Our US Chapter serves under the vision and strategic objectives of KU Leuven Alumni, and has as its mission:
To develop links, exchanges, and friendships between fellow alumni.
Trans-atlantic cooperation - Webinar
On Thursday December 3rd, the US Chapter of the KU Leuven Alumni Association and the Alumni Office of the KU Leuven co-organized a well-attended webinar "Trans-Atlantic cooperation: did we wake up in a different world? " with panelists:
Baron Van Daele introduced the event and provided an overview of the global alumni network, which now exceeds 300,000 alumni. He also drew attention to KU Leuven Connect, the brand new online community portal created by the Alumni Office in Leuven led by Martine Torfs.
Prof.Christophe Crombez moderated the panel session, covering 3 main topics:
- How did the Trump administration change the geo-political and macro-economic environment in the US over the past 4 years?
- Will the incoming Biden administration be able to alter past presidential executive orders and legislation and how effective will this administration be in pursuing these changes?
- How will these changes impact the Trans-Atlantic cooperation between Europe and the US?
The debate started with Prof.Kerremans giving a review of achievements and kept election 2016 promises of the Trump administration such as: implementing a hardline anti-immigration policy and a federal deregulation policy for corporations, the withdrawal of US troops out of conflict zones, the US Tax reform legislation and imposing tariffs on Chinese imports.
Prof.De Grauwe pointed out the overpromises and negative outcomes on a macro-economic level: small to no improvements on large infrastructure projects, doubling the budget deficit, the failed promise of bringing back US manufacturing jobs, and the growing inequality on a national level. The promise of having a seasoned business executive as the best person to lead the US in times of crisis was not fulfilled either when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country earlier this year.
Baron Van Daele described the Trans-Atlantic relationship as being at its low point in recent history, due to the unilateral policies implemented by Trump. He talked about the difficulties that the Biden administration will encounter when dealing with a divided Europe. He also opined that US democracy was never really threatened over the past 4 years or during the elections, although the checks and balances of the US democratic structure were under great pressure.
Prof.Crombez followed up by detailing the democratic erosion under Trump: turmoil around appointments to the Supreme Court, discredit of the media, and demotivation of the federal apparatus established under the Obama administration.
The panel further discussed how polarization among US citizens has grown and that the incoming Biden administration will have to overcome challenges to overturn the executive orders and legislation by Trump as the democratic party is divided in a strong left wing group and a more moderate group of Democrats. Both the outcome of the upcoming Georgia election for 2 still open senate seats which will determine the majority in senate as well as the 2022 mid-term elections will be key to the effectiveness of the Biden administration.
Attendees were actively engaged as they submitted numerous questions to the panel, such as:
- Can Biden change the judicial system by increasing the number of judges on the Supreme Court?
- Has populism grown? What has been the effect of the Black Lives Matter movement and how will Biden deal with this social movement?
- Will Biden be able to decrease the inequality among US residents?
Ingrid Tierens, Board Member of the KU Leuven Alumni US Chapter, concluded the webinar by thanking the panelists and moderator and underscoring the global nature of the KU Leuven Alumni Organization. More virtual events with other international chapters and the Alumni office in Leuven will be organized in 2021.
THE MACRO-ECONOMIC IMPACT OF COVID-19
Inspiring analysis on the macro-economic impact of COVID019 from top speakers of KBC, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, including a word from Rector Luc Sels.
Leuven continues to become an even bigger star in the academic world - according to our Rector, the university already sees 13% more international admissions for the upcoming academic year!
KRUGMAN & DE GRAUWE DEBATE
The story of a fellow Alumnus
Class of 2014 - Master in Business Economics - Information Systems Engineering
Maarten is an active member of the Young Alumni Committee of our Chapter. During his studies in Leuven, he got engaged in Academics for Companies, a Belgian organization dedicated to bridge the gap between academics and industry, where he was involved in a program to assist small companies in their commercialization of solar panels, in Maarten's case, for Senegal.
