Professor of Economics & Associate Dean for Social Sciences at the University of Boulder, Colorado
2010 Alumni Achievement Award Winner
Majors: Economics of Business Administration, Mathematics
Keith E. Maskus, professor of economics and associate dean for social
sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is an renowned expert on
international trade, including foreign direct investment, intellectual property rights, and the link between trade and technology transfer. He has been a lead economist in the Development Research Group at the World Bank, a research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a fellow at the Kiel Institute for World Economics, and a visiting professor at several international universities, including the University of Adelaide, the University of Bocconi, the University of Munich, and Peking University. Maskus also serves as a consultant for the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and the World Intellectual Property Organization. He is the author of Intellectual Property Rights in the Global Economy and co-editor of International Public Goods and the Transfer of Technology under a Globalized Intellectual Property Regime.
Knox Magazine: Please describe your Knox experience.
Keith Maskus: I came to Knox with reservations about what such a small college could offer. What I found was a gold mine in the cornfields. Knox provided real academic challenges, such as the courses I took in advanced mathematical analysis, which were tougher than anything I took in graduate school. It provided terrific opportunities that I could not have enjoyed at a bigger school, including playing on the brilliant 1974 Knox soccer team, touring the Soviet Union with my Russian class, and sitting on the College planning committee. And its intimacy gave me a chance to make lifelong friendships with faculty and fellow students. Knox was even open enough to let an egghead like me be a Friar. It is a place filled with history and meaning, which I only really came to recognize while listening to the great Studs Terkel deliver the Commencement address when I graduated. I still miss the place.
KM: How has the experience affected your life?
KM: Surely the most important way is that I married a Knox graduate, Susan Rehak '75, who has always been an extraordinary support for me. As for Knox, I left the College wanting to contribute to the world and eager to travel. Becoming an international economist and university professor has been a good way to do both of those things. I doubt that would have happened without the academic curiosity and intellectual openness a place like Knox instills. Probably the biggest thing is that I have always tried to bring a bit of small-college sensibility to my career as an educator at an enormous state university. It's a great thing when I can help a student navigate the wilds of international trade theory.
KM: What do you believe is your most notable achievement?
KM: I suppose it would be that I pioneered what is now an important area of scholarship among economists, which is to analyze the role of intellectual property rights (patents and copyrights) in international trade and economic development. The reputation I gained through that work gives me numerous opportunities to advise government officials and trade negotiators on policy reforms. Perhaps the one I am most proud of is working with World Bank officials to establish a fund to purchase and distribute HIV/AIDS drugs in very poor countries in 2002. Or it might be bungee jumping off a bridge in New Zealand and loving every minute of it.
KM: What will you do to celebrate your Alumni Achievement award?
KM: I imagine we'll try to find a restaurant with a good bottle of wine somewhere in Galesburg. I don't really know the town that well any more. Eventually, we'll get together with Knox friends and tell old stories.
KM: What words of advice would you offer to current Knox students?
KM: Enjoy your time here because it will go by very fast. As you go through life, always keep learning and wondering. Keep an open mind and remain thoughtful. Experience the world as much as you can and remember that it's more rewarding to visit one place for two weeks than five places in one week. And buy a good road bike so you can get lots of exercise.