Episode #47: In this episode, Sean chats with our very own, Dean Ann Harrison of the Haas School of Business. She’s our 15th dean and a renowned economist who has dedicated her career to creating inclusive and sustainable policies in development economics, international trade, and global labor markets.
Dean Harrison talks about growing up between cultures and their influences in her career as an economist and lecturer around the world. Economics was not quite the typical background for somebody who wanted to make the world a better place, but this is where she started and continues to make her impact.
As an economist, she shares her thoughts on how we should continue opening up to global trade, while still protecting our most vulnerable. As our dean, she explains her vision for Haas, what she has been doing for the past year and a half, and her future plans.
Episode QuotesWhat we really should be thinking about is how do we train our workforce and protect them by investing in them through health and education investments in order to be able to face the future. Click To Tweet I believe that access to global markets is what really allows countries to grow and to become successful. Click To Tweet I like to summarize my vision for Berkeley Haas in three words – innovation, inclusion, and sustainability. Click To Tweet
[00:00:00] Sean: Welcome to the OneHaas podcast. My name is Sean Li, and today, we’re joined by our very own Dean Ann Harrison of the Haas School of Business. She’s our 15th dean and a renowned economist who has dedicated her career to creating inclusive and sustainable policies in development economics, international trade, and global labor markets. Welcome to the podcast.
[00:00:20] Ann: Great to be here.
[00:00:23] Sean: So, Dean Harrison, I’m sure our listeners are just dying to hear and learn more about your background. You know, we know so much about you from your speeches at Haas, but really, you know, we want to hear about your origin story.
[00:00:38] Ann: Okay. My origin story. Well, let’s see, my father grew up in the Bronx in New York City. And, went to all these wonderful public schools. He went to Stuyvesant, which is a great public high school. And then he went to Cooper Union, and then he decided he wanted to get a Ph.D. in chemical engineering.
[00:01:02] And armed with the GI bill, he was able to get his Ph.D. in France because he also wanted to learn to speak perfect French. And he went off to France and once a month he would go to the American embassy to collect his GI bill check, paid all his expenses, and there he met this nice French girl named Jackie Menez and they fell in love and got married and that’s how I ended up being a dual citizen. I was born in France. My first language was French. And so that’s my background.
[00:01:40] Sean: How long did you stay in France for? How long did you grow up there for?
[00:01:44] Ann: Not that long actually. I came here when I was two, but we were very connected to France. So, every other summer my mother would take us back to Brittany, which is in the North West of France. Traditionally a somewhat poor, heavily agricultural region. And we would go and spend every other summer there and sometimes we would go see relatives on the farms.
[00:02:09] And I remember one farm we visited with some relatives and I needed to use the bathroom and I asked where the bathroom was and they pointed to the fields, there were the bathrooms, go to the field, right? I had some relatives who raised cows and pigs and I had one relative with a chicken farm, you know, thousands of baby chicks; it was wild.
[00:02:34] Sean: Wow. And so, where did you guys live when you guys moved back to the States?
[00:02:39] Ann: We came directly here to the Bay area. I happen to know which is 15 minutes from Berkeley in the sixties. I would hang out with my parents on Telegraph Avenue in the sixties. And, we would visit Berkeley when I was a small child, so I’ve always known Berkeley ever since I was small.
[00:03:03] Sean: I’m really curious, you know, why your parents moved to the West coast, even though he is from the East coast originally, right?
[00:03:11] Ann: Yeah, that’s a great question. Before they got married, they try to stint on the East coast. In fact, they lived in New Jersey. My father is a chemist. He’s a research chemist. He worked for mobile and my mother absolutely hated the weather on the East coast. In fact, she just hated the East coast period.
[00:03:30] Eventually they went back to France. They had me, they had my brother and the East coast had not worked for them. And so, my father was offered a job at Chevron research in California and they decided to try California and they fell in love with it and never looked back.
[00:03:47] Sean: That’s amazing. So, you know, I’m starting to hear a little bit about the influences and what shaped you, the influence that shapes each and every one of us, especially our childhood. How’d you come to pick the field of economics?
[00:04:01] Ann: Yeah, that’s a great question. I would say economics for me was an accident. I think my interest in international issues clearly came from the fact that my mother was French and that I spent a lot of my childhood growing up between cultures and between religions too, cause my parents were different religions.