Maarten never really 'planned' his move to the United States, although it was always in the back of his mind in some way. It just happened. He fell in love with a Texan girl during his Erasmus stay in Rennes, France. She was on an exchange program from Memphis, Tennessee. After his studies in 2014, he moved to New York in January of 2015 where his girlfriend had moved to, and got married that same year. He got a job at Haver Analytics, a great time, but as many young people taking their chances in the Big Apple, not always easy. His first place to stay had to be organized by Skype from Belgium, and in the first year changed a few times, always to small spaces making sure to make months end. "We had to turn every penny".
"You become a New Yorker when you start to become irritated by the tourists in the city."
In the meantime, he started the application process for his Green Card. "During this application, you are not allowed to leave the country. If you do, your application becomes void, unless you put in a request for international travel in advance, which, like other steps in the process, can take a long time.
In the summer of 2016, he was approached by a recruiter who represented a "Top 10" IT company. He got hired by no less than Apple. Most of us wonder what is like to work for a company such as Apple, Facebook, Google, etc. "Apple is in some way different than e.g. Google, it is more like e.g. Microsoft, more traditional if you like". He really loves it. "The amazing thing is that you get to work with really smart people on great projects."
His advice for young people thinking of going abroad? New York is a top location, if you can find a job that pays enough to get a decent living in the city that never sleeps. If not, it can be tough. But, as he says: "Take the chances that present themselves - you can do anything you want, try it for at least a year. If it does not work, go back home or do something else, but you have to give it at least a year".
Class of 1977, marine microbiology
Geert started his career at General Chocolate, a cholocate manufacturer, as the first micro biologist performing quality control on chocolates. And this was necessary, as one of the key ingredients, proteins derived from Chinese ducks, did need checking… Geert in fact had to halt one of the production lines for 2 weeks due to quality issues.
From chocolate to drug development seems a big step. Not for Geert. A few years later, he moved to Janssen Pharmaceutica where he had the chance to work with Paul Janssen himself. In 1983, he became in charge of R&D for infectious diseases and dermatology products. Four years later, he hired Paul Stoffels, now CSO of J&J.
In 1994, he moved with his family to the USA, working for J&J on a global scale. But he did not stop there. In 2000, he managed to persuade the J&J management to start a spin out. He started Barrier Therapeutics by putting his own savings in it, and went to look for venture capital shortly after. "All of a sudden, I had $46 million, while I was only looking for $35 million." Two years later, the company went public on NASDAQ.
In 2008, Geert sold the company in the middle of the global financial crisis. He planned to take at least 6 months vacation, but after 3 months decided to help out a friend and run a Chinese life sciences company. "I committed for 6 months, but it turned out to be 2 years." At the same time, he became an angel investor, mainly to stimulate and mentor new entrepreneurs in life sciences.
"A bottle is half full until the opposite is proven”
Afterward, for 7 years (2012-2019), Geert ran another company, Rxi Pharmaceuticals, based near Boston. He did not intend to do it, but got asked by the investor when relaxing on a beach. After half an hour on the phone, in his swim suit in an A/C-cold hotel room, he could not say “no” again…
Today, Geert is semi-retired and continues to live in the Princeton area in New Jersey (USA). He spends time with Legacy Health Care, a company in Switzerland near Lausanne which he co-founded in 2008. That Company is well underway with the clinical development of combinations of botanical extracts for management of chronic diseases with an immunological background, as well as supportive oncology product development derived from botanicals. In addition he has a few advisory- and board assignments in biotech and pharmaceutical companies.
A lesson for new entrepreneurs? "Internet and e-mail, although necessary, are not the most important thing in business. Face to face contact, looking the other person in the eye, that is the key. I never invested in people I did not shake hands with. Personal contact says so much more; and yes, COVID is only a temporary excuse to limit such 3-dimensional contacts"
Class of 1990 - Commercial Engineer
Read her story here.
Prof. Luc Sels
Dr. Jan Van Hove
Dr. Jan Loeys
Dr. Daan Struyven
Sr. Global Economist
H.E. Nathalie Muylle
Minister of Economic Affairs
Peter Vanham (moderator)
Head International Media Council
25 June 2020 - New York, Leuven & Geneva
Our first webinar reached out alumni from all over the USA and beyond. More than 100 registered for this 1 hour insight into the macro-economic trends during and after the COVID-19 crisis. Key questions like are we de-globalizing or even moving into economic nationalism, where are the opportunities in this rapidly changing society and how can and should be react?
Missed it? Watch it here.
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