EMBA Faculty Feature: Shawn McCoy, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Economics - EMBA 703 - Microeconomic Analysis for Business Decision Making

Picture of Shawn McCoy, Ph.D.
Apr. 22, 2020

“UNLV students are very, very motivated,” says Dr. Shawn McCoy. “I was a student here, and I understand that attitude, where students like to think on their own and solve problems in their own way.”

For professor McCoy, problem solving is more than a skill, it’s a passion. An Assistant Professor since 2016, he balances his time between teaching Microeconomics for Managers to Executive MBA students and studying two of the great challenges facing the western United States: housing supply and wildfires. 

His passion for both is reflected in his tone – serious, curious, and learned. 

“As an undergrad at UNLV I got an early start studying real estate markets,” he recalls. “When I started my Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh, a faculty member brought me in on a National Science Foundation grant that was geared toward how wildfires influence the economy and residential housing markets.” 

Although he didn’t initially expect to be doing research on wildfires and natural disasters, Dr. McCoy started to develop an expertise on the subject. His economics and real estate background proved valuable when a position became available at UNLV – “It’s a great opportunity to foster an environment whereby students can learn from me and each other,” he says – and he couldn’t resist the chance to continue the research he began at Pittsburgh.

“Wildfires and real estate seem like an odd mix, but there are a variety of economically relevant questions that pertain to both,” he explains. “We document how big wildfires alter the market’s perception of fire risk by studying residential home price changes.

“I started that paper while I was finishing my Ph.D. and I recently extended that study with a colleague of mine, Nicholas Irwin.”

In the new study, professors McCoy and Irwin are studying “determinants of residential development decisions in wildfire risk areas.” 

“We’re trying to document what policy makers can do and what they can’t do to influence where people develop housing,” he explains. 

The passion he displays for his research carries over when McCoy talks about the class he teaches and the students he’s met in the Executive MBA program. Microeconomics for Managers, he explains, teaches key ideas and concepts for microeconomic theory – how prices are determined, how quantities are determined, and the study of markets, “in the most general form, in terms of supply and demand for goods.” 

“Our EMBA students live in a complex world and have to make complex decisions,” he says. “Microeconomics allows them to take that complex world and simplify it to make sharp predictions.

“You learn a lot about the discipline by teaching it to students that are mid-to-late career professionals, and I certainly walk out of my class more intelligent than when I walked in learning from students.”

Throughout his tenure, McCoy has taught students of various business backgrounds, including airline pilots, lawyers, and gubernatorial candidates. The current EMBA class, he says, lines up perfectly with UNLV’s slogan: Different. Daring. Diverse.

“They’re not afraid to push back in a way that is beneficial to the discipline,” he explains. “They’re great listeners, great teachers, and great critics – you need all that to get it right, and it leaves you with a very realistic and very useful set of skills by the end of the course.