Afternoon Tea with the Dean for Second Degree Students Held Online

On April 23, 2020, Tsinghua SEM’s “Afternoon Tea with the Dean” for second degree students was held online. Dean BAI Chong-En, along with a group of faculty at the School met with more than a score of students from various subjects and grades online, discussing about issues including college life, future plan, industry development and the epidemic’s impact on economy, etc.


Keeping learning in practice


At the beginning of the event, CAI Yingdong, a junior student from the Department of Foreign Languages, asked how to keep a balance between learning in one’s interested fields and other fields. In response to this, President Bai suggested that we should always continue to learn in the process of our future work and study. When working on something, it may be more effective and targeted for us to see what kind of relevant knowledge and previous research results on the problem can be used, and then to learn such knowledge and models. There is no need to be anxious because one must handle knowledge before starting to think and solve problems. The correct approach is to always keep learning while doing.


Two ideas about start-up in scientific research


Some students asked for suggestions for undergraduates to start doing research. Dean Bai offered them two ideas. First, the relatively low-risk approach is to start with literature study and find a major issue that one is interested in, to find what kind of research has been done on this issue, where these studies are still incomplete, or how to carry out new experiment on these studies with new data or new methods. This method is relatively simple and usually does not incur questioning, which is a good suggestion for research at beginner level.    Another approach is problem-oriented. One can look for a problem without reading the literature first, and try to provide one’s own answer to it with his or her own assumptions. Then, he or she can resort to the literature after obtaining a preliminary result. It is risky to do so, but the advantage is that you may come up with an idea that has never been thought of in the literature, which is an original innovation. Both methods have their own pros and cons, and different people may make different choices.


Choosing wisely and embracing the future


In terms of personal development, some students asked about the important abilities that a PhD student should possess to conduct academic research in the School of Economics and Management. Dean BAI provided four answers: the first one is curiosity, because the greatest motivation for doing research is to satisfy curiosity. You come up with a question; you want to know its answer; you find that the answers provided by others are not so satisfactory; so, you want to provide a better one. And this is the motivation for doing research. Also, you should have high requirements for yourself—in terms of the research’s logicality, academic rationality and consistency with the data, etc. The second is the pursuit for excellence. The pursuit for excellence in academic study is to put forward particularly high requirements for the answers. Thirdly, in the field of economy, inspiration and creativity are also very important, probably more important than in other fields. Lastly, many people have the ability to collect and analyze data, but one of the abilities needed to find data is entrepreneurship, which requires pioneering spirit and willingness to try new things. With curiosity, high requirements, hard work, creativity, entrepreneurship and the courage to do something others have not done, one is then well-prepared for a good research.


Then some students asked a question with which many are concerned: "if I want to know some daily information in economy and finance, how can I obtain such information channels to widen my perspective". Dean Bai fully understood this difficulty: one the one hand, in the case of many hot issues that we face today, the answers have not been determined yet, which generally may not be found in academic journals. One the other hand, answers obtained through other channels without quality control are not easy to evaluate and filtrate. Dean Bai suggested that research by some international organizations can be used because their analysis is rigorous. But since they have different understanding of China's background, their perspectives of analysis are also different. Therefore, a good method is to collect research on current hot issues from international organizations, reprocess them and generate one’s own answers.


Integrating knowledge with practice


On how to improve economic analysis ability, President Bai mainly illustrated the ability in macro analysis. In terms of the epidemic’s impact on economy, which is a popular concern, he said: "We will say that there is a basic macro-economic model, and use this model to analyze the impact of different shocks. When analyzing the impact of a phenomenon on the economy, we must first classify it into a certain category: is it a demand shock, a short-term shock to productivity, a long-term shock to productivity, or a shock of increased transaction costs, etc. Making good use of the model can help u eliminate some blind spots in our thinking and come up with more rigorous conclusions. Only by integrating learned knowledge and models with real circumstances, can we make a proper economic analysis."


When it comes to how economic management functions in the face of public events such as epidemic, President Bai believes that the functions should be evaluated in a narrow sense as well as a broad one. For example, offering advice and suggestions to national policy makers is its function in the narrow sense. But more broadly, economics actually provides a framework of thinking, which enables us to handle problems systematically.


Although people can only “meet” online due to the sudden outbreak of the epidemic, teaching and learning have never stopped during the special period. The epidemic has also brought many profound thoughts to students who have been staying at home. Through this "cloud afternoon tea", the students seem to have returned to Shunde Building to have tea with the dean and talk about their bewilderment as well as gain during the epidemic.