Cultivating global partnerships: President Cornelia Woll of Hertie School visits IE University


IE University welcomes Hertie School President Cornelia Woll for Dual Degree Programme signing, book presentation, and seminar.

IE University had the honor of hosting Prof. Dr. Cornelia Woll, the esteemed President of the Hertie School in Berlin, on March 19th. Prof. Woll, a renowned expert in the realm of International Political Economy, visited the university to officiate the signing of a groundbreaking agreement between Hertie School and IE University with Provost and Dean of IE School of Politics, Economics and Global Affairs, Manuel Muñiz. This collaboration marks a new dual Masters’ programme in International Relations and International Affairs  that aims to redefine international relations and policy education.

Prof. Woll also presented her insightful book, "Corporate Crime and Punishment: The Politics of Negotiated Justice in Global Markets". In an exclusive interview, Prof. Woll shared her insights on the themes of her book, as well as the significance of the CIVICA alliance and what it means for the future of education as well as the importance of cross-border collaboration in addressing global challenges. 

With the Hertie School playing a major role in the CIVICA alliance and the new Masters’ dual degree with IE University, could you explain how these partnerships are changing education in Europe? 

 "I believe a lot of students choose a university in one of our European countries because they're really dedicated to cooperation across borders to solving problems together. The fact that we have strong partners in our European University alliance gives a body, one would say, to that idea that we can work together and also learn from the students that are in different universities that meet with them at some time. So for me, it is a way of making very concrete how you would go from one place to another, what you learn in different capitals in different countries and to think how do we train students interested in public affairs more generally across borders. That is, I think, the magic of CIVICA. We're sharing the ambition to advance the common good. We can constantly compare how we are advancing and bringing students together so that they can exchange, argue, and develop new solutions to shared challenges."

What's your vision for CIVICA’s future and its role in education? Are there specific global or policy issues you think should get more focused in CIVICA’s educational collaboration? 

"I think the problems are already there and well-defined and our students come to our universities knowing that they want to work on sustainability, for example, on equity, on security, or on our digital futures. What we have to do as universities is to make sure the students and the researchers can use all the infrastructure we have built in a way that more fluidly allows them to travel across borders. My vision for the future is that the ease and intensity of these exchanges is even greater, to imagine joint education where you can automatically move from one place to the other to have connected research projects where really the borders are not an issue, where we can concentrate on producing and transmitting knowledge that helps us to solve the most daunting challenges of our times."

Regarding the CIVICA alliance, what role does European education play in terms of the global aspect? How can we be an example to other educational systems around the world, not just Europe? 

"I think an international alliance, whether European or otherwise, always has the benefit to constantly confront where you're standing and how your perspective may be specific to your national context. What the European university ambition has brought us is institutional ways to have that argument constantly and on a daily basis. Other places, other universities, or other countries who are seeking to build alliances can learn from it: the social sciences, business, and public affairs, one of the great assets is to be able to switch perspectives. You have to understand where the other person is standing in order to cooperate, in order to find common ground and build solutions for the future. It makes a difference whether somebody is studying global affairs in Washington, D.C., or in New Delhi, or in Shanghai. Having an understanding of what your perspective brings in and what you might need to overcome in order to cooperate with others is a big strength, and if it's part of the educational project to build a more equitable, sustainable, prosperous, and peaceful world."

Have you encountered any major challenges with the CIVICA alliance, and if so, how have you tackled them? 

"Alliances are always challenging. In politics and at the university level as well, everyone has their own ways of working. It is hard to connect these, but it is a struggle we are all happy to undertake. It is the ground worked needed so that people will cross borders, cross systems, change from one institution to another more easily and grow together. The everyday hurdles of understanding something that needs to be translated, not just in terms of language, but from one institutional context to another, is worthwhile, because it makes our cooperation more possible."

Your book talks a lot about corporate accountability and laws that reach across borders. Could you elaborate more on this, and why this is important for students and especially future leaders? 

"I'm a political scientist, and I'm very interested in political questions, but also in the role of economics. Politics is, by construction, still deeply national. The economy is much more densely connected globally. Companies organise their work across borders, and they can escape national constraints in certain cases. So, what happens when business-government relations are conflictual? How are governments able to discipline their companies? That is what my book examines: when companies move activities abroad, does the law follow them? For a long time, the answer was maybe not. Maybe they have a privilege in negotiating constraints, picking the most advantageous setting to do business, or they simply escape. What I find today is that this is no longer the case. Even domestic law can go across borders too. It's a phenomenon called extraterritorial jurisdiction, and I want to show what enables this long arm of the law, how countries use it, and what does it mean for how we determine what is right and wrong in global markets." 

What kind of effect do you hope your work, especially your book, will have on how multinational corporations are held to legal and ethical standards? 

"Multinational corporations are held more closely accountable than in the past. That is a good development. But I want to also show the geopolitical dimension, the power politics behind this evolution. Countries that play a major role in the world economy will be able to impose their standards, their laws, more easily than small ones. We need to understand the politics behind the evolution of law. My book tells a story which, on the one hand, says corporate accountability is getting stronger and normatively, that is desirable. But I also warn that law enforcement can be biased. In our Western world, the United States plays the role of the global police, and that creates resistance. Do we want to have just U.S. norms on how we determine right from wrong? Surely, we want to have our own norms, as well. What does that mean, then, for the political struggles of the future, is a question that I think will stay with us for some time."

From your experience and your leadership, what skills do you think are crucial for future leaders dealing with globalisation and international issues? 

"There are several skills that I believe are hugely important. One is an open mind, curiosity, and the capacity to change perspectives all the time. If you think only you are right, you will be unable to cooperate with anybody. Second, and I believe this is underappreciated, is you have to think strategically about the goal you want to get to in the end. You might not be able to agree on each step, but if a different path leads to the same outcome, then cooperation becomes possible. If you have a very clear vision of where you want to end up, the compromises you need to make in the meantime are less important. I think the open-mindedness is important, but the vision for the intermediate or long-term goals are just as important." 

Written by Rosa Aranda Barrio (IE University)

Photo credits: IE University


Cornelia Woll, President of the Hertie School.
IE University's institutional visit of Hertie School's President Cornelia Woll and Dean of Graduate Programmes' Thurid Hustedt.
Official signing of agreement between Hertie School and IE University with Provost and Dean of IE School of Politics, Economics and Global Affairs, Manuel Muñiz.