Jepson Forum shares a global vision with a local focus

Jepson Forum shares a global vision with a local focus

Lawrence Jepson understood the importance of global economics long before many of his peers in the 1970s. A Wall Street businessman, Jepson used to say if a Zurich banker sneezed, someone in the United States caught a cold. 

Jepson came to the United States as an immigrant from Denmark. He and his family relocated to Iowa in the early 1900s, and Jepson eventually became a student at the University of Northern Iowa, then known as Iowa State Teachers College. After graduation, he joined the Wall Street ranks and was keenly interested in how Iowa and the United States fit into the global framework.

He was aware of the importance of global interrelationships well before others thought about it. It’s this vision that spurred the creation of UNIBusiness’ Jepson Forum, which was created in 1984 soon after Jepson passed away and left an endowment to the college. The Jepson Symposium, as it was known at the time, was held every year by the UNIBusiness economics department, which brought a renowned international economist to speak on campus. Faculty, students and community members attended lectures, which also doubled as a banquet. 

“Speakers reflected on current issues in international economics,” Amin said. “The idea was that the faculty, students and community members will learn about current international topics from experts and would ask questions.” 

In 2018, the Jepson Symposium was replaced by the Jepson Forum. Instead of one speaker, the forum invited four local experts to touch on global issues at a local level every year in the fall. In fall 2019, the topic centered on the impact of immigration and trade on Iowa. Since the conversations were more locally focused, the forums have seen immense interest. More than 200 people attended each of the past two forums.

“As someone who doesn't pay too close attention to what is happening in the economy, I didn't realize how close to home this really hits,” said a student who attended the 2019 forum. “So I am grateful that this discussion gave me an opportunity to hear more about the effects it has on me as a consumer in this economy, and as a native Iowan.”

In the springtime, Amin also holds an undergraduate research contest on international economics as a part of the forum. Students from all over the U.S. present papers in the conference, providing a crucial opportunity to research and learn about international topics. A few selected papers from this conference are published in the proceedings journal. 

These two annual events relate to the vision of Lawrence Jepson, who deeply understood the importance of an interconnected world. And through the Jepson Forum, more students come to grasp economics on a global scale.