Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the in-person proceedings of the 8th International Symposium will be postponed to fall 2021. We continue to hold virtual sessions throughout the fall.

GLOBAL TOWN HALL: Hope in a Time of Uncertainty

OCTOBER 8 | 2020

The burden of the global pandemic on health systems, economies, and societies has been the most disruptive force in 2020.  It has brought into sharper focus other problems such as racial disparities and gaps in global governance, and it has dampened the spirits of people around the world. In the face of mounting global pressures—from the economic outlook to the climate crisis—many of us feel anxious and disheartened about the future. At the same time, faculty and students have a strong desire and capability to address these challenges.

The first event of the McDonnell International Symposium was the GLOBAL TOWN HALL featuring experts across disciplines and countries as they shared which societal problem has them most concerned and what gives them hope for the future.

View the webinar.


Given the scope and impact of our global challenges, collaborative work involving faculty across countries is key, as is the work of faculty from many different disciplines. In addition to the Global Town Hall, throughout the fall the McDonnell Academy hosted various virtual workshops and panel discussions with colleagues from our partner universities. Key takeaways and highlights from the workshops are available in the Symposium executive summary.

During the lead up to the event, the McDonnell Academy continued engaging our community with initiatives including the opportunity to contribute a video message answering the question: What gives you hope for the future? submission of questions to our distinguished panelists in advance of the event, and entry to the photo contest, Hope and Resilience Around the World. Visit McDonnell Symposium SNAPSHOT to view some of the outcomes from these initiatives.



Global Town Hall: Hope in a Time of Uncertainty brought us together on October 8th to launch the McDonnell Academy International Symposium by virtually convening a panel of leading academics and senior experts from across the world and across disciplines. Our goal included the exchange of candid views about current global challenges as well as offer reasons for hope for the future.

Welcome remarks
Andrew D. Martin, Chancellor, Washington University in St. Louis

Kurt Dirks, Director, McDonnell International Scholars Academy; Vice Chancellor for International Affairs; Bank of America Professor of Leadership, Washington University in St. Louis

Distinguished Speakers

  • Nadine Baudot-Trajtenberg, Assistant Professor, Tiomkin School of Economics, IDC Herzliya; Deputy Governor, Bank of Israel (2014-2019)
  • Shalini Bharat, Director/Vice Chancellor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India
  • Barnabas Nawangwe, Vice Chancellor, Makerere University, Uganda; Registered Architect; Member, Uganda National Council of Science and Technology
  • Alejandro Poiré, Dean, School of Social Sciences and Government, Tecnológico de Monterrey; Secretary of the Interior of Mexico (2011-2012)
  • William Powderly, Dr. J. William Campbell Professor of Medicine; Larry J. Shapiro Director, Institute for Public Health, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Leila Sadat, James Carr Professor of International Criminal Law; Director of the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute and Special Adviser on Crimes Against Humanity to the ICC Prosecutor, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Rocky Tuan, Vice Chancellor and President, The Chinese University of Hong Kong; Lee Quo Wei and Lee Yick Hoi Lun Professor of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Past McDonnell International Symposia

The future of research universities will depend on how successful they are in taking on challenging forces in terms of research, innovation, and teaching. This will require collaboration not only within institutions but among premier research universities from around the globe. By bringing together its partner institutions the McDonnell Academy hopes to contribute to this ambitious mission.