CDE reflects on past 50 years with lectures, panels

Around 60 alumni from 30 countries converged at the College last week to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Center for Development Economics (CDE), the College’s one-year M.A. in economics program.

The CDE was founded in 1960 by Emile Despres, a professor of economics at the College at the time. The Center brings approximately 25 fellows from developing countries each year, most with a background in the public sector.

According to Professor of Economics Jerry Caprio, who also serves as the chair of the CDE, the week-long series of events was designed to “celebrate the CDE’s 50 years by doing what we do – help foster critical thinking in key policy problems, therefore the conference-like nature of the reunion,” Caprio said.

Tom Powers, director of the CDE, noted that the goal of the CDE celebrations was not only to engage CDE alumni substantively, but also to “make them feel more a part of all of Williams.”
To this end, the CDE events were open to the College at large, with several panels and lectures designed to incorporate undergraduate students.

These included not only the International Studies Colloquium given by Isaac Osei CDE ’77, a current MP in Ghana, but also a career panel co-sponsored by the Office of Career Counseling and the Log Lunch on Friday with Michele de Nevers, a senior manager in the Environment Department at the World Bank.
Ten panels and lectures attended by distinguished alumni and other participants marked the week’s events.

On Wednesday, a panel discussion titled “The CDE: Lessons Learned and Paths Forward” was held, followed by a panel on “Macroeconomic Reforms in Developing Countries: What Has Been Gained?”

Joseph Stiglitz, professor at Columbia University and the 2001 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, lectured on Wednesday and Thursday.

“The Stiglitz lecture was the best attended – we sold out the ’62 Center,” Caprio said.

Much of the audience consisted of students interested in studying economics.

“The CDE anniversary was a great time for undergrads and CDE students to not only celebrate the CDE’s history but also reflect on the current state of economics,” said Diego Flores ’11, who is also a TA for a CDE course.

“The lectures and panels were very interesting and relevant to how we think about the world,” he said. I enjoyed meeting the CDE alumni and the distinguished speakers.”

Thursday’s events included lectures such as “Whither the Washington Consensus? Perspectives on Development Strategy” and “The Financial Crisis of 2007-2009: Lessons from Developing Countries for the U.S.,” where CDE Fellows and Williams undergraduate alumni discussed different approaches to the financial crisis.

“This was particularly interesting because advice usually tends to go in one direction,” said Powers. “It was interesting to see that other parts of the world handled the crisis in other ways, sometimes with less damage than the U.S.”

On Thursday evening, Dani Rodrik, professor of international political economy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, also spoke during a lecture titled “Diagnostics before Prescription?”

Overall, Powers considered the 50th anniversary a big success.
“The CDE alumni felt engaged and demonstrated that they wanted to be more engaged,” he said.

“We were very pleased with the enthusiasm from all parts of the College, from President Falk and the trustees down to the Environmental Studies Department.”

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