The impossible happened, however, when Magid was awarded an Around-the-World Travel-Study Grant from the Circumnavigators Club Foundation.
With the grant, he was able to travel around the globe studying other countries’ perceptions of the United States.
“This award transformed my life,” Magid said as the keynote speaker of a luncheon celebrating the 40th anniversary of the travel-study grant program in New York on November 15.
The Circumnavigators Club, which supports international travel, has about 1,000 members throughout the world. The club’s foundation has awarded more than 110 international research grants.
Magid’s journey included a stop in Afghanistan, where people were adamant that attempts to impose outside government and values would fail. He went to Iran, then led by the Shah, and encountered a deep divide between the elite and the masses. He was escorted out of Bulgaria and declared “persona non grata” after asking another student about the country’s culture and communism. In Morocco, he was shown a chamber where women were sold as slaves and told that democracy could never blossom in the Middle East and that women could never gain equality with men.
“This was 1972, and the Arab Spring of 2011 gives us hope for democracy,” he said. “Let us hope that it is truly an inclusive democracy that promotes and protects the rights of all citizens regardless of gender and religion."
After these experiences, Magid went on to study international law and economics. He then spent 21 years with Bank of America living in Venezuela, Brazil and California, before launching his career in academia.
“The Circumnavigators Club Foundation had emboldened, enabled and empowered me to pursue a career in international business and finance, but it had also stirred a desire in some small way to inspire students the way I had been inspired,” he said.
Magid, who serves as the Martin and Ahuva Gross Chair in Financial Markets and Institutions at Brandeis IBS, said he is guided by the fundamental belief that exposing young people to each other and other cultures sets a foundation for mutual respect and understanding.
“We try to capture some of that circumnavigator ‘magic,’” he said.