Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is visiting campus this week. A distinguished scholar at the Business School’s William Davidson Institute, Albright gave opening remarks yesterday at a panel discussion on the Argentine debt crisis and will give a keynote address to Business School alums on the situation in Iraq on Friday.
Since her term began in September 2001, Albright has been praised by those affiliated with her work on campus.
“It’s been an unqualified success,” said Brent Chite, managing director of the William Davidson Institute, of Albright’s term thus far. “We’ve been very pleased with the outcome. We are grateful … to have her talents and energy at the institute.”
Chite credited Business Prof. B. Joseph White, former interim University President and Business School dean, with helping bring Albright on board last year. Negotiations over the specifics of the position “took several months. It was back-and-forth. Generally for something that was new to both of us … (the negotiations) really weren’t overly complex or difficult,” Chite said.
Officials at the institute hope to extend her term, which is due to expire next year. Jan Svejnar, executive director of the institute, explained that Albright is required to visit Ann Arbor three times a year during her term.
“It really is a very good fit for both of us. We’ve had a great relationship with her,” Chite said.
Aside from the institute, Albright has no ties to the University. She was asked to take a position because, as Svejnar noted, “she is complementary to us. She has strength in policy and political aspects.”
The Business School’s William Davidson Institute was established in 1992 and is named after a 1947 Business School alum. It was founded after the fall of the Berlin Wall with a $30 million donation from Davidson, with an aim to focus on the transition economies of the former Soviet Union and its successor states.
Davidson made his endowment because “he wanted to increase the understanding of transition of former communist countries to democratic market economies,” Svejnar added.
Over the years, it has expanded its scope to include countries across the world, Svejnar said. At its annual conference in Washington last April, the subject of income gaps between poor and wealthy countries was examined.
“It’s the only institute that’s dedicated to transition and emerging economies,” Svejnar said.
There are currently 160 scholars with the institute. Many work at the University level, while others work at research institutes and some are policy-makers. University faculty members account for 40 members.
As for why Albright was selected to become a scholar, Chite said the institute was seeking a major public figure.
“We wanted somebody who would bring stature and recognition to the position and the institute. We set our sights high. We think it’s a validation of the work we do,” he said.