Office Hours with Drew University’s Jennifer Olmsted

Examples of economic globalization amid COVID-19

July 2021 – This summer, we’re spending time in office hours with some of Drew University’s amazing faculty to learn about what interests and inspires them and their research.

Today, we’re talking with Jennifer Olmsted, Professor of Economics.

What’s a subject that fascinates you?

Economic globalization. As difficult as the past year has been, I was inspired by how the global community came together to fight COVID-19.

Give us an example of economic globalization.

Fun fact for folks to ponder—international migration played a huge role in our ability to quickly develop a vaccine. The Moderna team, while housed in the U.S., includes individuals born and educated in France, Spain, Italy, and Israel. The Trump administration relied on expertise from a Moroccan-Belgian expatriate. The parents of the two scientists at the forefront of the Pfizer vaccine development had migrated from Turkey to Germany in the 1960s. The pandemic provides an excellent illustration of how complex the links between globalization and public health are.

Is there something specific you’ve been keeping an eye on?

I’ve been watching—with increasing concern—the globalization-related challenges facing Lebanon. At least 20 percent of their residents are refugees, including those from Palestine, Iraq, and Syria, and it’s likely that figure is severely underestimated. Between the strain of absorbing multiple waves of refugees, the damage inflicted by the Beirut port explosion last year, and the pandemic, Lebanon is currently experiencing an economic collapse, which pains me greatly having grown up in beautiful Beirut.

How do you bring this topic into the classroom?

My students and I discuss examples like these all the time, particularly in my course on the global economy. It helps connect the coursework to the real world by providing timely, relevant links to current events.

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