Aasim Ansari, Class of 2020 “I don’t remember the particular point when I made a conscious
Anirudh Pisharam, Class of 2019
“It was not planned, it just happened”, said Professor Amit Goyal, when I asked him how he came to Ashoka. “I have professors here that I have learnt from, and they asked me if I was interested to come here. So, when I was offered this opportunity, I took it, and so far, this has been a great experience.”
Although born in Bhiwani, Haryana, Professor Amit Goyal had a fun and enjoyable childhood growing up in Delhi. Some of his fondest memories revolve around the time he spent playing cricket and football with his friends. At school, along with his co-curricular activities, he took a strong liking to mathematics, and especially enjoyed solving problems. Given his love for math, he only expected to do something in a mathematical or quantitative field. Once he finished school, he realized economics was a good option too. After finishing school, he joined the economics program at Ramjas College in Delhi University.
He anticipated college to be just an extension of school life, where one would specialize in one subject. He did not have any major expectations, and entered college with a blank slate. Yet, college, to quote him, was a “pleasant surprise”. The added freedom and opportunity to interact with people from diverse backgrounds was an experience he thoroughly cherished. He made some great friends, with whom he is in touch with till date, despite their having taken different paths in life.
Teachers often have a profound influence on many people who choose academia as a career. Hence when I asked Professor Goyal about his inspiration, he humbly acknowledged that whatever he was today was because of those who taught him. He had no favourite teacher, and admired all their knowledge, commitment and motivation to teach; the qualities he sees as important in a college professor.
One principle that guides him at every step of the way is to enjoy what he does in the moment and try and extend it. Hence it wasn’t surprising when he decided to pursue his masters from the prestigious Delhi School of Economics, and then take the decision to go to the US for further studies. It was there where Professor Goyal realized the power of institutions and fell deeply in love with the university system. He described it as “even better than his dreams and visions of what a university should look like”. Combining this experience with a love for the internet and programming, he decided to establish himself online. He started a YouTube Channel, a popular Quora page and Econschool as platforms to teach college-level economics. He started this to help people who wanted academic content they couldn’t access. Looking back, given the feedback he receives, he’s happy with his decision. After all, his material is a “public good” and the value “multiplies” when it reaches more people.
Then he joined Ashoka, and started this semester with an intermediate course in Statistics and Probability. I asked him what he felt was most different here. He replied, “I’m not used to the duration of the lectures at just 90 minutes each. At Econschool, I used to take 7-hour classes with 1-hour lunch break.” While that change seems significant, he does seem to have found his footing and quickly adjusted to classes of a shorter duration.
As far as the students are concerned, he feels that everyone can do well in life given the right environment, push, encouragement and good teaching. Additionally, he opines that Ashokans are better trained, have a better programme than what is offered in most other places, and hence are better prepared to do well. He appreciates the flexibility that is offered here.
Outside teaching, Professor Goyal enjoys programming and solving problems, while taking and creating new courses online. Moreover, he enjoys creating interesting and engaging questions to help students. As someone who truly enjoys what he teaches, and teaches what he enjoys, he blurs the line between work and play, as he continues to spread his love for the subject in every class hetakes.
While in class, Professor Goyal often comes across as just another professor, but knowing him a little deeper reveals a passionate, enthusiastic and a fun-loving individual, with an extraordinary love for his subject and field. Indeed, one of the biggest takeaways from the interview was that if you truly enjoy doing something, following that passion will get you somewhere successful, even if you don’t have it all figured out. Though the statistics may not necessarily tell that is the case, when someone as good a statistician as Professor Goyal shows that it is possible, you momentarily forget those limitations.
Favourite Movie: Sholay, Baahubali
Favourite Singer: Kishore Kumar
Favourite Sport: Squash, Tennis
Favourite Actor: Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini
Favourite Paper: Optimal Auction Design by Roger Myerson
Prof. Amit Kumar Goyal is a Visiting Professor of Economics, and takes ECO207: Statistics for Economics.