Dr. Judith Dean Delivers CFI’s Fourth Annual John Mason Lecture

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times,” said Dr. Judith Dean, opening the Center for Faith and Inquiry’s fourth annual John Mason Lecture with a quote from Charles Dickens’ famed A Tale of Two Cities.

In her lecture, “Why Open Global Trade Really Matters for the World’s Poor,” Dean, who is a professor of economics at Brandeis University, used her own research to build a robust case for the critical role of open global trade in reducing poverty in the developing world. In essence, she surmised, we are simultaneously living in the best and worst of times for the global economy.

We live in the best of times, she argued, in that the opening of global trade has enabled exponential economic growth in India, China and South Korea among other nations. Yet, she cautioned we also live in a time of great uncertainty for the global economy as the U.S. continues to threaten to withdraw from some of the world’s largest open trade agreements.

There is hope in educating and equipping the public to stand against unjust policies overseas—most of which allow wealthy oligarchies to intercept benefits of open trade, she said. Dean also issued a call to advocacy at home, encouraging our current administration to expand, rather than restrict, U.S. participation in the open global market.

But perhaps the most important way to get involved, Dean concluded, is to take action in prayer for the injustices of poverty. She shared the story of meeting a woman in Rwanda who was living in poverty, and earnestly reminded Dean that all other involvement was “secondary” to support in prayer.

This annual lecture was established in honor of the beloved late Professor Emeritus of Economics Dr. John Mason, founder of Gordon’s Department of Economics and Business, which will celebrate its 50thanniversary this fall. He passed away in 2011, shortly after his retirement from Gordon in 2007. His wife, Sherrie Mason, attended the lecture on Monday afternoon.

“We have inherited quite a legacy,” said Assistant Professor of Economics and Business Kristen Cooper, a former student of Mason’s. Dean was also a student of his—the first, in fact, to have pursued an academic career of her own and returned to Gordon to give the annual lecture in his honor.

“I could not have asked for a better teacher or mentor,” Dean said of Mason. “He challenged me to think really deeply about how studying economics could be used to glorify God.”

Having graduated from Gordon with a B.A. in Economics, Dean went on to earn her M.A. and Ph.D. in economics at Cornell University. She was previously on faculty at Bowdoin College, held an associate professorship at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, and served as the senior international economist in the Research Division of the Office of Economics on the U.S. International Trade Commission. She has spent time abroad as a visiting scholar at the Indian Statistical Institute in New Delhi, India, and since 2003 has been serving as a member of Gordon’s Board of Trustees.

By Grace Shaw ’19, philosophy