Davos Conference Attracts Harvard Faculty

More American Profs Attend Davos Conference

The World Economic Forum’s conference in Davos, Switzerland welcomed unusually large delegations from many universities, including Harvard, which sent a number of senior administrators and well-known professors.

University President Drew G. Faust was joined by Harvard Kennedy School Dean David T. Ellwood, Harvard School of Public Health Dean Julio Frenk, and Graduate School of Design Dean Mohsen Mostafavi at the conference last weekend, which ended on Sunday.

“Harvard is working hard to have a global orientation, which I think is terrific,” Ellwood said. “Davos is one element of that whole process—the presence of three deans and the University President is an indication of how seriously we take our opportunities to expand our global focus.”

This year, Faust resumed traveling in her official capacity as University President after the economic turmoil of the past year subsided. Faust became the first Harvard president to visit the continent of Africa and will also spend spring break in Asia, where the Business School has established its first classroom abroad in Shanghai.

Many professors with various specialties also made an appearance at Davos.


On Friday, Harvard faculty members held their own discussion panel at the conference, focusing on issues in healthcare. Panel members included such notables as Ellwood, Frenk, School of Public Health professor David E. Bloom, Design School professor Toshiko Mori, and Harvard Business School professor Michael E. Porter, along with Faust.

Donald E. Heller, director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education at Pennsylvania State University, said he noticed that American universities in general—such as MIT, Yale, and Harvard—seemed to have a larger presence at Davos than usual. He attributed     this phenomenon to an overall shift of attentions toward the international community.

Patricia E. Richards, a spokesperson at MIT, also noted that MIT’s faculty presence was larger than usual.

“MIT has been going to Davos since the start of the conference,” Richards said. “It seemed to me that we sent more faculty than we ever have.”

Founded in 1971, the World Economic Forum hosts several conferences every year, including its flagship event in Davos where business political, and academic leaders are invited to discuss pressing global issues. This year, the conference focused on topics such as health care, climate change, and the state of the world economy.

According to Ellwood, the annual conference had a “cautiously optimistic” flavor this year, as world economies appear to have stabilized, but participants remain concerned about the months to come, particularly regarding actions taken by expanding governments.

“There’s a great sense of uncertainty,” Ellwood said.

—Staff writer Tara W.  Merrigan can be reached at