Economist and Honorary Doctorate Abby Joseph Cohen Returns to NYU-Poly

It's been almost 13 years since Dr. Abby Joseph Cohen received an honorary degree from the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly), and the esteemed expert in financial markets — then the managing director at Goldman Sachs, one of the most successful firms on Wall Street today — has lost none of the savvy that catapulted her to the 19th spot on Forbes list of most powerful women in 2005. Speaking on such topics as innovation and economic growth, the grand forecaster of economic health worldwide (Cohen is now the president of the company's Global Marketing Institute) visited NYU-Poly earlier this month as a guest lecturer of the Topfer Chair and the University’s Department of Finance and Risk Engineering (FRE).

Students and faculty packed Silleck Lounge, where Cohen presented on global themes and risks, focusing, in particular, on the United States. She predicted, for instance, that the country's economic growth in 2012 will rise 2 percent, a percentage she suggested could improve if policymakers paid proper attention to government spending, which has remained stagnant, even as the economy has improved. "The recession is over. The financial crisis is over," Cohen said, yet government expenditures are not just flat-lining, but are beginning to drop, threatening to drag other economic sectors down.

Exports, however, said Cohen have shown runaway growth. The single fastest growing sector of the American economy, exports have kept the country a "powerhouse" in that arena, said Cohen.

Unfortunately, jobs have been one export U.S. companies have steadily shipped overseas. While this trend has been a widely held concern for some time, Cohen brought fresh urgency to the matter. Although the jobs lost have required little to no skills, those that have remained are found in high-tech manufacturing, which require laborers with college degrees. Educational attainment in the United States, however, has decreased noticeably in the last decade. Once featuring the highest number of college-educated workers in the world, the United States ranks about 10th today, a ranking it has held for some time, according to Cohen and her colleagues. That fact, combined with changes in the technological landscape and advancements among so-called emerging countries, such as Brazil and India, trouble Cohen. "A solid middle class is what leads to a sustainable economy," she said, urging her audience to explore how the United States might bolster its middle class.

Katepalli Sreenivasan, NYU-POLY’s Provost, in his first meeting with FRE students, introduced Cohen and recalled her great achievements and her pursuit of excellence. Professor Charles Tapiero, The Topfer Chair Professor and chair of the FRE department, praised Cohen afterward for reminding students "that finance is not about virtual transactions, but emanates from a real economy, an economy that provides jobs and homes and contributes to the betterment of people."