Steve Erfle's Dickinson College Home Page

I have been at Dickinson College since 1989.  I am an economist by training (Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard; B.S. in Mathematics and B.A. in Economics from U.C. Davis), but I left Dickinson's Economics Department in 1997 to help create a new major, International Business and Management.  I am currently Associate Professor and Chair of International Studies, Business and Management, a department that houses two interdisciplinary majors: International Studies; and International Business and Management.

Much of my academic work in the last few years has centered around developing strategies to teach managerial economics using Excel as a teaching platform.  My focus on pedagogical aspects of teaching managerial economics is, in large part, a result of my sabbatical experience working as a managerial economist for Seagram Classics Wine Company (I split my time between Sterling Vineyards and Mumm Cuvee Napa) during 1994-5.  I got a lot more out of that sabbatical than a vastly improved wine cellar (although I am happy to say that was one byproduct) - I came away from that experience with an altered view of how I could create the greatest value added for my students.

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More background information

I'm originally a Northern Californian, having been born and raised in the farming community of Yuba City (famous locally for their prune festival).  I'd have never left were it not for Art Fruhling, my high school math teacher, who introduced me to the world of mathematics and also taught me that I could be more than the class clown.  At U. C. Davis I met the second person who profoundly influenced my thinking: G. Donald Chakerian, a mathematics professor who retired from teaching in the early 1990s.  (Interestingly, Chakerian had also been Fruhling's mentor when Art was at UCD.)  Chakerian was truly a master teacher who taught me the value of pushing my intellectual boundaries.  He also taught me almost everything I know about geometry and geometric visualization.   I still recall working for many hours on G.D. problems that Chakerian gave (as students we thought G.D. stood for more than his initials, Gulbank Donald).  Between my junior and senior years at Davis, I had the opportunity to do math research, and I found that I was not as interested in doing that as I had thought.  I came to believe that I would be more interested in working on projects that had more practical value.  My college roommate, an economics major named Tony Stayner, talked me into spending my senior year taking economics classes.  His argument was simple: Steve you love geometry --  in economics, when in doubt, you should always draw a graph.  I talked him into doing the reverse, spend his senior year taking math classes.  As a result, we both ended up with double majors, and I ended up with a new direction to pursue.

I worked under the direction of Richard Caves and Joesph Kalt at Harvard.  They taught me about industrial organization and regulation, and they also allowed me a lot of latitude to pursue topics outside the domain of economics, per se.  My Ph.D. thesis, "The Welfare Economics of Persuasive Advertising" pushed at the border between economics and psychology.  It was as a tutor in Leverett House at Harvard that I started to teach wine classes, a hobby that I continue to pursue.

Upon graduating from Harvard, I moved to Southern California and taught for six years at U. C. Irvine.  During my Irvine years I met two coauthors, Henry McMillan (a finance specialist who now works for Transamerica Corporation), and Munroe Eagles.  I also did much of the background work for the regulatory threat papers that Hank and I worked on there.

I came to Dickinson College in 1989, largely because of the interdisciplinary nature of many of the programs at the College.  Originally, I was hired to teach in the Economics Department, and to help contribute to the Policy Studies program.  An important turning point in my Dickinson career came about as a result of my 1994-95 sabbatical with Seagram Classics Wine Company.  This sabbatical provided me the opportunity to use my economics training in a business environment -- the year was incredibly open-ended. As a result, I undertook projects in many parts of the company (finance, marketing, production, distribution, hospitality, sales).  I came away from that experience with a different vision about how I could best teach economics.  I also brought back to Dickinson an interest in pursuing a more business-oriented approach to economics.  I joined a group of faculty who were working on the question of how to institute a business major on campus while at the same time being true to the liberal arts ideals on which the College is based.  The resulting interdisciplinary major, International Business and Management, is certainly true to those ideals.
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Even economists do not live in vacuums (despite rumors to the contrary).  Happily, I have a wonderful family that provides regular reminders about the world outside of academia.  I am married to Laura Erfle, the owner of Pomfret Street Books, and we have three children: David who is five; Kate who is three; and Vera who is a year old.   I were to spend the time to put all the cute pictures of these three I have on the computer, I'd never get anything else done.  For now, here are a few of my favorites (the older guy is me (surprise)).

