From deploying students to helping Proctor and Gamble introduce
new products in Latin America to sending students to teach
companies about NATO, the William Davidson Institute has placed
more than 1,400 students in business projects since its inception
The institute has been under the direction of Jan Svejnar since
1996 and has evolved from studying emerging markets in Central and
Eastern Europe to looking at such markets worldwide. Moreover, it
attracted former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright two years
ago to become the institute’s first “distinguished
But after eight years as director of the institute, Svejnar will
step down at the end of this month because a rotation of the
position is necessary, he said.
Beginning on May 1, current associate director Robert Kennedy,
who came to Michigan from Harvard University in September, will
assume the position of director. The institute will continue to
focus on its global projects initiative, executive education,
technical assistance and research.
Like the University of Michigan Alumni Association and the
University Musical Society, the WDI is legally separate from the
University, though they institute has very close ties, Svejnar
Through its global projects initiative, the institute created
and manages three research options within the Business School,
including the International Multi-disciplinary Action Project.
Every year, more than 200 graduate students from all disciplines
research issues and provide recommendations to companies and
countries involved with emerging or transitioning markets.
With WDI’s help, MBA student Praveen Suthrum co-founded
the Experimental Multi-disciplinary Action Project.
“Twenty-one students spent four months in 10 locations
where their research focused on the bottom of the economic
pyramid,” Suthrum said, adding that he spent last semester in
Washington adapting his project to Iraq. The research the students
did will be compiled into a book, which will be published later
Along with a partner, Suthrum co-created an eGovernance model
for emerging markets in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh and
worked with the government there.
Suthrum and his colleague applied that model to Iraq while they
were in Washington. With the help of the WDI, they were able to use
the institute’s office as well as its other resources in the
area, he said.
“Personally, the Davidson institute was very willing to
connect me with different individuals in D.C. It was a good
jumpstart,” Suthrum said.
In his project, MBA student Jose Arredondo worked with the
International Finance Corporation, a World Bank division. The IFC
wanted to create a global business school network in Africa, so
Arredondo and others audited 24 graduate and business schools in
seven African countries. They then recommended which schools the
IFC should get to join the network.
“It’s a great opportunity because you get to put all
the concepts and theory you learn in the first year and a half into
practice,” Arredondo said.
Among the institute’s other efforts, the executive
education focus helps managers from more than 100 companies acquire
the skills necessary to work in developing countries, Svejnar said.
Through technical assistance, the institute helps business schools
around the world and provides other institutions with its expertise
on emerging markets.
The institute’s concentration on research involves the
participation of nearly 40 faculty members from the University as
well as an additional 130 faculty members from all over the world.
This effort results in about 100 analytical research papers every
year, Svejnar said.
These efforts give the institute its expertise in emerging
markets in developing nations.
“We are a premier think-tank that creates new findings and
disseminates them all over the world,” Svejnar said.
The non-profit WDI was established with a financial commitment
from the Guardian Industries Corporation in Auburn Hills. The
institute was named after the corporation’s founder, William
Davidson, who graduated from the University in 1947. Davidson is
also the majority owner of the Detroit Pistons.
“Emerging markets in Eastern and Central Europe were the
impetus of why William Davidson provided funds,” Svejnar