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Brandeis International Business School students will travel to France for the World Financial Centers Program this summer

"We want to give students an understanding of history, and a sense of political economy"
February 23, 2011

Brandeis International Business School will hold this year’s World Financial Centers (WFC) program in two French cities: Paris and Rouen, giving students an opportunity to explore both the country’s lively and cultured capital, as well as an historic, provincial urban center.

Many past participants call the WFC class one of the highlights of their degree, and praise the program’s interactive and intense learning. “The program covered different angles of current and past financial issues by incorporating history and politics,” says Ari Alushaj MSF ’10, who attended a WFC trip to Spain. “It was an amazing experience and I highly recommend this class.”

The Church of Saint-Maclou in Rouen, France

The program, now in its twelfth year, is a weeklong intensive immersion that aims to give students insights into the economy and business environment of the host country against the backdrop of its history, politics, and culture. The trip is fully integrated into the school’s Master of Science in Finance (MSF) program, and will begin in Rouen on July 3, and will end in Paris on July 9.

Before departing for France, WFC program participants attend lectures at Brandeis and nearby universities on subjects ranging from Napoleon’s rule, to the formation of the European Union, to the creation of the common currency, the euro. “The objective of the WFC program is to give students an understanding of a large swath of history, and a real sense of political economy,” says Professor John Ballantine, Director of the MSF program, who oversees the WFC trip. “We also want our students to appreciate France in the context of Europe, and in the context of the world.”

France, which boasts fifth largest economy in the world and second largest in Europe, is amidst a precarious recovery from the global financial meltdown. The country, which has high public spending and a closely regulated labor market, has recently endured massive upheavals in reaction to the government’s plans to cut expenditures on pensions and increase the retirement age. In addition, the sovereign debt crisis that has already touched Greece and Ireland is spreading through the continent and has led some policymakers to question the future viability of the euro.

IBS students and faculty in Poland for the WFC program in 2008

“The crisis in the EU – and its outcome – is critical to the future of the global economy, and is part of the reason why this is such a fascinating time for our students to visit France,” says Ballantine. “Clearly there’s been a threat to the French and their way of life. How they preserve their way of life, but also remain vital with a strong and robust economy is the country’s greatest challenge.”

Rouen Business School (RBS), a longstanding academic exchange partner of Brandeis, is hosting students and organizing the program. The planned agenda includes lectures by sociology and economics professors at RBS, presentations from officials from leading financial institutions, policymakers, and journalists, and visits to a commercial bank. At the end of the trip, students will write a final paper on a particular aspect of the French economy.

This marks the first year in the program’s history that participants will visit two cities. Over the past five years, students and faculty have visited Santiago, Chili; Prague, the Czech Republic; London, England; Warsaw, Poland; Madrid, Spain; and Istanbul, Turkey. “That we’re going to a non-capital city for part of the trip adds a new dimension to this year’s program,” says Ballantine. “In order to come away with an awareness for how France operates, you have to witness how the political and economic dynamics play out in a smaller city.”

Program Details:
There is strong demand for this year’s 32 places in the course. Brandeis gives preference to MSF students who have not yet participated in the program. To apply, students must submit an application and a deposit check for $400 payable to the Brandeis International Business School by February 25, 2011.

Tuition to the program is $4,000 for first-time participants, and $2,000 for second-time participants. The tuition does not include airfare, accommodations, or meals. First-time participants will receive a travel scholarship from Brandeis of up to $800 towards their airfare, reimbursed after the program; second-time participants will receive up $400.

Program contacts: John Ballantine ( and Simon Sherrington (