[00:04:22] So I was very outward focused, but economics was really an accident. What happened is, and this actually is part of my Berkeley heritage. When I was an undergraduate at Berkeley, I started off as a history major, and actually, I changed my major many times. I think I started off as a math major. And then eventually I made my way to history.
[00:04:43] Berkeley has a great history department, one of the best in the whole world, and I just loved it. I studied French history. But then one summer I did Cal in Sacramento. They had a summer internship program and I got to work for the speaker pro tem, in Sacramento. And I went there for the summer and all anyone talked about the entire summer was economics, that’s all that mattered. And suddenly I realized that I’d kind of missed the boat as to what really matters in the real world. History was fascinating, everything, but what the politicians in Sacramento really cared about was economics. I landed on a great professor named Richard such and fell in love with the field. So, I added economics as a second major.
[00:05:32] Sean: And what did you do with that degree after Berkeley?
[00:05:37] Ann: So, I thought I was going to become a lawyer and, you know, go and work pro bono and do all these things and save the world. I applied to 10 law schools and while I was applying to law school, I went and worked for Kaiser as a health economist. And then, one of my mentors at Berkeley named Leo Simon convinced me to try one or two PhD programs.
[00:06:04] So on a complete whim I applied to one or two Ph.D. programs, both Berkeley and Princeton, just two. And then what happened is, while I was working at Kaiser, I fell in love with working with data and doing research, really thinking about policy issues and data. And the previous summer, I’d also tried working for a lawyer in Oakland and I hated that.
[00:06:29] And then I got into all these law schools and I got into the economics programs, and then I had to decide what to do with the rest of my life. I know what to do. I had. I got into Yale law school, so I deferred Yale said, okay, I’ll come there in two years, for now, I’ll go to Princeton because they’re paying my way.
[00:06:57] So I checked the law, never went back and stayed as an economist, but it was a tough decision because
I was interested in making the world a better place. And I could see that a lot of people and certainly in politics have law backgrounds, right. And so, economics was not quite the typical background for somebody who wants to make the world a better place, but I started in economics and I love it. I find it fascinating.
[00:07:24] Sean: What was your Ph.D. dissertation on?
[00:07:27] Ann: So, my area of research is international trade. So, my dissertation was on how changes in different kinds of trade policy or trade regimes affect how firms behave and what happens to just normal working people. So, I’m interested in what firms do to deal with more competition from globalization, but I’m also interested in what happens to people who work in those firms.
[00:07:58] Sean: Hmm. That leads to a question that I had when I was looking through your background in international trade. And taking into context our current economic environment as a result of the pandemic and even prior to the pandemic, you know, we were seeing an increasing trend in global protectionism policies. What are some of the impacts that you foresee of such policies?
[00:08:33] Ann: Yeah, so it does look as if the trend towards being more open, more global has suddenly stalled. If you take as a measure of how global the world is if you take as a measure the share of trade in GDP which in a country like the United States is not that high, it’s around 20%, but in a very small open economy like Singapore, it could be Singapore’s whole economy is about trade. China’s very open to trade. So, if you look at what happened to that, it was quite low a hundred years ago and it went to a really low point during the 1930s when countries just shut off to each other and exacerbated all the problems that were going on.
[00:09:26] And then since World War II, we’ve gradually opened up and it’s been a very steady increase. And until about 2008, right before the financial crisis when the countries were as open as they’d ever been, very open to trade, China had just become incredibly open, US was steadily increasing as well, big sharp reduction 2008, 2009 full recovery, V-shaped recovering global trade. And ever since like 2012, 2013, kind of we’ve stalled and opening up to trade. And this pandemic is going to accelerate that. We’re seeing that countries, in particular, our country, has been imposing restrictions on other countries. And so what we’re seeing is a stalling, a reversal of this longterm trend towards being more open in global markets that basically started at the end of world war II.
[00:10:28] Sean: Do you see or do you feel that some of these actions or reactions of global protectionism policies as a correction of sorts where, you know, we needed to renegotiate some of our contracts to fix the trade imbalances?
[00:10:51] Ann: Well, I think it’s true that not all global players are playing fair, quote-unquote. And it’s true that we could have probably been more aggressive in our international negotiations globally in the past to try to maximize the gains for the US. Having said all that, however, I, like most international economists, do not believe that a correction was warranted.
