November 2, 2023

Smith School Hosts Fifth-Annual Steamboat Institute Campus Liberty Tour Debate

In recent years businesses, consumers and investors have demonstrated an interest in business practices going beyond how goods and services are bought and sold. Environmental, Social and Governance, or ESG, practices and policies of a company cover a wide range of activities that customers, investors and employees care about. Should Environmental, Social, and Governance influence investment decisions?

Addressing grand challenges requires expanding viewpoints, seeking out new perspectives and engaging in rigorous dialogue. To do that, the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business once again welcomed the Steamboat Institute’s Campus Liberty Tour to campus.

This year’s event, held on Tuesday, Oct. 24, at the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center and hosted in partnership with the Smith School’s Ed Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets, saw participants discuss whether environmental, social and governance goals should impact investment and business decisions. The official resolution in question: “Be it resolved, environmental, social, and governance investment practices are harmful to the economy.”

Now in its fifth year at UMD, the event marked the fourth stop in the Steamboat Institute’s tour, joining Washington and Lee University, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, among others.

In his opening remarks during the event, Dean Prabhudev Konana cited the event’s fundamental alignment with the Smith School’s strategic plan for fostering intellectual curiosity and freedom, as well as its contributions toward bringing civility to conversations on some of today’s most pressing issues.

“The best form of education is through creating thought leaders, independent thinkers and critical thinkers. How do you do that? You provide evidence, arguments and different viewpoints. You make up your own mind, not just believing what people think you should believe,” said Konana.

Michael Faulkender, Dean’s Professor of Finance at the Smith School and former Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy at the U.S. Department of Treasury, participated in the event by arguing for the affirmative. Arguing for the negative was Desiree Fixler, a renowned advocate for change and impact in the practice of ESG investing and sustainability and possessing over 25 years of experience in sustainable finance and investment banking through companies such as JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank and Zais Group. Moderating the discussion was Gerard Baker, editor-at-large of the Wall Street Journal.

In her remarks prior to the debate, Rajshree Agarwal, Director of the Ed Snider Center and the Rudolph Lamone Chair of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, expressed her gratitude to Tina Snider, the Snider Foundation, and all of the donors and board members of the Ed Snider Center for their contributions in bringing the Steamboat Institute event to the UMD campus.

Agarwal also recognized students in attendance from the Smith Business Leadership Fellows and the Smith School’s MBA program, who prior to the event conducted research and debated the featured resolution in their respective classrooms. Attending the event, she said, was another step toward their development as active thinkers who will eventually tackle the biggest issues across business industries. 

“You're going to listen and then go back and reflect on this kind of intensive training in critical thinking in your ability to not just challenge yourself but challenge others,” said Agarwal. “We are delivering on our mission to empower you to be the great leaders of our future.”

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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