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Lunch at The Four Seasons with: Garrick Utley

Published by The New York Sun on 2005-09-26

Garrick Utley's epiphany about globalization came during a visit to the Shenzhen economic zone in China two decades ago.

"I recall saying to myself, 'My god, if this is what they're doing to manufacture products for export from just one region, just imagine what the Chinese could do with their vast hinterland,'" Mr. Utley said. "I then recognized that it wasn't only that the world was becoming one global village - what we were starting to see was thousands of global villages linked to one another through the process that we now call globalization."

It could be said that, at the time, he was prescient. Or it could be said that, as a renowned, globe-trotting television correspondent, Mr. Utley was simply being sharply observant. In the event, the playbook of the world economy pretty much followed the trajectory of Mr. Utley's projection.

Today, annual trade among the world's 191 nations is more than $17 trillion; markets are opening up in formerly closed societies, and the inchoate economic development that Mr. Utley saw on China's coastline has not only spread into the interior, it has transformed the Middle Kingdom into an economic superpower - one that Deutschebank, in a recent report, suggested may overtake America in less than 50 years.

"But how well do we understand globalization?" Mr. Utley said. "How focused are we on teaching students how to manage effectively across borders and cultures? What's increasingly required is not only management skills but also knowledge of - and sensitivity to - the politics, history, and, indeed, social anthropology of societies. There is often a divide between management and such other disciplines. Who's bridging that gap?"

It's being bridged by Mr. Utley himself through a new graduate program established by the State University of New York. Named after the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who was killed on September 11, 2001, the Neil Levin Graduate Institute of International Relations and Commerce seeks to integrate management and business skills with the study of international affairs at the master's-degree level.

The idea is to prepare young and mid-level American executives to do better business overseas. The idea also is to instruct foreign executives who might be posted to America to better understand business customs and procedures here.

Mr. Utley saw the Levin Institute as a natural extension of his successful career as a TV correspondent for NBC, ABC and CNN. For more than four decades, Mr. Utley traversed through scores of countries, reporting coups, earthquakes and disasters, winning prestigious awards and creating the image of the quintessential foreign correspondent with his mid Atlantic accent, impeccably tailored clothes, and the ubiquitous trench coat.

While not being an economics specialist, he nevertheless kept a sharp eye on business trends and how world markets were being transformed through globalization - the freer flow of capital, trade and people across increasingly blurred national boundaries.

But Mr. Utley's career change was driven not only by his fascination with globalization.

"Other than major crises like Iraq and the Southeast Asia tsunami, international coverage has largely disappeared from American TV screens," he said. "What I did as a TV journalist was no longer wanted in the market place," Mr. Utley said.

When he accepted an invitation from Governor Pataki and the SUNY board to become the Levin Institute's first president, Mr. Utley had scarcely imagined that within a few weeks a group of Chinese software managers would be sent by their government to the Levin Institute for a 16-week management course. Its staff scrambled to rent classrooms and hire faculty members.

Not only did he have to jumpstart the Levin Institute, Mr. Utley was forced to find real estate to permanently accommodate his own job, in effect creating the 65th campus of the 410,000-student SUNY system, one that would imprint SUNY on the global education system.

With the resourcefulness he'd displayed as a peripatetic TV journalist, and with his vast network of contacts in New York City - including at the Council on Foreign Relations - Mr. Utley found a well-located townhouse complex on East 55th Street. The price was right.

His timing was right, too. Several global forces were converging that would not only accelerate globalization but also require corporations, public institutions and nongovernmental organizations to adapt to greater competition.

For example, the World Trade Organization had eliminated all textile quotes, thereby emboldening third world nations to make strengthened forays into America. Trade barriers were being universally lowered. Technological advances were occurring at bewildering speed. American supremacy in software and hardware development was being increasingly challenged by Asian nations.

"Like any trained journalist would, I asked myself, 'What's the story?'" Mr. Utley said. "What would be our added value to business?"

The story was that virtually no institution in New York offered master's level programs that integrated business, management and international affairs. The story also was that American corporations hungered for such programs to help executives who'd need to do business in a clangorous global economy. And the story also was that foreign companies wanted their managers to get a better understanding of the American business world.

"At the Levin Institute, our objective is to enhance management across borders and cultures," Mr. Utley said. "And what better place for all this than New York - the business and media capital of the world, the world's most cosmopolitan city?"

Pranay Gupte,
Senior Writer and Global-Affairs Columnist

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