I am a German track member of the nationally-ranked Certificate of International Studies in Business Program (CISB) at the University of Washington Foster School of Business. I, along with 13 other CISB students, attended the 2011 Pacific Northwest Economic Conference thanks to the sponsorship of the UW’s Global Business and Canadian Studies Centers. The event was held on February 4 and 5, 2011 at the Hyatt Regency in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The PNEC conference was designed by undergraduates at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia. The aim was to bring together students, academics and business people to discuss common economic issues facing the Pacific NW and look at how the region can leverage its unique characteristics to fully participate in the global economy. Workshops covered such areas as technology, sustainability, natural resources, Asia Pacific trade, real estate development, and venture capital/entrepreneurship.
The conference began with a Friday evening dinner and networking event. The keynote speaker was Yoram Bauman, an instructor at the University of Washington who is self-described as “the world’s first and only stand up economist”. He is co-author of the Cartoon Introduction to Economics and has appeared in TIME Magazine, on PBS and NPR, and regularly appears at the Comedy Underground. The amazing views from the 34th floor only provided fuel for the conversation as we were given the opportunity to mingle and socialize with many of the students from colleges around the Pacific Northwest.
The following morning we heard from Egils Milbergs, Executive Director of the Economic Development Commission of Washington State. Appointed by Governor Gregoire in 2008, he is charged with developing a long term economic development strategy and making Washington State the most innovative region in the world.
After breakfast, we broke out into three groups to participate in breakaway sessions. I attended the “Technology” session, which was largely about the development in the technology sectors of the Pacific Northwest and specifically Vancouver. The speaker helped us make connections between the real world and the economic theories we’ve all studied. The second session was lead by Stephen Brown, President of the B.C. Chamber of Shipping. His informative speech was largely about international shipping between Vancouver and various ports in China.
The keynote speaker was Nolan Watson, a young Vancouverite who graduated from UBC. He described how he grew from having no work experience to obtaining a position as CFO of Silver Wheaton Corp at the age of 27, and what eventually drove him to quit the job. His insights into “work-life balance” rejected that theory; he worked nearly 100 hours a week to achieve the results he did. He talked frankly about the difficulties of living that lifestyle, and was unafraid to discuss the benefits as well. His insights were simple but powerful and he was incredibly motivating. After he finished his presentation and opened up for questions, the organizers of the PNEC made several closing remarks, and we headed home.
All in all, it was an incredible experience for many reasons. Besides having the opportunity to talk frankly with many successful people from all sorts of careers, attending an international conference aimed specifically at college students provided a great ‘stepping stone’ toward an international business career. Now I know what to expect from an international conference and know how enlightening it can be. I left much more knowledgeable than I came, and would highly recommend this conference to future students. There aren’t many opportunities like this and it is well worth it.
Click here for conference info/program
This project was supported, in part, by funding from the Center’s Title VI grant, US Department of Education, Office of International Education Programs Service.
By Garrett Mayock