Yuwa Hedrick-Wong to be Alumnus In Residence, Deliver the Harry Kitchen Lecture

Dr. Yuwa Hedrick-Wong will take part in the "Alumni in Residence" program during the first week of March, as Trent welcomes him to deliver the Harry Kitchen Lecture, (4:00pm on March 1st, 2016, The Gathering Space at Gzowski College). Dr. Hedrick-Wong's lecture is titled "Re-Imagining the Global Economic Future: Inclusive Growth as Democratizing Productivity."

Trent magazine recently featured Dr. Wong:

An economist with experience in over thirty countries, ranging across three continents, Dr. Yuwa Hedrick-Wong ‘74 has been at the centre of global development efforts for over twenty-five years. Since 2001, he has been with MasterCard, where for the past six years he has served as Global Chief Economist.

It’s a fast paced, hectic line of work, one that often finds Dr. Hedrick-Wong traveling to two or three different countries in about as many days. “At the drop of a hat I fly halfway across the world,” he explains. “I’m met at the airport by someone whose job it is to debrief me, on the way to the hotel, on what my day will entail, and within an hour,” he says, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. “I could be in front of government officials or senior executives to talk about various issues in the global economy.”

As he himself readily admits, “these are not people that would put up with a turgid, jargon-filled presentation. It’s an audience that, if you don’t get their attention in the first five minutes, you’re toast.” It can be physically demanding as well, he explains, “especially as you grow older. But intellectually it’s very stimulating—that’s why I continue to do it. I’m constantly taxed to the maximum in trying to understand the different social, political, and economic dynamics that are at work across the world.”

Given the level of stress he’s used to facing on a daily basis, and the seeming ease with which he meets the many challenges of his work, you’d be forgiven for assuming that Dr. Hedrick Wong sailed effortlessly through his undergraduate years. And yet, when I recently caught up with him by telephone at his home on Salt Spring Island, off the coast of British Columbia, he admitted that when he first came to Trent in 1971, he was not particularly serious. “To be honest,” he explains, “I was a very indifferent student when I came to Trent. Basically, I didn’t know what I wanted.”

And so – like many undergrads – he took a variety of subjects: from history and philosophy, to political science and, of course, economics. But it wasn’t any specific discipline, so much as the “unique intellectual environment” he encountered at Trent that Dr. Hedrick-Wong credits with setting him on his future course. He recalls one philosophy seminar in particular, with the late Dr. Alan Orenstein, for the way it gave rise to a sort of “learning by symbiosis.” It was in groups like these that “I learned, implicitly, how to learn . . . that is the greatest gift that Trent gave me.”

It’s no surprise, then, that Dr. Hedrick-Wong is often praised for his ability to grapple with complex economic issues, and present them to a variety of audiences with clarity as well as authority. I was curious what role his time at Trent had in the development of these skills. “I would absolutely connect what I do today with my experience at Trent,” he says. “Just imagine, you’re sitting there, with a professor and several fellow students, and you cannot communicate—you’re in big trouble. That’s another gift that Trent gave me: not only did I learn to express myself, but I was constantly challenged in the process by people demanding, ‘what exactly are you saying? Explain yourself!’ …This was a major factor in terms of learning to do what I do today.”

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