Danos: The problems of the world are the problems of the students

Posted: July 24, 2012 by jennroig in English, Interviews
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Paul Danos, dean of Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business

(This is the unedited English version of the interview to Paul Danos, originally published by AmericaEconomia on July 13, 2012)

Jim Yong Kim was recently appointed as the World Bank President. Previously, he served as the Dartmouth College president, being the first Asian-American who performed as president of an Ivy-League Institution. His appointment by Obama did not go uncontested, while representatives from other economies claimed their right to occupy such position, in a world where other economies are challenging USA performance and power.

As dean of the Tuck School of Business, Paul Danos not personally met president Kim and is able to draw a picture of the new WB president, but also his own expertise qualifies him to offer a view about what to expect of the new administration, its priorities and concerns.

Mr. Jim Yong Kim has been appointed as president of the World Bank. Up to that point, he was the president of Dartmouth College. I would like to ask what are the values he shares, or might take from Dartmouth to his new task as president of a globally influential institution like the World Bank?

I think Jim Kim has worked, very much in his life, in his career, with developing countries. In the past, he has done a lot of efforts in countries where health systems were poor. His work with the international health organization and other entities has helped health care around the world, and has taken him to many different countries.

Of course, he was president of Dartmouth College, thus had the responsibility. But university came to him at a time when the financial crisis was at its peak, so he had an important role to play in fixing darden’s finances which had a major deficit. His work on that of course it impose him very close relationships with the financeers and people responsible for Dartmouth’s finances. While he was at Dartmouth, and in connection with his job here, he still kept working on health care delivering. He continued his work on health care, Darden has a big hospital complex, we stated programs here with medical schools in health care delivering. Jim Kim started a center here for health care delivering. He has been always interested in the health of people in emerging economies. His 3 years at Dartmouth gave him insight into manager and administrative responsibilities and the finances of a very large educational institution. And of course he brings all his personal leadership style and personal intelligence to the new position.

I think, given the nature of that bank, and what the bank tried to do, I think he has a very good background for being the top executive at the bank.

As a follow up, could you tell us about the goals Mr. Jim Yong Kim has defined as primary for his work as president of the WB? Is it there any task, or project, or research, in which Dartmouth take part in support of some of these expressed goals?

I don’t know of any specific programs from Dartmouth that will be connected to the World Bank. I’m sure many of us will hold communications with president Kim. But I don’t think there’s any specific plan to connect the school with the bank’s work. Not in any way that I know.

I’m sure he might be now reviewing the strategy at the World Bank, and will have eventually statements to make about that, but no connections that I know of between Dartmouth and the WB.

How about the other way around? Is the planning of the faculty members and the student research lineup at Dartmouth somehow are inspired on the goals and priorities of organizations like the WB? It responds somehow to the goals and demands of global insitutions like that? Or are the academics and students researcbing based on individual curiosities and interests?

I think certainly during the last 10 or 20 years students at schools like Dartmouth, and Tuck specifically, and at other schools of that kind, have more and more been interested on societal issues. They are concerned about ethics, about government policies, business and society. They are concerned about sustainability and human welfare and and healthcare.

I would say that there’s much more concern, as an institution, with social issues shared by the populations around the world. There are many world centers that catch up on that and many universities including Darden have many more courses being offered along those lines. Surely, jim kim while he was here always emphasized that world problems were the students’ problems.

Yet the students have to think in terms of how to contribute to the solution of the problems of the world. I understand that is a major theme on most campuses. And of course, not every faculty member specializes on these issues, many of them will never deal with these issues, specializing on very specific pieces of sociology, finances. But many many of them are contributing to the big picture, they certainly are part of the projects and the teaching.

I would say that universities, compared to 20 years ago, have many more locations where students are looking at social issues, globally and locally. There’s never been more of it. So I don’t see that the university is that much of a stretch in terms of philosophy from an organization like the WB which exclusively is helping emerging countries and underdeveloped economies.

