A Student Perspective on a Global Network Course on Globalization

April 17, 2017

Rebecca Van Roy LSE ’17 writes about her experience in the Global Network Class "The End of Globalization?"—and looks forward to getting former Secretary of State John Kerry's view.

This semester, Yale SOM’s David Bach led a virtual Global Network Course titled “The End of Globalization?” which examined the causes and consequences of the recent wave of nationalism, populism, and anti-globalism around the world and its impact on business and society. On April 20, in a session at the Global Network for Advanced Management Fifth Anniversary Symposium, students will present their findings and a panel of experts, including former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, will lead a discussion of the future of globalization and the implications for business and management education. Watch the discussion and other symposium events.

Rebecca Van Roy, a student at the London School of Economics, writes about the rare opportunity presented by the course and the discussion with Kerry.

The 2016 U.S. presidential elections triggered emotions I had not felt for years. In 1998, Venezuela, where I’m from, elected a populist president who, like U.S. President Donald Trump, ran a campaign based on anti-establishment sentiments. Countries like Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Nicaragua followed suit, and I began to wonder about the extent to which the benefits of neo-liberalism were really reaching the general population. Systematic research on the possible “end of globalization” was not taken seriously, at least not by many of the Western drivers of today’s political-economic order. But now Brexit in the UK and Trump have shaken faith in the conventional wisdom and have many asking, “Is this the end?”

In early January, when I heard about the Global Network for Advanced Management course “End of Globalization?” taught by David Bach at the Yale School of Management, I was in the middle of writing a long to-do list of assignments for my second term at LSE. But I could not miss the opportunity to delve into the changes I have been experiencing for the last decades, first growing up in Venezuela, and now as a student in the UK. This was my chance to go beyond the headlines, to go beyond the availability and confirmation biases we all unfortunately harbor. 

Fast-forward three months, and here I am at Yale for the Global Network’s fifth anniversary. On Wednesday, April 19, I will be meeting LSE students who are currently in an exchange term at Yale SOM to enter an LSE-wide submission for the “Future of Globalization Insight Competition.” We will be looking into indicators collected while in this course in search of statistically significant correlations to answer three questions: (1) What is driving the anti-globalization sentiment? (2) How can businesses navigate these sentiments? (3) What is the future of globalization? We want to break through the noise, follow what the numbers are telling us, place them in context, and communicate them in plain English. 

For a student in a program heavy on statistical and computer modeling, the contest offers an exceptional opportunity to apply the management science techniques I have learned during the course. Adding to this experience, Professor Bach recently announced that we will have the opportunity to showcase our insights for former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who will lead the panel of judges for the competition. I could not be more grateful to meet Secretary Kerry and hear his views on our work. But beyond our contest submissions, I want to hear about what he considers our role to be, as future business leaders, in finding opportunities in the current contradictions we are seeing play out—especially opportunities that will help those who have been at the losing end of globalization. I look forward to hearing his thoughts on how business and policy can come together in the light of the growing populist and nationalistic waves. Last, I am curious to hear how shifts in technology, with the advent of automation and artificial intelligence, pose challenges in what I consider one of the main drivers of anti-globalization—increasing inequality and lack of opportunity for those without access to education. 

Coupled with the upcoming contest, what I have most appreciated about the Global Network course is that it rejects a binary response to “is this the end of globalization?” There is no “yes” or “no” or “right” or “wrong” answer. Instead, in the form of several tiny faces in our computer or phone screens, nearly 30 of us have been coming together twice a week from across the world to discuss the extreme complexity of the changes that we are seeing and the difficulty to organize and evaluate them. We challenge each other’s preconceived views of what globalization even means and how it is changing because, in a sense, we each signed a tacit contract when we joined the course, saying, “No one person holds the truth or ‘a better’ answer, so we are here to be open to each other’s points of view as global citizens representing over 20 nationalities.” 

Wherever the future is headed, I am certain that through our collaboration at the Global Network, we will move closer to understanding its complexities and, in turn, propose and implement better solutions. Beyond this course, I think we could all get even closer if more people subscribe to this tacit contract that is at the very core of the Global Network.