High Demand for Prof. Mike Coiner
Economics professor Mike Coiner talks candidly about his reputation and time at Brandeis
Inside the Brandeis International Business School building, hidden by Massachusetts wilderness, through a maze of winding corridors and study rooms bustling with students, is the office of one of the most beloved professors at Brandeis, Prof. Michael Coiner (ECON). As a professor of economics, Coiner has gained popularity on the website Rate My Professor, an online database used by university students to write reviews of their teachers. While he has never personally viewed his own profile on Rate My Professor, admitting in an interview with The Justice, “Oh no, that’s too scary,” Coiner is now the second most frequently rated professor at Brandeis, with a glowing score of 4.6 out of 5. Coiner commented on his profile by saying, “I know that classes are large so that lots of student know who I am or have had my course. I know that the scuttlebutt is generally positive, but I stay away from Rate my Professor.”
Working in a small office overflowing with papers waiting to be graded, Coiner has been at Brandeis University for 17 years. However, this wasn’t his first teaching stint. He originally began at the University in 1980, but left after he was denied tenure in 1986. Today, he is a contract faculty member, meaning he does not possess tenure but a long-term contract with Brandeis to teach. He teaches five classes in each academic year; two in one semester and three in the other. “I’ve generally taught [ECON] 2a and 10a in recent years, and I teach a course in the economics of education as an elective about every other year. And in recent years, I have taught another elective called Economics of the Public Sector. I guess I’ve taught that four times in the past ten years,” he mused. What is it that makes students so eager to return to Coiner’s classroom each semester? One student on Rate My Professor anonymously wrote, “I have yet to find a professor who is as enthusiastic, passionate, and clear as Coiner is! I was never a math person or an econ person, but Coiner completely changed me, and now I’m majoring in econ!”
Coiner’s classes tend to be in large lecture halls. Students have observed him pacing up and down the aisle as he teaches, raising his voice to emphasize an important point or command the attention of students in the back rows. He commented on his teaching style, saying, “I think that my teaching is different at Brandeis than at other places. The other thing is that I didn’t used to have gigantic classes… You have to have more energy in a large class, because otherwise people will fall asleep, and they fall asleep anyways.” In an interview, another student, Goldie Davoudgoleh ’20, spoke about a class of his that she attended during her first semester at Brandeis: “His passion for teaching and his energy during class really allowed me to do well while enjoying my time in lecture.”
A common statement made around campus regarding Coiner is that attending his class prompted multiple students to further pursue economics. Several students on Rate My Professor single-handedly credited Coiner with their choice to major or minor in economics. However, Coiner believes this praise has less to do with his teaching and more to do with the study of economics itself. He explained, “Before 2000, there was a professor here for many, many years, Prof. Barney Schwalberg, (ECON) and he taught ECON 2a and the same thing happened. There’s something about economics that is more interesting and more important than people think it’s going to be.”
Brandeis is not the only institution that has been fortunate enough to host Coiner as a professor. He originally taught at Wesleyan University, and then went on to teach at Franklin and Marshall College. During the brief interim between being at Brandeis, from 1986 to 2000, he also taught at The University of Massachusetts, UMass-Lowell, and Regis College, which is only a 15-minute drive from Brandeis.
Coiner admitted that Brandeis students stand out from the rest of his classes in their own unique way. “The students here, on average, are brighter than the students at other places, except perhaps Wesleyan [College], and the students here are much more focused on issues of justice and more aware of what’s going on in the political world and current policy issues.” A wry smile creeping across his face, Coiner added,“I’ve had good experiences with students at all these places [that I’ve taught], but the Brandeis students are, they are somewhat different, but I really enjoy them.”