[00:11:26] I actually believe that access to global markets is what really allows countries to grow and to become successful. And if you look at the last 50 years, the countries that have been most successful in climbing out of poverty and in reversing or reducing the number of people who are living in terrible poverty are those that basically took advantage of a more open global trading system, which is mostly countries in Asia.
[00:12:05] And so as someone who cares about the whole world, I truly do believe that we should continue to open up. Having said that, however, I also believe that we need to protect our most vulnerable.
[00:12:22] Sean: Hmm. And I’m really curious because you’re an economist and I really want to pick your brain on this is, I guess, is there a conflict of interests of opening up to the globe and preserving our domestic economy? Is there a conflict at all? Because the narrative makes it seem like there’s a conflict. Is it just that we are not thinking about the right economic policies domestically to, you know, be aligned with a more open global trade?
[00:13:08] Ann: That’s a really great question, Sean. And obviously, not everyone’s going to agree on what the right answer to that is.
[00:14:05] That’s true in everything we do. That’s true in, you know, technological change is going to eliminate way more jobs going forward than trade ever will. You know, most jobs I actually believe are not going to be lost because of China, but because of robots. And so, what we shouldn’t be thinking about is blaming some external factor.
[00:14:30] What we really should be thinking about is how do we train our workforce and protect them by investing in them through health investments and education investments in order to be able to face the future. That’s to me, the right conversation.
[00:14:51] Sean: Well, thank you for sharing that. I completely agree. I see it the same way. I just want to hear it from an economist. So, let me take a step back. You know, you’ve been lecturing, teaching all around the world, right. And some of the research topics and articles and books that you’ve written about are around what, you know, I like to call it, giving a voice the voiceless around, you know, anti-sweatshop policies, women, and minorities.
[00:15:29] I’m curious how much of your interest in these areas has led you to go teach around the world or, you know, did your interest increase as you travel the world and taught around the world and saw more problems?
[00:15:50] Ann: Yeah, I think you’re right. I think I was interested in basically making the world a better place for lack of, you know, it sounds trite, but it’s true. Ever since my early days as at Berkeley, as an undergraduate, I remember as a Berkeley undergraduate, I took courses in emerging markets on to go course on China.
[00:16:18] I took courses on Russia’s development or lack of development, and I just became fascinated with the question of how can we, why do some countries grow faster than others and why are some people wealthier than others? And so, I was just fascinated with that and I wanted to be able to contribute to global progress, I guess.
[00:16:50] And so I think it’s that kind of beyond yourself sentiment, which led me to study economics in which led me to go to the world bank and which led me to travel and do these kinds of global studies. It was more, what can I do that will be beneficial, thant was really motivating me. And that’s one of the reasons why in recent years, I’ve moved into working on environmental issues because I’ve, even though I was passionate about that from when I was a child, I think it’s even more important now than it was before.
[00:17:36] Sean: All right, let’s switch gears a little bit and, you know, talk about Berkeley Haas. You know, I think our listeners are really curious to hear as Haasies and Haasie alums, what your ideas and plans are for Berkeley Haas as our Dean.
[00:17:57] Ann: Yeah. So, I like to summarize my vision for Berkeley Haas in three words – innovation, inclusion, and sustainability. So, let’s start with innovation. We are at the epicenter of entrepreneurship and innovation in America, probably also in the world. And I really want to deepen both the academic offerings as well as co-curricular offerings in that area and take advantage of where we are.
[00:18:33] We’re already in a situation where our students are very involved in startup activities, in innovative activities. But I want to deepen that even more through offering more courses, through adding more professors, through more programming and throughout the offering about a physical space, a hub where our students at Haas can meet up with students and the rest of campus and on startup ventures. So, that’s the first area, innovation, entrepreneurship. Second area, inclusion. So, this has been a priority of mine for the last several years, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Even before I stepped foot on the Haas campus as the Dean a year and a half ago that neither Haas nor Berkeley look like the rest of California. We are not as diverse. We are not as inclusive as we could be. And so, we had a lot of work to do. We’ve done a lot in the last year and a half.
[00:19:39] We doubled scholarships. We doubled the percentage of underrepresented minority in our full-time program. We appointed a chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer who reports to me. We changed our admission criteria to make it more holistic, to make it emphasize more what you’ve done personally for furthering diversity goals.