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Most of my research is interdisciplinary in nature -- it has been largely at the boundary between economics and other fields.  My early work on persuasive advertising bordered with psychology; my work on regulatory threats bordered with political science; my work on news coverage of the oil industry bordered with communications theory; and my work on community cohesion bordered with political geography.  I find that the most interesting questions are being asked across borders -- at least the most interesting ones I have a hope of answering.

Much of my current research is also interdisciplinary in nature:

One avenue of research involves an examination of the separatist movement in Quebec.  This work is being done with two political scientists at SUNY Buffalo, Munroe Eagles (my long-time coauthor for the community cohesion papers); and Erick Duchesne.  We presented it at the Canadian Political Science Association Conference in June 2001.  A revised paper, “Constituency Homogeneity, Economic Risk, and Support for Québec Sovereignty: A Research Note,” has been accepted for publication by the Canadian Journal of Political Science.

I also have been working on a paper dealing with off list price discounting in the real estate market.  There are some interesting results that have come out of this research, especially with regards to psychological pricing.  A preliminary version of this paper, and related tables, is available upon request.

The main work I have done during the past few years has centered on pedagogical innovations involving one of the core courses for the IB&M major, managerial economics, that I developed based on my sabbatical experience.  This class is very Excel intensive.  For further information on this course, consider the following links.

    1. Excel materials for faculty interested in teaching managerial economics using Excel as a platform.  The files at this website are early versions
        of some of the files that have become part of the ancillary package for the textbook Managerial Economics (Fifth Edition) by Edwin Mansfield,
        W. Bruce Allen, Neil A. Doherty, and Keith Weigelt, W. W. Norton, New York, 2002.
    2. "Using Excel to teach Managerial Economics" paper presented at IBSCA meeting, July 2000.  A revised version of this paper appeared under
        the title "Excel as a Teaching Platform for Managerial Economics"  in Social Science Computer Review, Vol. 19, No. 4 (Winter 2001),
        pp. 480-486.  The Excel files discussed in the SSCR paper are available at the website listed in 1. above.
    3. "A Student Guide to Managerial Economics at Dickinson College"
    4. The managerial economics syllabus and day-by-day outline.

As an outgrowth of my work on the Managerial Economics text, I created interactive tutorials for Principles of Economics (Third Edition) by Joseph F. Stiglitz and Carl E. Walsh, W. W. Norton, New York, 2002.
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While the majority of my teaching is now in the IB&M curriculum, I do teach courses from time to time in the economics curriculum.  Some of my classes are also cross-listed in both departments.  Copies of my most recent syllabi are available for the following courses:

Managerial Economics: syllabus
Industrial Organization
Law and Economics
Introductory Microeconomics
Managerial Economics: day-by-day outline
Freshman Seminar: The Role of Wine in American Society
Intermediate Microeconomics

I also use CourseInfo software in my classes.  If you are in one of my classes this semester, you will be able to link into CourseInfo from here.
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Links to other sites

One of the great things about the web is seeing what other people consider to be great sites.  As a result, I thought I'd add my own area with links to some sites I like.

Many places on the web have data that is economic in nature, and some sites provide insights into what economists do.  Brad DeLong, an economics professor at U. C. Berkeley (and someone I knew from my Harvard days), has an incredible site full of things economic in nature.  Enjoy.  (If you go to his web site, you will notice I stole his background.  Ah the pleasures of creating web sites.)
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Ways to contact me

The easiest way, of course, is e-mail (link here to send e-mail).

More conventional forms of contact include:

stopping by my office at Stern 108 if you are on campus (link here for map), Stern is between Old West and East College on the academic quad;

giving me a phone call at (717) 245-1635;

using snail mail:   Stephen Erfle                                            Departmental Fax:                         (717) 245-1025
                              Stern Center                                             Department office:                        108 Stern
                              Dickinson College                                    Departmental Staff Associate:    Anna McPherson
                              P.O. Box 1773                                          Department phone:                         (717) 245-1177
                              Carlisle, PA 17013-2896
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Last updated on:      07/12/2002
By:                             Steve Erfle