. Dr. Mattson followed this with an assignment that directed students to combine WRDS data with similar data from the Federal Reserve Economic Data service to answer the following question: “Do firms respond to monetary and fiscal policy from the Federal Reserve?” Students then selected a company and conducted a guided analysis using Excel to discover answers to the posed question. As an example, one student selected Trimble, known for geospatial and location-based solutions across a number of industrial sectors, as a case study. In a broader perspective, using a real-world case, a student could understand whether a firm responded uniformly to either fiscal policy, monetary policy, or both. In the case of Trimble, tax-cuts had less impact on investment and spending than did policies that impact interest rates on lending.
For graduate students, Dr. Anne Barthel, Assistant Professor of Economics, used WRDS to good effect in CIDM 6305, Quantitative Analysis in Business. Dr. Barthel, attracted to the “real world” aspects available in the resources offered within WRDS and Compustat, posed the following question to her students: “What factors affect the profitability of publicly-traded firms?” Not only is this a well-grounded question that would provide context for students in the course, this question also arose from an existing research study by Jim Lee in 2009 in the Journal of the Economics of Business: “Does Size Matter in Firm Performance? Evidence from US Public Firms.” Students were asked to determine answers to the research question from among publicly-traded firms listed among the Standard and Poor’s 500 listing. Particularly for graduate students, the relevance of tying prior research to real-world data greatly enhances learning in the classroom. Dr. Barthel knows this from student feedback: 87% of responses to a student survey rated the experience as being above average. One student shared the following written feedback with Dr. Barthel: “Working with real-word data has enriched my education.”
Faculty and students alike are embracing the data-richness of WRDS and producing results in the classroom and beyond. In a dynamic and data-driven environment, resources such as WRDS and Compustat provide opportunities for relevant discoveries in the rigorous application of classroom instruction to real-world data. Both Dr. Mattson and Dr. Barthel are discovering innovative approaches to create impactful learning experiences by engaging students with opportunities to learn from the use of WRDS data.