[00:20:05] Well, we’ve done a lot of things, but there’s a lot more that we could do. My third area, focusing on sustainability, but it’s really broader. It’s really what I call leveraging the Berkeley advantage, taking advantage of all the strong aspects of the campus, of what Berkeley has to offer in terms of a great law school, a great school of public policy, a great school of public health and really doing more in terms of integrating our business school students with other programs. And I’ve been focusing on sustainability simply because this is an area that also has tremendous potential, but that has been in some sense neglected. So, for example, we have a great joint degree program with the school of public health.
The dean of the law school and I have just gotten together in the last year and a half and have really beefed up our joint degree program, which already exists, got some great joint programs with the engineering school. The one area where we should have more is in the area of sustainability because Berkeley in general is a real leader there.
[00:21:14] And so that’s why I’m really emphasizing that. But I think we have a lot of potential there in many areas. Now having said all that, these are my long-run goals. In the last three months we’ve had to pivot pretty dramatically because of the pandemic and really invest in remote learning. And so, in the short run, what we’re doing is we’re really thinking deeply about what can we do for our students to give them more of the best, the most engaging educational experience right now. And that is leading us to innovate in unexpected ways that weren’t initially part of our long-run agenda.
[00:22:09] Sean: No, thank you. Thank you for sharing. That is inspiring. I do have to ask, you know, to follow up on that, how do you personally manage stress and uncertainty as a leader?
[00:22:24] Ann: Yeah, so that’s really important. You can’t help others if you’re not helping yourself first right?
So, I think it’s extraordinarily important to take care of yourself, to, you know, get exercise, have outlets. You cannot work 24/7. You have to do other things that are really critical. You need a life.
[00:22:56] Sean: That’s really important. Yeah. And what message do you have for Haas leaders during these challenging times aside from, you know, making sure that they have a healthy life, work-life balance. I know this is really catered towards, you know, the graduates of this year.
[00:23:19] Ann: I think that Berkeley Haas really offers a unique educational experience, which allows us to be highly rigorous academics. And to be one of the most rigorous, challenging ones in the world so you understand exactly what it takes to come up with new financial instruments. You know what it takes to put together an ESG portfolio.
[00:23:47] You understand how to lead effectively. And on the other hand, you’re also equipped with a really strong moral compass, a sense of business going just beyond yourself where business isn’t just about the bottom line. It’s really about making the world a better place. And so, I think that Haas is able to take these two components, the mission, and the rigor, and package it into a really compelling educational experience.
[00:24:24] And I think that’s what’s really valuable.
[00:24:28] Sean: Amazing. I’m going to end the interview with some lightning round questions. Just fun stuff. This is a personal question. You know, all the places you’ve taught and lived in the world, I’m curious if you have a favorite place.
[00:24:44] Ann: There are two places in the world that I love. I love Berkeley, California. I just love it. It’s so amazing. I mean every day at six o’clock I turn my computer off, I get in the car and I go hike in a different part of the Berkeley in Oakland Hills. And you feel like you’re in the mountains, 10 minutes from your house, you’re surrounded by stately redwoods and there’s no one around except the birds.
[00:25:13] And you’re like, wow. Get so lucky. So, Berkeley, California. And I also really loved Paris. Paris is just the most magical place in the world. I love it.
[00:25:26] Sean: I had to follow that on, is there a particular neighborhood of Paris that you love? I love Paris.
[00:25:36] Ann: I really love the area around the Luxembourg Gardens. No, the sixth and the seventh, the on cell band, the student quarter, the . It just magical.
[00:25:54] Sean: Yeah. I can’t wait to go back. I was just there, actually, around this time last year. I took my family the first time my parents they’ve never been there.
[00:26:06] Ann: Beautiful city.
[00:26:07] Sean: Not only did they love the city, we love the food. The cuisine, French cuisine is just so amazing. And then I had remembered distinctly we were in the Louvre, on the bottom floor. And there’s this carving this wall to wall carving of, not called cupids, what’s the word for them? There’s a word for it, cherubs.
[00:26:34] Ann: Oh yeah. Okay.
[00:26:35] Sean: And my wife called me. She was here in the States and she was, we were heading over to Italy for our honeymoon.
[00:26:42] And so I took my family to Paris first. And then she was supposed to meet me up in Italy, you know, a couple of days afterward. And she called me the day before she left, while I was in the Louvre on the bottom floor, staring at these babies to tell me that she was pregnant.