Andrew Scott, profesor of Economics at the London B-School, who also serves at the FSA, stated that professionals like himself are not as influential on political decision making when it comes to economic issues, but in fact politicians may decide under totally different bases and pressures. Do you think is a contradiction that Mr Kim might have in mind and he will try to work to overcome as president of the WB?

The universities certainly have many forums and structures where politics and policies are discussed. I would say that if you look at all of visitors and all of people that make speeches and come into classes, policy and government are very much, maybe the most, popular topic. Rarely a visitor comes without mentioning anything about politics.

In business, law, and economics, sociology, and those fields, government policy is extremely important. For instance, we have a master degree on healthcare at Dartmouth. Much of it is about interpreting government policy on healthcare. People have opinions about all this.

And to answer the more general question, university professors are called on very often as expert to comment about policies, and different aspects, everything from supreme court decisions to global warming, from outcomes of trials to economic forecast, and unemployment. So, all of our professors, any of them, are called on daily, weekly, monthly, to comment, to write editorial pieces, and offer commentary on foreign policy.

That is a very healthy thing, I think that it is a ery common form of discussion, in political circles, in the press. The expert literacy, commentaries, analyses, consultants, are very often called to provide insight.

I think it’s something you see everywhere. And someone like Kim, working in the WB, and very knowledgeble about the work at big universities like Harvard and Dartmouth, I’m sure he’ll be consulting and discussing a lot with many academics.

How far that influence can reach? If professor are in fact called on many times, why are decisions are made for the worst, sometimes? Let’s take the notion that financial deregulation does not lead to a healthy management of the banking sector, and though legislation progressively allowed deregulation. How far has this influence can reach? The influence of expert academics how much can impact on government decisions?

There’s influence, and there’s the intention to make it count. However, it does not always work the best possible way. There is lobby from every side of every issue. And academics play a role, but they’re not the sole voice. I think though academics could play a bigger role because academics do have a questioning attitude, I think questioning assumption, and being very careful about what a model can or cannot do, it’s a very important attitude of leadership. I would say that probably the academics, scholars, should be called on even more.

Number 1, they’re usually pretty objective, and number 2, they are very questioning, a critical aspect of leadership and sometimes you don’t get that with CEOs or politicians because they are very forceful when they try to make their point across, without allowing enough negative discussion.

Again, the sense that anyway you can create disfunction on the popular opinion is healthy and academics could play a stronger role.

Now, you don’t want to bring in an academic if all you want to do is get your way. So often, academics are not included on boards, or panels because they have very independent opinions. I think having independent, skeptical voices, is extremely important.

There was debate around his appointment as president, because it did not considered the candidacy of some other influential economies representatives. Could you comment on how this debate was shaped or had echoed at Dartmouth, for instance, or inside relevant institutions in the USA?

There was some talk about it. but the people here know him very well and think he’s very apt for the job. Good leader, very strong, forceful, have tremendous background, has worked in many countries. As member of an ethnic minority, he has also very good sensitivity towards the very cultures the bank works with. So i think he’s very good choice, and he will bring very nuanced understanding of many countries. He has a very unusual background.

Mr. Jim Yong Kim is a physician, and he’s Asian-American. As such he has been the 1st Asian-American president of an Ivy-League institution. Could you comment how Mr. Kim Yong assumed that fact, and whether his presidency tried to promote and foster diversity among students and faculty?

I think he was very strong on diversity among students. He always was open to discussion on what all parties had to say, but had very strong statements on what kind of educational institution we should be, with no discrimination and opportunities for people of all kinds, including economically disadvantaged people. I think that it is a very strong feature of his.

In particular, regarding Tuck, it has to be touched by the debate related to the need of diversity among business students, as long as it helps to open vision and knowledge of other cultural backgrounds, and it will result in diversity among executives. Is there any policy or regulation in Tuck securing diversity among students in the MBA programs?

We have in fact many programs fostering diversity of many kinds. It is a very important feature of our work. We care about gender diversity, racial diversity, global diversity. Our faculty is very diversed as well.

In terms of our programs, they are probably the biggest of all programs in minority entrepreneurship. The fact is that we have many programs aiming to this. I think diversity is key element of Dartmouth and Tuck.

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