Fifteen HWS students currently studying abroad in Geneva, Switzerland, recently traveled to the alpine setting of the Swiss Alps, but the purpose of the trip was not to observe the incredibly beautiful scenery. Instead, the students attended the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, where they were given the opportunity to interact with many noteworthy World Economic Forum members and world leaders.
Each year, the World Economic Forum opens its doors to the public for an Open Forum that is held in conjunction with the Annual Meeting. This year, Craig Rimmerman, professor of public policy studies and political science, arranged for his students to attend the forum titled “USA: What’s Next After the Elections?”
The panel focused on the importance of the 2008 presidential election and the job and influence of the United States in the world, militarily, economically and culturally.
“What I thought was most wonderful is that students had an opportunity to hear people talk about the role that the United States plays in the world from a truly international and often critical perspective as a result of attending the Davos Open Forum,” said Rimmerman. “It was an eye opening experience for us all.”
Speakers included Robert Portman, former Republican Congressman from Ohio and U.S. Trade Representative; Howard Dean, former Vermont Governor and current chairman of the Democratic Party; Robert Edgar, CEO and President of Common Cause; Olaf Gersemann, a deputy business editor from Germany; and Ayatollah Dr. Mahdi Hadavi President and Founder of Porch Wisdom Institution from Iran.
The event allowed panelists to share their opinions on various issues, such as how the situation in Iraq will influence the United States elections and the impact on the future of United States foreign and economic policy.
At the end of the Open Forum, the HWS students were given the opportunity to converse with the participants, a focal point of the day. Keegan Prue ’09 spoke with both Robert Edgar and the Ayatollah Hadavi.
“The chance to speak to the Ayatollah was particularly memorable because it is a rare opportunity to interact with an influential leader from Iran,” said Prue. “Given the difficult relationship the United States has with Iran, it was very interesting to hear his perspective”
Only weeks into their semester abroad, many of the students agree that it would be impossible to choose a highlight of their global education program, but this unforgettable experience certainly ranks near the top.
“Up to this point in the program, the Open Forum has definitely been the most exciting and memorable aspect of the trip. We were able to travel, as well as focus in on the core of the Geneva, Switzerland program- public policy,” said Virginia Cannon ’09. “Having the privilege to witness this open discussion is not only a highlight of the program, but of my overall experience at Hobart and William Smith.”