Nobel Prize winner and economics scholar George Akerlof will join the faculty of the McCourt School of Public Policy in November, the university announced Sept. 23.
Akerlof, who currently serves as a senior resident scholar at the International Monetary Fund, is known for his Nobel Prize-winning article, “The Market for Lemons: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism,” and as the husband of Janet Yellen, chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
Akerlof said teaching at the McCourt School, rather than in an economics department, will help him present students with a more balanced perspective of economics.
“In economics courses, there is a bias towards only teaching what economics can do. Teaching at public policy school means taking a more balanced approach including both what economics can do and what it can’t do,” Akerlof said.
Akerlof is best known for his work in identifying severe problems that occur in markets due to asymmetric information.
Mark Rom, an assistant dean of the McCourt School and a professor of government and public policy, said that Akerlof will have flexibility in which courses he develops and teaches.
“He can teach whatever he wants, but I assume he will be teaching things that follow his current research interests,” Rom said. “He is a Nobel Prize winner, and there are not many of them. They have made big impact on the profession in the broader world.”
According to Rom, the McCourt School staff is eager to meet with Akerlof and learn from him when he arrives.
Although Akerlof is best known for his Nobel Prize-winning article, he is now writing a book, entitled “Phishing for Phools,” about how the economics of free markets is subject to qualifications. Akerlof said he believes the book will enhance his teaching abilities in his future classes.
“From writing this book, I have a different perspective, and I am looking forward to imparting new perspective on Georgetown students,” Akerlof said.
Rom said that he is excited to work with Akerlof and learn from his knowledge and experience in economics.
“It sounds like he wants to get involved and be a good colleague, and that really reflects on him as a person. … We are thrilled,” Rom said. “You can imagine places where egos might get in the way about who is on the pecking order, but we are uniformly delighted at having him here. He will be valued and loved.”
Akerlof, who is transitioning from his previous position as emeritus faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, said that he expects to work with graduate students at the McCourt School.
“I think it’s going to be quite different from Berkeley because students here will have different goals — it will be quite different from teaching undergraduates because the students are older and have more focused goals,” Akerlof said. “The students at Georgetown have a special spirit and commitment to school and learning, and I find the same thing among the faculty.”
Akerlof attended Yale University and received a doctorate in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before teaching at the London School of Economics and UC Berkeley.
Georgetown recently had one other Nobel Prize winner on its faculty. Mario Vargas Llosa, who taught in the Spanish and Portuguese Department, won the Nobel Prize in literature in 2010.
In a statement on the university’s website, McCourt School Dean Edward Montgomery said that Akerlof will help provide a unique perspective on economic topics.
“Dr. Akerlof is one of the most gifted economists of our day, unafraid to take an unconventional approach to studying markets and our economy,” Montgomery said. “We are honored to have him join our school and grateful that our students will have access to one of the most original thinkers in the field of economics.”