Travel news: A tale of three universities 1

My recent trip to the US involved visiting 3 of their major universities. I attended a conference on Investment Incentives at Columbia University, met with a senior Prof in International Relations at the University of Chicago and also attended a workshop on international trade at UCLA.Chigaco

Columbia is situated in Morning side just north of the Upper Westside of New York. It is easily accessible via the metro. The campus is fully integrated into the cited and spread across many city blocks. You have to dodge traffic and cross busy streets to move about on the campus. Many buildings might have been office blocks in any city area.

I reached the Law School for my first meeting with the Vale Columbia Institute of Sustainable International Investment without passing through any security. Although the institute has many senior figures the principal spokesperson is Lisa Sachs the daughter of Jeffrey Sachs the well-known Economist.

It was striking how young the team is and that they are backed by a couple of senior Professors that are passed retirement age, who is tasked with keeping it academic. The entire institute is fairly open and accommodating. Staff members are keen on networking and furthering cooperation in research on FDI. The criterion is always just how relevant your research is and the quality needs to fit in with the team.

One never got the Ivy League feel, no haughtiness or any aloofness, just plain “Let work together”.

The University of Chicago is situated in suburban South East Chicago. It spans an enormous area and the buildings remind of Oxford and Cambridge. Prof Charles Lipson is a jack of all trades in international relations that currently focuses on teaching first year politics. He has about 120 students but his classes have attendance of 300 or more. Students from other faculties attend for the lively discussion and insights.

He pointed me in my research to never forget the fundamental question: Will FDI in Africa and the current growth phenomenon, filter to the broader population and is it sustainable?? The rest of the discussion was about Obamacare and the threat of over control from the central government, the enemy of the watchmen state, namely Washington.

Chicago owns its very existence to free markets and trade. There was no accident that this was the doctrine of the “Chicago Boys” that brought about the economic revolution of the 1980?s and 1990?s. Nowhere is the story of capitalism so entrenched than in Chicago. It has all the great successes to show, but the under belly is never far away. From Oprah to the Willis Tower there is opulence all over, however I have never seen so many beggars and homeless people anywhere in the developed world.

It seemed more than a world away when, after a pit stop in Vegas, I arrived at UCLA or by lesser known name the University of California Los Angeles. The main campus is in Westwood that is bordered by Century City, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills. It is by far the most beautiful University campus I have ever seen. The main section consists of buildings in the Spanish colonial style, with wide open lawns throughout.

Once again there were little or no barriers in getting to my destinations, Floor 9 of Bunce Hall. What was remarkable was how open people were and that they considered me to be one of them until I pointed out that I was from half way across the globe.

Their approach to research is very clinical and strongly theoretical. This was a more competitive environment with a strong focus on outputs and publicity, none of the ideology of Chicago or the multidisciplinary approach of New York.

It was also noticeable that most of the students were either Asian or Latin, as opposed to both the multi-ethnic feel of both Chicago and New York.

It was three different worlds, what a privilege. We can learn so much if we want to. I have only one question: When can I go again??

-Henri Bezuidenhout

December 2013

One comment

  1. Pingback: The best of 2013 « Skool vir Ekonomie

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