Five members of the Yale administration and faculty will hobnob with top business, political and non-profit leaders at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week.
Yale President Richard Levin, Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer, and professors Robert Shiller, Ernesto Zedillo and Dan Esty will participate in the five-day event, during which world leaders will discuss various issues pertaining to the theme of the forum, “The Shifting Power Equation.”
The University typically sends a delegation to the forum, which will be attended by over 2,000 individuals from all continents. Levin said the forum, in addition to boosting Yale’s international reputation, provides a good environment for meeting potential donors with whom the University might not yet be in contact.
But the event is not all business, Shiller said. The forum can be a fun social mixer for the world’s leadership and intelligentsia, he said.
“It’s like a big vacation,” Shiller said. “You meet all sorts of people. If you go to the congress center where the meetings are, you just mill around with all kinds of people that you’ve known before or seen in the newspaper.”
One of Levin’s primary goals as co-chair of Saturday’s forum of global university leaders will be to discuss the need for the world’s universities to be more environmentally friendly, he said.
“We’ve taken perhaps the most aggressive stance on this issue of any of the other leading universities,” he said. “I will be urging the other universities there to follow this lead.”
While the forum is wide in scope and serious in nature, some of the titles of the individual discussions show that even world leaders can have some sense of humor. Shiller, an economics professor who has a worldwide reputation for his bearish outlook on the stock market, is participating in a forum called “Housing Deflation: What’s that Hissing Sound?” But for him, the housing situation is no laughing matter, he said.
“The housing market situation is maybe the biggest threat to the economy going forward,” he said.
Zedillo, the former president of Mexico, will be participating in the university leaders forum with Levin. Esty, a law professor who specializes in environmental issues, will participate in discussions about the viability of environmentally friendly policies in the corporate world. Lorimer will attend forums on the future of education.