By Kirk Kardashian, August 2012
Published Aug 27, 2012
In a business environment increasingly mediated by governments, an understanding of public policy has never been more important for MBA students.
Matthew Slaughter, the Signal Companies’ Professor of Management and associate dean of the faculty at Tuck, has been fascinated by the intersection of business and public policy for as long as he can remember. His passion took shape as an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame, where he majored in economics in a program on philosophy, politics and economics. After earning his Ph.D. in economics at MIT in 1994, he joined Dartmouth’s economics department. While there, he served as a visiting scholar at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Federal Reserve System.
Slaughter’s list of accolades in the economics and politics of globalization is too long to mention here, but suffice it to say that he’s advised leaders at the highest levels of business and government, including the President of the United States.
Through out this experience, Slaughter noticed that globalization meant increases not only in international trade and connectivity, but also of governmental authority over how businesses grow, expand into new territories and even participate in capital markets. More than ever before, many corporations found themselves constrained by foreign political bodies they could barely understand, let alone influence.
Then along came the world financial crisis. Private banks and public corporations were nationalized. Central banks borrowed and printed massive amounts of money to stabilize economies and prevent total collapse. In short, governments became even more influential in the business world.
This is the reality MBA students must acknowledge. “It’s just wrong these days to think business leaders don’t need to have an understanding of the incentives and operations of national governments,” Slaughter says.
That’s why Slaughter has chosen to form and direct Tuck’s new Center for Global Business and Government, a resource for the Tuck community on the interaction of business and government in the global economy. Through a linked set of outreach, teaching, and research programs, the center will function in and out of the classroom to give MBA students and the practitioners of business and public policy a broad yet nuanced view of the challenges and opportunities of the modern economy.
We spoke with Slaughter to learn more about the center and his vision for its impact at Tuck and beyond.
What do you say to prospective MBA students who doubt they will interact with government in their career?
Many MBA students aspire to work in finance. That’s wonderful. How do you think Jamie Dimon, Lloyd Blankfein, and the other CEOs of the leading global finance companies spend their time these days? A large share of it is on regulatory-government issues. Some of the most existential questions for these finance companies right now are: How do governments and their citizens think about what we do, and what constraints are they going to place on the size and scope of our operations?
Or look at any global business in manufacturing or services trying to grow revenue in China. Surveys consistently show that three of the most important concerns for these businesses are market access, national treatment, and intellectual property protection. Those have much to do with the policies of the government of China.
These issues at the intersection of global business and national governments might not be something you deal with in your first job outside of business school, but for the large majority of those who imagine themselves being an executive in a large corporation, this will become more and more within their portfolio.
How might the center influence the MBA curriculum?
One of the important dimensions of the current strategic review for the school is whether there should be some sort of global experience requirement. Right now, every Tuck student must take Global Economics for Managers. There’s a sense that, while that’s a wonderful class, it’s in a classroom here in Hanover and that to learn things in a broader way that’s truly global, a lot of people learn best through direct experiences. We already have some electives like this, where students can go learn about the economics of the European Union at Instituto de Impresa in Spain, and mini courses called Learning Expeditions. The center will continue to support those efforts, and if Tuck decides it’s mandatory, the center would likely help the school scale up and enrich those offerings.
What kind of extracurricular education and outreach is the center planning?
In the past few years I’ve been able to bring people to speak and spend time at Tuck. People like Barney Frank, a key congressman in financial regulation, and Robert Zoellick, then president of the World Bank. He [Zoellick] spent a full day at Tuck, including delivering a talk to the entire community, meeting with students over lunch, guest teaching the class Economics of the Credit Crisis, joining a reception with the faculty, and dining with the deanery. That’s the type of thing I’m excited to expand through the center. We are launching a new speaker series, the Global Insights series, that brings business and government leaders to Tuck to help educate students in and out of the classroom.
How do you see the center serving Tuck students?
The center doesn’t own everything global at Tuck. The Center aspires to serve as a vehicle for thinking about how students globalize their MBA: What does it mean for them to really develop a global mindset, and what are things they can do while at Tuck to help them achieve that goal?