Prominent Kennedy School of Government (KSG) professor Robert Z. Lawrence has been nominated to the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) by President Clinton, and is currently awaiting confirmation by the Senate.
Lawrence, who is Williams Professor of International Trade and Investment at KSG, is currently on leave from the University and working in Washington, D.C.
In what he called "an amusing wrinkle," Lawrence's CEA predecessor, Jeffrey A. Frankel, resigned from the CEA in March--the month when Lawrence was nominated to the council--and has just accepted a professorship in international finance at the Kennedy School.
Frankel said that the coincidence extends even farther than the pair's trade of posts: Frankel now occupies the New Century chair at the Brookings Institution, a position Lawrence once held.
Frankel will take on his position as the Harpel Professor of Capital Formation and Growth in the fall.
Lawrence and Frankel both say they are excited for their new roles.
His experience in Washington has been a busy one, Lawrence said.
"I've been here for a couple months, and it's fun, but it's a little like being dropped into a whirlwind," he said, explaining that the White House process for confirmation is lengthy.
"The White House investigates you, the FBI investigates you, until they're finally happy," he said.
Lawrence has already satisfied those investigations, the president has signed his nomination and the Senate's final approval is still forthcoming, according to Lawrence.
Lawrence declined to comment on how long he anticipated waiting for his final approval, but Frankel said the entire process from nomination to approval has, in recent years, taken about a year to complete. In Frankel's case, approval came nearly eight months after his nomination.
If approved, Lawrence will join CEA Chair Janet L. Yellen, who served as an assistant professor at Harvard in the 1970's, and CEA member Rebecca M. Blank, an economics professor on leave from Northwestern University.
Lawrence's duties as a member will include researching CEA activities in certain fields, representing the Council at meetings with other agencies, and working with the CEA chair to formulate economic advice.
Lawrence said has already begun to work with Yellen and Blank in areas such as international economics, international trade, finance and the environment, including researching issues like how to persuade developing countries to actively counteract greenhouse gases.
In the past week, Lawrence said he has met with Japan's prime minister and Japanese sub-cabinet officials to discuss some of these issues.
Stanfield Professor of International Peace Robert D. Putnam, who appointed Lawrence while he was dean of KSG, said he is proud to have recruited Lawrence, whom he calls "a splendid international economist and local colleague."
"It speaks well of the CEA that they have attracted someone of his talent and open-mindedness," he said.
Lawrence says if he receives confirmation, he will continue to take time off from his professorship at the Kennedy School.
"I anticipate being here [in Washington] until the end of the [Clinton] administration," he said.
Frankel, nominated to the CEA by Clinton in 1996, said he is looking forward to settling into his new position at the Kennedy School. He will move to the Cambridge area July 1.
Putnam said he is very pleased that Frankel has accepted the offered professorship. "I...tried unsuccessfully to recruit Frankel [when dean of KSG] and I'm delighted that Dean Nye succeeded where I failed," he said.
He called Frankel an "outstanding technical economist...who is also intelligently sensitive to the political and social context within which economic policy must be made." "His arrival will give great added strength in an absolutely vital field," he added.
Frankel seemed to be equally enthusiastic about returning to an academic environment after taking several years leave from the University of California--Berkeley, where he held an economics professorship and served as director of the Center for International and Development Economics Research.
"It's very exciting," he said. "[KSG Dean] Joseph Nye is doing some very exciting things with the place, particularly in the areas I'm interested in," including macroeconomics, finance and international economics.
His specific research interests, as described on his Berkeley Web page, include "the globalization of financial markets, the workings of the foreign exchange market, international macroeconomic policy coordination, regional trading blocs, trade and growth in East Asia, and monetary influences on prices of agricultural and mineral commodities."
Frankel said his wife, Jessica Stern, will become a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School when he assumes his professorship.
Stern, a specialist in national security, is a staff member of the president's National Security Council.
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