Most first-year college students are asked to give some sort of a presentation as a rite of passage to learn how to speak on behalf of their research, knowledge or curiosity in front of their peers. But most of those settings are in the classroom, not at the executive boardroom at the World Bank headquarters.
That’s exactly where George Washington University first-year international business students Patrick Papé and Soleil Lech found themselves on Monday morning, seated at the head of a board conference table interviewing a World Bank senior principal about the challenges of international development in front of more than 100 fellow GW School of Business undergrads.
Four sections of professor Scheherazade Rehman’s Business Administration 1004: The Age of Globalization class visited the World Bank to hear from Naysán Sahba, the organization’s manager of engagement and partnerships. In previous visits with Rehman’s classes, the World Bank’s guest speaker delivered an outright lecture and question-and-answer. This time, though, two students—Papé and Lech—earned the opportunity to dictate the conversation after a thorough selection process.
In an #OnlyAtGW moment, Papé and Lech asked Sahba for his take about the future of international business development and what skills they as students can develop to help solve issues in global economics such as poverty, inequality and sustainability.
“I knew when I came to GW that I was going to take advantage of every opportunity that was given to me, and this is obviously an incredible experience,” said Papé, who was recently accepted to the inaugural ACE tri-lateral degree program with schools in China and Italy. “With all these opportunities at GW and in D.C., you can’t sit back and let them come to you. You need to seek them out and apply yourself.”
Rehman and the World Bank selected Papé and Lech to interview Sahba out of 12 student finalists.
The goal of the visit and preparation leading up to it was two-fold, Rehman explained. The first was to expose and demonstratively display GW’s location advantage and potential for institutional engagement on the world stage. The second, she said, was to augment the classroom discussions in a deeper and more insightful experiential learning process to foster GW business student interest and engagement in global problem solving.
Naysán Sahba, the organization’s manager of engagement and partnerships at the World Bank, with more than 100 GW students in the executive boardroom at the World Bank headquarters. (Photo courtesy of Li Lou)
"Engaging directly with global leaders on site at multilateral institutions, like the World Bank that sit in GW's backyard, is not only an unforgettable experience but a unique opportunity for entering freshman and sophomores in GW School of Business required incoming cornerstone class [the Age of Globalization],” Rehman said.
While Papé and Lech were the ones at the microphone, they got a boost from their classmates as the four sections all generated questions and conversation pieces for the morning.
The questions led to thought-provoking answers, as Sahba emphasized the importance of strong communication to solve problems. On behalf of their classmates, Papé and Lech centralized much of their questioning on how the World Bank is addressing key global issues such as poverty, the war in Ukraine and the pandemic and how the apolitical institution can still be a driver of social change.
Lech said it was invaluable to hear a principal from such a global organization connect what she and her classmates are learning just blocks away at GW.
“In class, we talked a lot about poverty elimination and sustainable development,” Lech said. “That’s a big part of what the World Bank is trying to do right now. So, trying to connect things we learned in class to bigger problems is very insightful in terms of big picture topics that we feel humankind needs to establish moving forward.”
Sahba, who has had various roles around the globe at the United Nations and UNICEF prior to joining the World Bank in 2020, made note of the “great questions” GW students asked him and challenged them to continue paying attention to and tackling international development issues.