[00:26:58] Ann: Oh! That was so exciting!
[00:26:59] Sean: I will never forget that moment.
[00:27:06] Ann: You must have a very young child, a three-month-old.
[00:27:10] Sean: He is, he’s five months.
[00:27:12] Ann: Wow. Congratulations.
[00:27:14] Sean: Thank you so much. Yeah, it’s a very exciting times. My wife’s a pediatrician, so it’s something that, you know, it’s good and it’s bad because, you know, she does, somewhat paranoid at times because she knows too much. But it’s exciting for me because I’ve decided to take this path down entrepreneurship again. I’ve always been an entrepreneur, you know, before Haas, having studied finance, you know, and graduate around 2007, 2008, the last downturn. I have this tendency to graduate around downturns and you know, but I just realized that with my son being born that I didn’t want to do investment banking.
[00:28:03] My heart was a hundred percent in entrepreneurship and I’m just really glad that I found something that I’m passionate about which is collecting and sharing people’s stories and ultimately the objective is to help, my personal mission statement is to help people connect in a meaningful way.
[00:28:23] And I truly believe this platform and sharing our Haasi stories will help people connect in a meaningful way. And as you know, I’ve already heard feedback. Students will reach out to another student just because they heard something that they would never read on a LinkedIn profile. Or resume, right?
[00:28:41] Like your love for hiking Redwoods. I mean, who would have known? That’s amazing. Do you have a favorite book article or digital content that you’ve enjoyed lately?
[00:28:55] Ann: So, I read a tremendous amount. I have lots and lots of books that I love. A book that I read in the last three months that I thought was really good, it’s called The Splendid and the Vile. And it is the story, it is a biography of Churchill’s first year in office under the blitz, when the Germans were bombing Britain and trying to get them to, you know, to what’s the word, surrender.
[00:29:34] Yeah. And it’s a really interesting, it was very interesting to read that during this period, because in some ways what we’re facing is war. And to see you get kind of the inside scoop on how Churchill approach this, how he found the courage to walk in London at night while the bombs were raining down right next to him. It’s very inspirational.
[00:30:06] And I found it really, actually surprisingly high number of parallels to what we’re facing right now, particularly as a leader. Very interesting.
[00:30:22] Sean: Do you have a favorite band or genre of music?
[00:30:29] Ann: I like all music.
[00:30:33] Sean: That’s I feel like that’s a cop-out answer. That’s what I would say. Cause I been on that.
[00:30:39] Ann: Well, I can tell you one of my favorites moments was in the Greek theater, listening to Santana when the sun was setting. That was really like when I think back about some of my happiest moments, listening to Santana in the Greek theater gotta be one of them. I also went to hear Joan Baez in Berkeley when, you know, when she was still performing. Actually, I went to here in San Francisco. Come to think of it. So now I’m really dating myself and I’ll be really embarrassed. I’m embarrassed to tell you that last summer I was also in Paris and I went to hear Earth, Wind, and Fire. There’s more me.
[00:31:30] Sean: And they had some great hits. So, speaking of which actually one of my most memorable moments was a concert as well at the Greek theater, right across, right behind Berkeley Haas.
[00:31:45] Ann: Yeah.
[00:31:46] Sean: So amazing. And it was very surreal because I mean, the artists performing, I went with a bunch of classmates on a Saturday after our Saturday cohort class, you know, eight hours of class, we went to this concert and who was performing, was this rapper named big Sean and this DJ named Zed. And it was a very odd mix because, you know, it’s two completely different genres of music, but it so happened that these, that I referenced in my Berkeley essay. You know, what is your favorite song? It was a song by Big Sean, called One Man Can Change The World. And my favorite DJ was Zed.
[00:32:31] And so to have them play back to back in the Greek theater, you know, right after class at Haas, it was just surreal.
[00:32:40] Ann: Mmm. Wow.
[00:32:41] Sean: So, I can’t wait to go back next May you know, when we have our commencement, to really just end things off in the Greek theater.
[00:32:53] Ann: Yeah, it’s a beautiful space. Beautiful venue.
[00:32:56] Sean: Yeah. Anyway, thank you so much, Dean Harrison for coming on the podcast. This was a thank you.
Ann: It was a pleasure!