During the International Summer School’s first cycle, from June 16th to June 27th, visiting professors Joeri Mol from University of Melbourne, Ramiro Montealegre from the University of Colorado Boulder and Miguel Gómez from Cornell University, participated in the online program.
Our journalist interviewed Joeri Mol to enquire his impressions about Universidad de los Andes School of Management, students enrolled in his course, experience in adapting to a virtual learning environment and his life as a scholar.
- When did you participate in the Uniandes School of Management International Summer School for the first time?
I had the joy of coming to Bogotá for the first time in 2017
- What was your main motivation to participate again in Universidad de los Andes School of Management’s International Summer School?
I still have many friends in Colombia, and there is something special about the country and the people that really made me want to come back. I felt very welcome the last time I was here, obviously by Los Andes and the School of Management, but in general too. I particularly liked to teach at Los Andes, it is a beautiful campus, great university, I had so much fun with the students last time. We went to an event organized by a graduate student, who is a coffee trader now and who used to be a financial broker in City of London. So, we went to a cupping event and we went on excursions, but also in the classroom, it was a lot of fun in.
- What would you consider as a salient feature of Universidad de los Andes School of Management students?
- What are you currently working on in terms of research?
At the moment I am researching COVID. We invented a method: multilevel diffusion analysis back in 2008. As I mentioned earlier, my interest is in the creative industry and my Ph.D. was on the music industry, the economic sociology of it. This got me doing a study with coauthors, Gabriel and me, we investigated how songs diffuse in a broadcasting context. So you can imagine; a new song comes out and it is crucial for the song to be played on different radio stations. For commercial success, it has to be diffused. Now, that got us thinking about a new way of analyzing diffusion processes. We developed the multilevel diffusion analysis—all kudos to …my coauthor who is the inventor of the method—and strangely the method…, the data was fine but the method was much more powerful that the data itself. We never really gave it a second thought and everyone did their own thing since. But now that with the COVID crisis, I think this is the method to use to analyze all the different diffusion processes and to model for instance the causal effect of the government interventions against COVID diffusion. O obviously, in a music context, you want to maximize the diffusion and here with COVID, you want to minimize it, so we are looking at the multilevel analysis where we are working together with Bloomberg and other data sets from WHO, the UN, among others to see what we can do to analyze the effects of certain interventions; for example, school closures. There are still question marks around this, whether it is a good thing or not because obviously there are all sorts of knock on effects… parents having to stay home. Some of my friends are pulling out their hair, saying that it is just too much to be working from home and to be home schooling. So this is pretty much what I am working on at the moment.
- How would you describe your teaching philosophy?
For me everything starts from curiosity and that is also why I am an academic. It’s the best job in the world: to be paid for being curious, how great is that? And I think this is not exclusive to academia but I think this is the reason why we all want to learn. Why we all sit quietly and listen to history, mathematics, biology, astronomy so I feel that is the basis and if you cannot replicate that sense of wonder in the classroom about things that interest them, then it’s going to be very hard. So there is a playfulness but there has to be an end of this play has to be instrumental in some way in the sense that let’s see if we can build something.
- Tell us about your experience in adapting to a virtual learning environment? What are the major challenges and how have you dealt with them?
In the classroom you have a sense of how students are going; there is a collective and you are part of something. In the classroom you can feel the energy, whether it goes up or down, whether they are enjoying themselves or not. And I was worried about this on zoom because I thought “I can’t make sure 50+ students are ok.” But actually, it is possible and there is a strange intimacy. People look straight at you, and now I have hidden it all behind this famous Monet painting, but you peek into people’s homes so you get a glimpse of their lives; people walk into the room; people have to answer all sorts of questions… like “what do you want for dinner?”
So yeah, it is different. I still much prefer face-to-face. But there is also a great up side to this type of teaching that I had not imagined and actually, I feel that there is a possibility to get to know students through this medium too…and it strangely works. This is the best I could hope for so I am very happy about how it is going.
- If you were to teach in this program next year, would you prefer to deliver your course face to face or in the online format?