What do you get when you give about 70 high schoolers 30 seconds to name everything in
their daily lives that has content from foreign countries?
Answer: A real-world lesson in the pervasive power of globalization.
Software coded in India. Chocolate blended in Germany. Christmas ornaments from China.
As Carolyn Woo pointed out to a group of students at Culver Academies this week, the signs of an increasingly homogenized global economy are everywhere these days, touching our lives at the most fundamental levels.
And whether that is good or bad, she said, depends greatly on one's point of view."I could never take a stand as to whether or not globalization is good or bad," Woo explained. "In many ways, it is both."
Woo, who is the dean of the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business, addressed a full house of Culver students on Tuesday evening as part of the school's Global Studies Institute. The focus of this year's institute is globalization, a subject in which Woo, a Hong Kong native, is well versed.
As an award-winning scholar, she has acted as a consultant to multiple global companies, including General Electric and Motorola, and she also is a member of the Committee of 100, an organization of Chinese-American leaders focused on fostering positive relations between the U.S. and China.
Those credentials give Woo, a friendly, down-to-earth presenter, a front-row seat to the changes the growing global economy is bringing about in the world, and its positive and negative effects.
And some of the positive effects, she said, are tremendous, including the impact that trade has on the relations between countries."There is an argument that more trade between countries equals less conflict," Woo said. "In some cases, global corporations can even act as a second channel of diplomacy when governments cannot agree with one another."
As other examples of the positive effects of globalization, Woo noted that increased trade between countries can provide more choices for consumers, help provide increased wages and standards of living for workers in developing countries, and provide for increased competition among businesses, driving them toward more efficiency.
But globalization can also exact great costs if not policed, including the exploitation of workers and irreversible environmental damage.
"Globalization can reflect the interest of big companies at the expense of the working class,"
Woo said one fear that can be realized with globalization is a world in which the countries better prepared to participate in a global economy fare far better than others, creating a scenario in which more affluent countries gain more profits, as poorer countries are trampled by the onslaught of foreign competition.Then too, there's the cost that some countries must pay in terms of jobs, as companies look for cheaper labor overseas.
But whether one sees globalization as positive or negative, it is a reality that young people must prepare for, Woo said. She told the Culver students that Notre Dame attempts to give its own students that preparation by emphasizing overseas work study and service learning projects.
"Whether or not globalization works depends on how we -- or how you, as the future work force -- handle it," Woo said. "We need to instill the right values in today's students."