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Kennedy School Leaders Attend World Economic Forum in Davos

Douglas Elmendorf, Dean and Don K. Price Professor of Public Service at the Kennedy School.
Douglas Elmendorf, Dean and Don K. Price Professor of Public Service at the Kennedy School. By Gigi M. Kisela
By Alexandra A. Chaidez, Crimson Staff Writer

Several Kennedy School professors traveled to Davos, Switzerland last week for the World Economic Forum, which focused in part on issues of gender and women’s empowerment.

Douglas W. Elmendorf, dean of the Kennedy School, attended, as did several other prominent Kennedy School leaders including Ashton B. Carter, director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and former U.S. defense secretary.

The World Economic Forum is a nonprofit foundation based in Switzerland that brings together thousands of politicians, economists, and academics to discuss international issues like global development and climate change. The 2018 Forum took place from Jan. 23 to Jan. 26.

“Dean Elmendorf, along with other members of the Harvard Kennedy School faculty, attended the Forum to contribute to thinking and ideas about how we can shape a better future for the world through better leadership and policies,” Kennedy School spokesperson Douglas L. Gavel said.

Elmendorf participated in a Facebook live broadcast with David R. Gergen, director of the school’s Center for Public Leadership, where the two discussed the role of the Kennedy School in promoting democracy worldwide, as well as the development of an executive education program. Gergen has traveled to the World Economic Forum since 1988, according to his research assistant, Gregory Honan.

The World Economic Forum, a gathering known for its elite status, generated controversy earlier this month after President Donald Trump’s dinner with the executives of drug companies Novartis and Bayer. Trump is the first sitting president in two decades to attend the Forum.

One Kennedy School lecturer who traveled to Davos, Jane Nelson, said that, while certain themes appear every year at the conference, this year had a particular focus on gender and the fourth industrial revolution.

“This year, clearly one of the stronger themes was gender,” Nelson said. “The whole question of women’s leadership, women’s economic empowerment, and gender parity was a very strong theme this year.”

She said it is important for academics, including those from the Kennedy School, to attend conferences like the Forum because they work with the Forum to perform surveys, deliver reports, and create dialogues through panels.

“Academics play a very vital role as knowledge partners, as learning partners, and on occasion provocateurs,” Nelson said.

—Staff writer Alexandra A. Chaidez can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @a_achaidez.

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