The mission of the Center for Financial Economics is to advance, through research and teaching, knowledge of the economic forces driving the financial system. The term financial economics emphasizes our desire to go beyond the traditional textbook treatment of how the financial world works, to explore the fundamental economics of why things currently work as they do and of the dynamic tensions that will spur change.
The CFE offers a suite of courses exploring finance as a primary driving force in the prosperity, poverty, and progress of individuals, firms, and nations.
The Center and its mission are rooted in the visionary leadership of legendary and beloved Professor Lou Maccini, who attaches special meaning to the term financial economics, as distinct from finance. His judgment that finance had wandered too far from its roots in sound economic principles resonated with his former students in the finance industry, and together their work and generous donations created the CFE.
The CFE was born in 2007 as the world was about to plunge into the financial crisis, tragically affirming that Lou was right—he’ll tell you that he wishes he hadn’t been so right!
The economic and political upheaval that nations around the world are currently experiencing have many sources, but these unsettling developments are surely, in part, fallout from the financial crisis. We are committed to the project of explaining what happened in the past and figuring out how to do better in the future. One part of the solution, we’re confidenct, is sending wiser students forth into the financial industry, government, and academics.
CFE and the Hopkins Tradition
The CFE was founded at an important moment in financial history, but also at an important moment in higher education. All universities face pressing questions about how best to advance and spread knowledge in the information age. Great research universities like Johns Hopkins face existential questions about how research universities must evolve to survive.
[Universities should] whet the appetite, exhibit methods, develop powers, strengthen judgment, and invigorate the intellectual and moral forces.
Daniel Coit Gilman
Johns Hopkins plays a special role in this discussion, for Hopkins was the first modern research university in the United States. Having led the first major revolution in higher education, Hopkins remains at the forefront, and the CFE is one part of efforts across the university to ensure that Hopkins plays a prominent role in the revolution now underway.
We believe that Daniel Coit Gilman, the University’s first president, provided two important guide-posts in his inaugural address, stating
The best teachers are usually those who are free, competent and willing to make original researches in the library and the laboratory…
The best investigators are usually those who have also the responsibilities of instruction, gaining thus the incitement of colleagues, the encouragement of pupils, the observation of the public…
What the great research universities have that no other institution can match is a setting in which the “best investigators” are incited by and, in turn, incite the most promising students. The CFE and its students will flourish in any age if we actively promote those life-changing and world-changing interactions when a student’s intellect is ignited by engaging with great thinkers, or the best researchers are driven forward by the persistent Whys? and Why nots? from the outstanding students.
The CFE in Action
We are pursuing a number of innovative educational programs that bring top researchers and students together in exciting new ways. For example, our Reality Roundtable gathers a broad range of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates together to discuss the unprecedented developments that pop up weekly in the world of finance. This evolving experiment is generating a fascinating, and we believe unique, interplay among the faculty, graduate students and undergraduates.
We regularly offer special one-time courses, bringing something fresh to the program. Recently long-time New York Times financial columnist Floyd Norris taught a writing-intensive course on the events of the last several years.
Many of our researchers are actively engaged in research, much of which highly accessible implications for the financial world. We bring these ideas to the students and the broader world through our blog. The blog is gaining quite a following among financial market professionals, the press, and our students, and it has proven to be a great conversation starter—students regularly stop with comments on a recent post as we get coffee from the Daily Grind in the Brody Learning Center.
We’re proud to have achieved a great deal in a few short years, and we thank for their strong support the many alumni and faculty, students, and staff in the Economics Department who have made this possible. You can read what students and others are saying about the program in the feedback quotes around the site. And you can follow our ongoing efforts to build on our successes in the What’s Up? area.
Send us a message if you’d like to learn more or to get involved.