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Yuh-Jia Chen, Ph.D.
Department of Human Development | Measurement, Evaluation & Statistics Program
TC Faculty Host: Dr. James Corter
“If the risk averse and risk taking attitudes can be identified, insurance and investment companies can better predict behavior and from there, guide their clients to plan for retirement more effectively.”
With the hope of helping people make better and more rational and ethical decisions, particularly those related to finances, Dr. Yuh-Jia Chen, returned to Teachers College as a visiting scholar to research decision-making and business ethics with Dr. James Corter, Professor of Statistics and Education in the Human Development department. Mainly, Dr. Chen studied choice patterns in repeated-play conditions; do people change their risk preference over time and if so, how? Although the implications of his findings appear to be largely theoretically, he believes they are also useful in understanding how organizational cultures impact employees’ ethics and ethical behavior, money intelligence and money attitudes. “If the risk averse and risk taking attitudes can be identified, insurance and investment companies can better predict behavior and from there, guide their clients to plan for retirement more effectively.”
Money intelligence is an intrinsic component of daily life, and some would say an indispensable pillar of modern society. It determines why people go to work; what work they do and ultimately, how they survive financially. Even children are aware of its importance, albeit perhaps only marginally. But, how exactly do we develop this awareness? How do we grow to understand what money is and how to use it? According to Dr. Chen, understanding how money intelligence influences behavior can also inform why people make irrational choices with it. For example, in spite of the odds, when given a hundred chances and the option of winning $100 10% of the time or $10 90% of the time, people do not pick the same option each time. Instead they go back and forth about equally. Dr. Chen proposes that understanding the rationale of how people allocate their choice options is a step towards understanding how to help them make more rational decisions.
Dr. Chen’s interest in business ethics and decision-making stems from a diverse academic background that dates back to his time as a master’s student in TC’s own Organizational Psychology program. It was while writing his thesis on decision-making that he began making connections to a larger picture. Although understanding how individuals and organizations think is essential to decision-making, he also realized that he needed to understand data modeling. This curiosity culminated in a master’s degree in statistics and then a doctorate in measurement and evaluation in 2001. When asked about his TC experience, Dr. Chen eagerly shared anecdotes of his time attending classes, toiling over papers and interacting with instructors who are now his colleagues. “I love TC. It has a unique and wonderful culture that makes people very comfortable to learn and grow. TC creates a good energy and environment that [allows me] to conduct good research.”
Dr. Chen plans to publish his findings and then return to teaching at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida where he holds a full professorship. He also hopes to continue pursuing this line of research. He can be reached via e-mail.
Eli Vinokur, Ph.D.
Department of Arts & Humanities | Philosophy & Education Program
TC Faculty Host: Dr. David Hansen
“In order to fix education, you need to fix people’s attitudes towards one another. Education is more than learning; it is the atmosphere and interactions that allow for authentic, autonomous self-transformation.”
Dr. Eli Vinokur is a visiting scholar in the department of Arts and Humanities. Born in St. Petersburg, Dr. Eli Vinokur received his BA in Jewish Philosophy and Jewish History (Ofakim Honors program) and his MA in Jewish Philosophy from Tel Aviv University. After some time as a secondary school teacher of Jewish philosophy and culture, he went on to receive his PhD in education from the University of Haifa.
Dr. Vinokur’s research focuses on education toward “rooted cosmopolitanism.” Cosmopolitanism is a concept that dates back to ancient Greek civilization, but according to Dr. Vinokur is present in all cultures and religions (his own research traces the roots of cosmopolitanism in Judaism, and in Kabbalah in particular). It is the idea that human beings, regardless of race, religion or nationality, belong to a single community grounded in a shared morality. Education toward rooted cosmopolitanism expands on this ideology by focusing on the viable ways to bridge the gap between the often-sublime ideals of cosmopolitanism and the concrete, real-world aspirations of local education systems. According to Dr. Vinokur, in light of contemporary educational challenges, there is a pressing need to tackle the “otherness” that is so often present in our immediate and remote relationships. Thus, the type of education he hopes to foster is one which “will cultivate care, respect and mutual responsibility for others, inside and beyond national, religious, racial etc., borders….”
A vital component of the “educational cosmopolitanism” Dr. Vinokur envisions is the focus on education, rather than on information. Nowadays, information is so accessible that students can be carriers of knowledge no less than teachers, if properly taught to do so. Thus, educators today need not only be carriers of knowledge who can communicate it to students in new and original ways, but also, and no less importantly they have to become facilitators of positive social processes. The challenge educators face today is generating such an atmosphere in class that will allow students to develop the capability to interact with one another and to form deep and meaningful relationships inside and outside of class, despite and without annulling disagreements and differences. The cultivation of such a civic virtue is made more difficult by current financial, cultural, political and inter-religious trends that place value on opinions that are not necessarily wholesome or beneficial to society. These trends, Dr. Vinokur proposes, jeopardize the future of society because they condition people to treat themselves and others in ways contrary to the spirit of cosmopolitanism—the spirit of global collaboration.
Even so, rooted in Dr. Vinokur’s research is a message of hope and perseverance. Although today’s situation may be difficult, he believes it is also rife with opportunity simply because people inherently understand that things are wrong and they want things to change for the better. Moreover, today’s interconnected and interdependent reality is practically forcing us to recalculate our direction and choose a path of greater cooperation and unity. This change begins with instilling a stronger sense of solidarity, locally and globally, in everyone—not only children. It is for this very reason that he chose to complete his visiting term at Teachers College, an institution he believes is at the forefront of this transformation.
In addition to being a prolific researcher, Dr. Vinokur is also the director of the teacher preparation program for future repatriates to Israel from Russian speaking countries at the Gordon College of Education in conjunction with the Masa Israel program at the Jewish agency. Additionally, four years ago he co-initiated a unique bachelor’s and master’s program for social leaders at the University of Haifa. A longtime dream of Dr. Vinokur’s, this social leaders preparation program works with teenage and adult social activists to cultivate the philosophical and practical tools they need to rekindle and foster in their communities a vision of unity and mutual care between all members of Israeli society. Dr. Vinokur is the author of two popular books and numerous articles. He is the recipient of fellowships and awards from the Wolf Foundation, the Mandel Foundation and both Tel Aviv University and the University of Haifa to name a few. He is currently a teaching fellow at the University of Haifa, the Max Stern Yezreel Valley College and the Israel Academic College in Ramat Gan as well as a member of the research group on Spirituality in Education at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org