In another effort to improve its international profile, the Yale School of Management officially opened the International Institute for Corporate Governance yesterday. The research center, inaugurated by World Bank President Jim Wolfensohn, will be dedicated to studying corporate infrastructure and its relationship to the global economy.

SOM professor Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes will be the chairman of the new institute, and visiting SOM professor Ira Millstein will serve as the chairman of the center’s advisory board. Lopez-de-Silanes said the center will have strong connections with the Yale Law School, the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, and the Yale Center for International and Area Studies.

During the 15-minute inauguration ceremony, William Goetzmann, the director of the SOM International Center for Finance, presented Wolfensohn with the annual SOM International Center for Finance award. Past recipients of the award include Harvard President Lawrence Summers and investing guru George Soros.

“[Wolfensohn] embodies the heart of the mission of the SOM — equal emphasis on business and society,” Goetzmann said. “He’s made huge contributions to business, but more importantly, he’s been a voice for trying to get the First World to help the Third World.”

Prior to the ceremony, Wolfensohn gave a talk to SOM students about the importance of corporate governance and “reaching out to other parts of the world.”

Lopez-de-Silanes, who left Harvard Business School last year to start the center, said it will conduct empirical, data-based studies on a number of issues, ranging from labor laws to financial regulations.

Currently, the center is conducting a study on the function of different court systems around the world. Members of the institute surveyed courts in 110 different countries and have just finished a preliminary draft.

Goetzmann said he believes the center’s research agenda and its philanthropic mission have helped gain support not only from Yale professors, but from outside sources as well.

“Lots of important people are supporting this because they’re behind the issue of creating a genetic code of corporate laws around the world that will allow investment in developing nations,” Goetzmann said.

Although the majority of the work so far has been done by faculty members, Lopez-de-Silanes said he hopes to have more SOM students participate in the research activities by the summer.

Since only a few top business schools have corporate governance centers, Lopez-de-Silanes said he hopes SOM will be able to produce groundbreaking research that will have implications throughout the international business world.

“In the next five or 10 years, we’re hoping that when you say ‘corporate governance,’ you’ll automatically think ‘Yale,'” Lopez-de-Silanes said.

Although the center was only inaugurated yesterday, talks regarding the possibility of such a center began in October of 2000, when Lopez-de-Silanes visited SOM to give a talk. Since then, SOM Dean Jeffrey Garten and Millstein had taken significant measures to create the center and to lure Lopez-de-Silanes away from Harvard.

Lopez-de-Silanes said the decision to leave Harvard and turn down offers at other top business schools was a tough one, but that he believes he has made the right choice. In particular, Lopez-de-Silanes cited SOM’s rise to greater prominence as a reason for choosing to come to New Haven.

“The School of Management is clearly in the upswing right now,” Lopez-de-Silanes said. “Now it’s regarded as one of the top five and the quality of colleagues is totally competitive with Harvard and Stanford.”

“So it’s a happening place, and I’m very excited to be a part of the movement,” he added.