Among the countless changes in international affairs over the last couple of decades, one has stood out for Roger Leeds: the dramatically increased interaction between government and the international private sector.
"Almost every country in the world has adjusted its policies and behavior to encourage more private-sector activity," Leeds said. "As a consequence, public policy-makers and practitioners from the business and financial communities must be able to work constructively across a broad spectrum of complex, often contentious activities."
Leeds has made a career out of helping governments and businesses do just that. At the same time, he has served as a SAIS adjunct faculty member for almost 20 years, teaching courses dealing with financial markets, privatization and cross-border financial transactions.
Now he is bringing his two strands of experience together at SAIS, as a professor in the International Economics Department and director of the school's new Center for International Business and Public Policy.
The major objectives of the new center are to introduce courses and research that focus on interactions between the private and public sectors on a range of international issues where the two have overlapping interests and responsibilities; to serve as a world-class forum for discussion of those issues by participants from international business, finance and public policy as well as the SAIS community; and to sharpen the analytical and problem-solving skills of students in the area of international business and finance, which will make them more formidable contenders in the job market.
"We can no longer study or conduct international affairs without recognizing that international business and government are inexorably linked," Leeds said. "Just think about the globalization of capital and product markets, the flood of privatizations and cross-border mergers and acquisitions, and the role of microfinance to support small- and medium-sized entrepreneurs in developing countries."
Dean Paul Wolfowitz said the time is right for the new center. "Nearly half of our graduates now enter the private sector, but all our graduates pursue careers that exist in a global economy. First-rate instruction, research and debate on these issues will benefit each one of them."
Leeds emphasized that the center will "capitalize on SAIS's strengths" and not seek to compete with business schools. "SAIS has a very rich tradition and an extraordinary faculty that will serve as the foundation for the center's work. I am convinced that SAIS students can be far more competitive with MBAs without our striving to become a business school."
One common trait of SAIS students is "their visceral interest in public policy," Leeds added. "We hope to buttress this by giving them a stronger set of problem-solving and analytical skills that are essential for business and finance careers, as well as for many public-sector, journalism and non-governmental organization jobs."
Leeds is inaugurating the effort by teaching a new transactions-oriented course on global financial markets. He is using the case method, which he strongly believes can be expanded at SAIS. As funding becomes available, the center will design seminars, conferences, speaker series and other outreach activities.
Leeds, who received a doctorate from SAIS in 1976, has been an investment banker with Salomon Bros. in New York and a partner of KPMG in charge of global privatization advisory services. Most recently he was with the venture capital firm Patricof & Co., where he specialized in mergers and acquisitions and private-equity funding for companies in Latin America.
Leeds has also served as a senior official at the World Bank's International Finance Corporation and as an adviser to numerous governments and companies on cross-border transactions and privatization strategies. He has taught courses in international financial markets at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania as well as at SAIS.