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Young Leaders from Around the World Connect Online through TFAS Global Political Economy Seminar


This summer, 70 young leaders from 28 countries around the globe participated in our first-ever fully virtual TFAS International program, the Global Political Economy Seminar. Students originally selected to attend our programs in Singapore and Prague were invited to engage in an eight-week online program that examined the relationship between governments and markets and connected peer leaders from Sri Lanka to Armenia to Argentina and beyond.

The program provided a unique opportunity to gain international exposure through peers from around the world and remain connected through the TFAS network.” – S. Ayush Rao ’20

The Global Political Economy Seminar provided content and cross-cultural connections that international students like S. Ayush Rao ’20 from India, may not otherwise have been able to access.

Dr. David Azerrad leads a lecture on “Marx and the Communist Promise of Liberation.”

“The program provided a unique opportunity to gain international exposure through peers from around the world and remain connected through the TFAS network,” said Rao. “We were able to learn concepts and be exposed to perspectives that we wouldn’t have had the chance to in our own countries.”

The seminar’s curriculum was divided into three segments, delving into the alternatives of socialism, the welfare state and classical liberalism. Each section included political philosophy and economics components, so students were able to learn about the philosophical strengths and weaknesses of each system, as well as their practical effects.

TFAS brought the best of all TFAS undergraduate programs to the online course, conveying lessons from our International and U.S. Programs and featuring faculty from TFAS programs normally held in Prague, Singapore and Washington, D.C.

TFAS Director of International and Continuing Education Programs Brenda Hafera said she was very pleased with the level of engagement and participation from the students.

“While it was of course disappointing that we were not able to host our programs in person in Prague and Singapore this summer, we were still able to offer a substantive opportunity for TFAS students through the Global Political Economy Seminar. Many of our international students do not have access to an abundance of online content, so hosting the online seminar was particularly valuable for them. They are genuinely grateful for the chance to learn, and it is also invigorating for our staff and faculty to interact with such students.”

A view inside the Global Political Economy Seminar virtual classroom.

Core lessons from the program included “The Rise of Democratic Socialism,” “FDR and the Political Philosophy of the Welfare State,” “Adam Smith’s Grand Vision of the Human Enterprise,” “The Presumption of Liberty” and more.

The seminar’s faculty featured TFAS Academic Director Dr. Anne Bradley, Dr. David Azerrad of Hillsdale College, Dr. Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute, Dr. Adam Martin of Texas Tech University, Dr. Joshua Mitchell of Georgetown University, and Dr. Vincent Phillip Muñoz of the University of Notre Dame.

Due to our students being in various time zones and other virtual connection challenges, the program was both synchronous and asynchronous. Students were provided with pre-recorded lectures coupled with assigned readings each week, and the subsequent week included a one-hour live discussion session led by TFAS faculty.

Rao said he learned immensely from each of the sessions, but his favorite lesson was given by Dr. Adam Martin. Rao appreciated the real world examples Martin provided in his lecture.

“He dealt with classical liberalism and the institutional differences between the state and the market,” he said. “He gave really good examples to show how externalities affect market disruptions, presenting analogies to show the difference between central planning and the free market.”

Dr. Joshua Mitchell leads a discussion on “Adam Smith’s Grand Vision of the Human Enterprise.”

The live discussion sessions proved especially fruitful in allowing participants to engage in an open dialogue, something participant Michael Farrell ’20 says is lacking in university classrooms and communities in the U.S.

“With all the controversy going on in this country, there’s not a lot of places where you can still have free discussion,” Farrell said. “TFAS has created an environment for free thinkers to engage in important ideas. Personal experience tells me that you’re not going to find a better place to support American education than TFAS.”

Rao echoed this sentiment, and said the program reminded him that he should always remain open to new ideas.

“We should be open to all ideas,” he said. “During the discussions, each answer differed from individual to individual and was derived from a specific context or society that they belonged to. So, being exposed to those ideas and perspectives was very interesting.”

TFAS faculty and student Miguel Polanía Torres ’20 discuss ideas following Dr. Anne Bradley’s lecture on “The Rise of Democratic Socialism.”

Rao shared that overall, the most important lesson he gained from the program was the importance of understanding the forces of the market and the state.

“These forces affect us in our personal lives so much, so if we have a deeper understanding about the forces, we can improve our standards of living,” he said. “These all are important forces and we can’t escape them, so we must study and embrace them.”

The TFAS Global Political Economy Seminar provided these young leaders with a sense of TFAS’s mission and principles. Following the virtual program, the participants were invited to attend the 2021 TFAS International programs in either Singapore or Prague to further explore classical liberal ideas.


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