Janet Yellen visits Brandeis International Business School to celebrate 25th

The former Fed chair came to campus Sept. 21

Janet Yellen and Stephen CecchettiPhoto/Ashley McCabe

Janet Yellen and Stephen Cecchetti

Former chair of the Federal Reserve Janet Yellen visited the Brandeis campus Sept. 21 to participate in a wide-ranging conversation during Brandeis International Business School's 25th anniversary celebration.

Yellen discussed her views on the importance of an independent and non-political central bank, income inequality, climate change, and lessons from the 2007-2008 financial crisis in a talk with professor Stephen Cecchetti, the Rosen Family Chair in International Finance.

“I don’t regret anything that has been done, but I do think there are holes, and I don’t think we did enough,” Yellen said to a crowd of about 600 at Spingold Theater while discussing the regulations put in place after the crisis. “I worry that as time goes by, the same kinds of vulnerabilities that led to that financial crisis can recur.”

Yellen, now a distinguished fellow at the Brookings Institution, also said the current debt to GDP levels did not concern her, but that those ratios are on a worrisome trajectory. The combination of rising health care cost trends and an aging population will lead to a runaway debt path if they are left unaddressed.

“If we leave the current set of tax and spending programs on the books in place, we face a completely unsustainable rise in the deficit and the debt-to-GDP ratio,” Yellen said.

Watch the full conversation:

The discussion was part of a three-day long celebration of the business school’s first quarter century. Participants from 19 countries engaged in events ranging from an event at Fenway Park to panels about “Trade, Technology and Geopolitics,” to short courses from Brandeis International Business School professors on hot topics in business.

Before her conversation with Cecchetti, Yellen offered remarks focused on Rachel McCulloch, a former Brandeis IBS professor who was a colleague of Yellen's in Harvard University's economics department in the 1970s and a co-author of several papers. A scholarship fund in honor of McCulloch, who died in 2016, was announced during the celebration.

"Rachel's work reflected wisdom and good common sense. She knew all the issues and the literature, but also was endowed with uncommon policy acumen," Yellen said. "(She was) someone whose advice was sought by policymakers and prominent think tanks because she got the answers right."

Yellen was introduced by Brandeis President Ron Liebowitz, who said Yellen had established herself as a thought leader and sought-after strategist in the field of economics in an illustrious career in academia, before entering public service and rising to become the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve

“Professor Yellen is no stranger to breaking glass ceilings,” Liebowitz said.

Following the conversation, Yellen was presented with the Dean’s Medal by Brandeis International Business School Dean Kathryn Graddy.

“Professor Yellen has set the highest possible standard for what it means to succeed as an economist, but even more importantly, there is no public figure that I know that has demonstrated more integrity, intelligence and leadership,” Graddy said. "Professor Yellen, your service has been impeccable and you’re are an inspiration to all of us.”

Categories: Alumni, Business

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