Getting paid to read might be a dream for some students, but two Mercer professors are making it a reality for students interested in economics. Business professors Antonio Saravia and Andrés Marroquín are paying students for their participation in a book club in the business school.
“It is an initiative of the Center for the Study of Economics and Liberty (CSEL) inspired by the tradition of colloquia and Socratic seminars,” Saravia said. “The idea is to read a book and get together to discuss it generating a productive conversation.”
The conversation Saravia refers to usually centers around a prominent economic text, often one that is relatively modern. The books reference past economic theories and are picked by the professors to generate interesting discussion.
They first ran the book club in fall of 2020 with the book “How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life” by Russell Roberts. Saravia said that he and Marroquín had been thinking about creating the program for a while, but were finally able to when they received funds from the Fickling Foundation.
“The goal is to learn about different economic topics and to get students excited about economics,” Marroquín said. “One of the objectives is to have fun and to learn by discussing interesting books. I learn a lot from students’ comments and questions. We all do.”
Participating students receive a free copy of the book, along with a $200 stipend. Saravia says that the stipend is important for the program, as students are making a big commitment to the extracurricular reading.
“Book clubs do not offer class credits or grades, so we rely on the student’s desire to learn independently and engage in conversation and discussion,” Saravia said. “We provide students with incentives for reading the texts critically, thinking carefully about the ideas and developing their own arguments. Participation in a book club requires a lot of effort but it is very rewarding.”
The professors usually post flyers several weeks in advance for students to give students time to submit applications found through their website. Saravia and Marroquín read through the applications to select the students that they feel best fit into the group. Saravia said that facts like past courses, their GPA, whether they are familiar with the book or author, and what books they’ve read help are helpful factors. Only ten students are accepted into the book club at a time.
“The goal was and continues to be to have a small and intimate space in which students and professors can engage in conversation about important economic, social and political topics,” Saravia said. “The selection of books is designed to promote a serious conversation about the values of individual liberty, economic freedom and principled entrepreneurship.”
Marroquín said that there has been positive feedback for the book clubs.
“Organizing and leading book clubs is one of the most exciting activities I do in the School of Business, Marroquín said. “Students bring so much energy and curiosity to the discussions – which are amicable and respectful.”
The current book club is reading “Leave Me Alone And I’ll Make You Rich” by D. McCloskey and A. Carden until March 31. They will have a second book club later this semester.