When someone thinks of a Principles of Macroeconomics class, they might picture students sitting for hours in front of a professor lecturing them on numbers. But at CC, things are done differently. Dr. Guanyi Yang, Assistant Professor of Economics and Business, knows how important experiential and community-engaged learning is, both to the foundation of CC and to the education of his students. Therefore, when designing his Block 1 Principles of Macroeconomics class, he focused on how he could ensure his students achieve that kind of learning experience.
“I emphasize the importance of experiential learning by contextualizing theoretical principles through practical application,” Yang says. “This involves in-class exercises, field trips, and immersive interactions with local businesses, government agencies, and other societal institutions. Such experiences illuminate the real-world workings of economic principles, fostering students’ transition into engaged citizen scholars.”
This class is a community-engaged learning course (CEL), which means it incorporates experiential education that both promotes student learning and addresses community needs.
“Learning should be an engaging and stimulating process that instills a sense of curiosity and self-discovery,” says Yang, who teaches this class every semester. “As an economics instructor, I strive to bridge the gap between academic economics and everyday life, consistently guiding students back to the subject’s theoretical and quantitative roots.”
The course focuses on introducing students to the principles of macroeconomics while emphasizing the behavior of economic aggregates and the rate of economic growth, addressing how government policies, at both the local and federal government, affect them.
“I emphasize the importance of experiential learning by contextualizing theoretical principles through practical application… Such experiences illuminate the real-world workings of economic principles, fostering students’ transition into engaged citizen scholars.”Dr. Guanyi Yang, CC Assistant Professor of Economics and Business
The class begins with macroeconomic measurements, exploring national accounts, labor market dynamics, and macro-level price indices.
“Through workshops, students learn to collect and process public big data from various sources using Excel, honing their skills in identifying and visualizing data patterns,” Yang says. “Throughout this first week, students integrate cultural, political, social, and historical contexts into their analysis, underscoring the significance of the social context behind data.”
This semester, during second week, students toured Colorado Springs CommunityWorks and visited Colorado Springs City Administration to interview the Colorado Springs Economic Development Department about the interplay of macroeconomic conditions and fiscal policies.
“Students develop essential skills and a deeper understanding of economics by emphasizing the practical application of economic concepts, fostering critical thinking, and incorporating real-world connections,” Yang says.
Yang partnered with the Colorado Springs City Department of Economic Development and the Black Chamber of Commerce, as well as local business leaders. Last spring, Yang collaborated with CC Mobile Arts to have his Principles of Macroeconomics students research and propose a plan for public funding to local artists.
“These activities connect macroeconomic theories to our community, encouraging critical reflection on local development strategies,” Yang says.
“It was invaluable to engage with members of the Colorado Springs community; it helped me gain a better understanding of my role in the Springs and how I can help my community… After learning about employment and unemployment in our class, it was really valuable to see how it applies to the real world.”Ellie Wirth ’26
Ellie Wirth ’26, who plans to major in International Political Economy, says one of the reason community-engaged learning is so important is because it helps to solidify a greater understanding of the material.
“It was invaluable to engage with members of the Colorado Springs community; it helped me gain a better understanding of my role in the Springs and how I can help my community,” Wirth says.
“The first trip that we took was to CommunityWorks, which is a nonprofit that helps provide education and employment services and opportunities for those looking for work. After learning about employment and unemployment in our class, it was really valuable to see how it applies to the real world,” says Wirth. “It was also valuable to engage with and learn from leaders in the Colorado Springs community. Sometimes intro classes can be very textbook-centric, so it is cool to be able to apply our knowledge in the real world through engaging with the amazing people who run Public Works.”
Wirth also enjoyed the trip to the Colorado Springs Development Office, where students talked to administrators about new developments in Colorado Springs and its future growth.
“I learned so much about Colorado Springs. For example, we talked about the new open-air music venue, which I personally am really excited for,” Wirth says. “The experience gave me a great perspective on the place where I live and go to school. I strongly believe in experiential learning, and both field trips are a fabulous example of hands-on learning.”
Yang says the design of this introductory course can make it challenging to teach, because the class attracts students continuing in the traditional economics and business majors, as well as new business and economics majors and those taking it as a field survey class.
“Students come with more diverse backgrounds and interests, making it a unique challenge and opportunity to recruit and retain historically underrepresented students in our field,” Yang says. “To address the challenge, I have prioritized decolonizing the curriculum, experiential learning, and skill-building as the key components.”
Students will conclude the class with a final presentation during fourth week. After spending the block researching different economic factors and aggregates, such as price levels, rate of economic growth, and total output and employment, students will give an economic conditions outlook for the local Colorado Springs community, the United States, and the rest of the world.
“The goal is to research everything we learned from the course and community and provide an analysis and forecasting of the economic conditions in Colorado Springs, the United States, and internationally,” Yang says.
The presentation will take place at Tutt Library on the CC campus in front of the Data Viz Wall on Sept. 19 from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Are you an alum in the Colorado Springs area? This event is open to the public. Tickets and preregistration are not required.