Dr. John Anderson, Baird Family Professor of Economics at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business, grew up with a world perspective beyond his immediate surroundings. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, the son of missionary parents, Anderson carries with him the same passion to help others across the globe.
“I got involved in professional international activities in the early ’90s when things opened up in the former Soviet Union,” said Anderson. “I went to Russia to advise universities on curriculum reform to teach market-oriented economics.”
Anderson broadened his cultural interest by studying the Russian language. By the late ’90s, he returned to Eastern Europe with his family on a one-year project working with the Moldovian government Ministry of Finance while advising members of parliament on how to re-orient to a more market economy.
His children attended an international school where they also became proficient in the language. The immersion in culture became a cornerstone in Anderson’s philosophy that to teach economics effectively there needs to be an understanding of more than economic theory.
“I love learning about the local culture and institutions when I travel. I find it necessary to understand the context in which you’re advising if you want to have any impact. I’ve been a government advisor in Nebraska and Washington D.C., but there’s something about international advising that I find compelling and challenging,” he said.
Anderson brings his passion for international business and economics directly to students in the classroom and beyond. He spearheaded a test project to implement the Clayton Yeutter International Trade Program at Nebraska, which is now ramping up on campus as the Yeutter Institute.
“Yeutter, being the former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, had an intense interest in international trade. We want to continue to build a premiere interdisciplinary program at Nebraska focused on international trade, drawing together our best students from business, agriculture and law,” said Anderson.
A symposium on March 13, funded on a continual basis by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, draws together experts in international trade. Both students and business people from the region are participating.
“Nebraska businesses are amazingly internationally focused, including the ag sector. We have very outward looking businesses here in Nebraska and the Yeutter Institute is a great asset for our students,” Anderson said.
He works with graduate students, many who are from other countries. Currently, he works with former Ph.D. students in Bangladesh and China on issues ranging from income inequality to the dynamic of municipal borrowing and debt in socialist societies.
Additionally, Anderson’s work throughout the ’00s led him to advising projects in the Balkans, central Asia and more recently doing research, collecting data and lecturing at Peking University in Beijing, China. In May, he returns to Taiwan for another teaching assignment.
His continual efforts and connections in varied locations led to his appointment as a faculty fellow for the Nebraska Business international business program. Dr. Kalu Osiri, director of the international business program and associate professor of practice in management, knew Anderson could provide the type of inspiration he was looking for when he began broadening the program’s effectiveness two years ago.
“John is at a level in international business where he not only inspires our students but mentors the junior faculty at the college. When we were choosing faculty fellows we wanted people like John because there are very few faculty anywhere that have his experience advising governments throughout the world,” said Osiri.
Through his work abroad, Anderson believes he can make a positive impact in Nebraska.
“What’s fun is to not only teach the theory but explain how I approached a problem in another country. There is a lot of commonality because the minister of finance in Montenegro is presented with similar issues as those here in Nebraska. A lot of our students have limited international perspective so it’s helpful to talk about other parts of the world. It gives them reason to think beyond what they’ve known in the past. My experience is coming from the Nebraska College of Business you can go anywhere and do anything, and my career has shown you can do it all from a base here in Lincoln,” he said.