Undergraduate Perspective on the Global Forum Panama

By Julio Germán Arias Castillo, C’14, W’14

As a Wharton student, I have been empowered to explore the world and learn from movers and shakers from the most diverse backgrounds. This past spring break, I was invited to serve as master of ceremonies of the Wharton Global Forum in Panama. I was selected after the organizing committee read an article on the Penn News website, in which I showed my pride for the country where I was born and raised. I was thrilled to represent my school and my country at the forum, and to showcase to my professors and peers the tremendous potential Panama holds.

Julio Germán Arias Castillo, C’14, W’14, completed the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business in May.
Julio Germán Arias Castillo, C’14, W’14, completed the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business in May.

Under the theme “Connectivity,” the Wharton Global Forum Panama brought together nearly 300 people. From C-suite executives at multinational corporations to undergraduates, attendees all sought to learn more about this small country and its role as a gateway to the Americas. During the first evening, attendees were able to network with their peers through specialized sessions for young alumni, CEO s and entrepreneurs.

The second day of the conference started with a keynote one-on-one discussion with Mauro Guillén(director of The Lauder Institute and Dr. Felix Zandman Professor of International Management) and Ricardo Martinelli, president of Panama. Professor Guillén’s lauded President Martinelli for increasing the minimum wage, raising pensions for the most disadvantaged elderly people and working toward creating a consumer-oriented economy as an engine of economic growth. I have been impacted positively by how President Martinelli, himself a business magnate, brought ideas used in the private sector to boost efficiency in the public sector. For instance, he spearheaded an ambitious program of public investment, increasing Panama’s attractiveness for logistic ventures.

Additionally, there was a one-on-one discussion with Dean Thomas S. Robertson and Pedro Heilbron, CEO of Copa Holdings. They had an in-depth conversation about the internationalization of Copa and the creation of the Hub of the Americas, which positions Panama as a key layover site for business and tourists traveling within, to and from Latin America. Panama is now a strategic crossroads of people and ideas.

Originally published in Wharton Magazine.

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