The library is pleased to feature the influential and cutting-edge work of our AUS faculty researchers. In a newly launched library series, faculty from across the schools discuss their work and areas of research focus.
AUS Featured Researcher: Dr. Hamid Baghestani, Professor – Economics, SBA
Mathematics has always fascinated me. In fact, when I discovered higher math in high school I was finally motivated to consider pursuing the subject at the university level. Ironically, I came to love mathematics as a ten-year-old boy when I worked with my father in building a small but beautiful neighborhood mosque in the southern part of Tehran, Iran. He was what we might term a “natural genius” – completely self-taught in merging mathematical and architectural principles. I didn’t realize that not everyone had this innate ability, for I did too. At the age of nineteen I supervised and financed the building of several apartments in Tehran over a period of three years, which are still in excellent condition after all this time.
When I was able to incorporate a love of math with my economics major at Qazvin College (in a small city near Tehran), I knew I had found my calling. After graduating, I made a short visit to a cousin studying at the School of Mines, Golden, Colorado, and after a weekend in Boulder, I knew the University of Colorado was the place for me. I earned both my M.A. and Ph.D. there, finishing in December 1982 with my degree in Economics.
In spring 1988, I joined the faculty of the Economics Institute (EI) in Boulder, an independent educational facility affiliated with the University of Colorado. It served graduate students who were accepted into Masters and Ph.D. programs throughout the world. The students came from such diverse places as China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Malawi, Mexico, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. They came to study Economics taught in English as preparation for their graduate studies. In addition, as part of my assignment, the EI sent me to various countries to work with employees at central banks and universities to show them how to use econometrics to further the mission of their organization. Visiting Caracas, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, and Muscat connected me in a profound way with the lives of the people in those areas beyond the classroom.
Since the majority of my classes at the EI were scheduled for the summer, I worked part-time the rest of the year at several local universities: the Colorado School of Mines (Golden), Metropolitan State University (Denver), University of Colorado (Denver), and University of Denver. Even though I was only part-time, the students at Mines voted me Economics Professor of the Year – a plaque on the wall inscribed with my name and everything!
However, after 45 years of educational excellence, the EI closed its doors, and when I decided to pursue another academic position I received several offers, one of which came from the American University of Sharjah (AUS). I joined the faculty in January 2003, and it has been an excellent journey so far. My wife joined me in 2006 and taught at AUS from 2007-2014. Our daughter came over in 2009, earned her MATESOL degree in 2011, and taught at the university level from 2011-2016. Over the years we have been adopted by several stray cats who frequently “help” me with my writing next to the computer.
During 1991-1992, I had five papers published in Journal of Business, Journal of Forecasting, Journal of Industrial Economics, Journal of Macroeconomics, and Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics. Publishing in such prestigious journals provided wonderful momentum for the research aspect of my academic life. During my tenure at AUS I have published over 60 papers, with 12 in the process of review and completion.
My research focuses on macroeconomic modeling and forecasting, consumer behavior, energy economics, and financial markets. I believe forecasting is the ultimate test of a theory. An economic model is valid and thus of value if it helps generate accurate forecasts. As such, the majority of my published work is on testing theories by both modeling and forecasting major macroeconomic and financial indicators including energy prices. Another aspect of my research focuses on evaluating the accuracy of experts’ forecasts of economic growth, inflation, unemployment, consumption, saving, investment, budget deficit, exchange rates, and interest rates. I also employ state-of-the-art time-series econometric approaches to analyze the behavior of consumer survey data on business conditions, personal finances, buying attitudes, and expectations. Better understanding of consumer attitudes and expectations is indeed important in both economics and marketing.
My philosophy of education is to take students step-by-step through every concept I introduce. I work through the equations on the board and prefer not to use PowerPoint presentations. I enjoy relating with the class members and answering their questions. In addition, I view office hours as a further opportunity for interaction and extra help, not as a burden to fulfill. Attendance in class and turning in homework are essential for students to do well. I take my job seriously and spend a good portion of my time grading student homework, quizzes, and papers. This connection to student work helps me judge the pace of the class and reteach something if need be. In addition, I have spent an enormous amount of time preparing curricula for classes in which the textbook needed supplemental materials or the text was non-existent. Students have written that they used their notes from my classes both in their jobs and graduate school, which is very gratifying. An alumnus recently wrote, “Dr. Hamid is an amazing professor who makes one of the most avoided and feared subjects interesting, fun, and comprehensible.” I do try to use humor to liven up the class!
It has been quite a journey from being a little boy helping his father build a mosque to being a Full Professor at a world-renowned university.