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Friday, January 22, 2010

UNCP economist co-authors prominent, popular textbook

When UNC Pembroke economics professor Dr. Lydia Gan taught introductory economics in Singapore, she fell in love with a textbook, and when the publisher asked her to co-author a special edition of it, she seized the opportunity.

Lydia GanThat was in 2004 before one of the book’s co-authors was catapulted to international fame. That man is Dr. Ben S. Bernanke, a Princeton University economist and chair of the Federal Reserve.

The Asian edition of “Principles of Economics” (McGraw Hill, New York, N.Y.) by Drs. Bernanke, Robert H. Frank, Gan and Chen Kang was published in mid-2009. Because higher education is booming in Asia and a Mandarin Chinese language edition is planned, the textbook has good prospects.

“It started in 2001 when I was teaching a large lecture course at a Singapore university,” Dr. Gan said. “All the professors who helped me teach the course loved this textbook.”

Dr. Gan liked it too and wrote McGraw Hill with corrections and suggestions. Apparently, the publisher was impressed with her ideas and enthusiasm.

“The publisher came to me to ask if I would help with the Asian edition,” she said. “It was a stroke of fortune. They knew I loved this book, and this was before Ben Bernanke was sworn in (as Fed chief).”

Dr. Gan contributed to the microeconomics section, and she recruited an outstanding economics modeling specialist, Dr. Chen Kang, to contribute to the macroeconomics section.

“Our role was to relate to events and issues in Asia, so students can relate to it,” she said. “The language is different and expressions are different.”

The mission for Drs. Gan and Chen was vital to the fundamental concept of “Principles of Economics” as a text for beginning students.

“The thing about this book is that it draws out simple economics lessons from everyday life,” Dr. Gan said. “For instance, the idea that there is no free lunch: If your friend buys you lunch, there is always an opportunity cost for everything.

“While eating lunch, you could be studying for your examinations,” she said.

Dr. Gan wrote examples of cost-benefit analysis that Asian students can relate to using relevant events, cultural context and language.

“I believe it is the perfect book for beginning economics students,” she said. “I tell my students to sleep with it under their pillow.”

Book CoverLike nearly all beginning economics students, Dr. Gan read the most famous textbook, written by the late Paul Samuelson.

“I was overwhelmed,” she said. “It’s a black box.”

“Principles of Economics” takes a less-is-more approach, reducing instruction to seven core principles and providing relevant examples for active learning and ultimately better understanding. And understanding economics is important to everyone, Dr. Gan believes.

“Economics is in the news recently,” she said. “It is very important to everyday life.”

An active scholar, Dr. Gan’s research continues into the areas of Internet pricing and behavior, intellectual property rights, consumer behavior, and, most recently, medical tourism.

Dr. Gan and UNCP economist Dr. James Frederick are working on a Web site (www.uncp.edu/mtrc) to aid their research into this hot-button healthcare issue. Dr. Gan regularly teaches courses in healthcare economics, introductory micro- and macroeconomics and is developing an Internet economics course.

“For one class, I used a Facebook site to facilitate class communication,” she said. “All but one student signed on as my friend.”

Joining UNCP’s faculty in 2007, Dr. Gan enjoys helping her students and she has found living in the area interesting.

“The students are very different,” she said. “Relationships with students are very important, and I do a lot of one-on-one instruction.”

Dr. Gan and her family have found life to be less urban with less congestion at her present location, but “I have not slowed down; my research and teaching keep me very busy,” she said.

Dr. Gan earned Bachelor and Master of Science degrees from Southern Illinois University and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin.

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