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Welcome to the Lauder Institute Global Knowledge Lab

How It Works

Instead of a traditional thesis, all Lauder students fulfill the research and writing requirement for their MA by completing team and individual projects known collectively as the Global Knowledge Lab (GKL). The GKL provides students the opportunity to integrate subject knowledge with their language, managerial, and intercultural skills to develop practical and analytical projects drawing on cutting edge academic research.

Students work in cross-language teams under the supervision of faculty members, conduct research while on campus, travel to collect data and interviews, and write both a team report and an individual paper. Students choose their GKL teams – ideally teams of four – based a topic of mutual research interest that allows them to work with others to explore the topic in a comparative context, thus making use of the language, industry, and country interests of each team member. Many projects are sponsored and/or directed by outside organizations, including foundations, investment banks, consulting firms, or business associations.

The Language Component

In addition to providing additional language training for those who require it, GKL projects help students understand and integrate the relationship between their Lauder language and the globalized economy. For instance, past students studying Chinese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish worked together to investigate the intercultural aspects of changing consumer patterns in Latin America, Russia, and China. Their research was sponsored by Booz and Co., a large consulting firm, and took the students to Mexico City, São Paulo, Moscow, and Beijing, where they interviewed company executives and gathered qualitative and quantitative data before compiling their report.

GKL Faculty Advisors

Each GKL team is supervised by two faculty members – one representing Wharton or the Law School and the other from the School of Arts & Sciences or another appropriate School of the University (e.g., Engineering, Education, or Design). The two work together to guide and evaluate the students’ research. 

Faculty advisors meet with students to monitor their progress and to suggest bibliographic and other resources needed to deepen knowledge of their projects. They help students define questions and research methodologies, refine hypotheses, and select appropriate research sites and interviewees for the summer research trips. They work in consultation with the Lauder Director, Co-Director, Managing Director, and GKL sponsors to determine the final form of the team product or products to be submitted.

Faculty advisors also help each student in their team to define a topic for his or her individual research paper. They review drafts of the final research reports or papers to suggest needed revisions, and work with the Lauder Director and Co-Director to assign an individual grade to each student.

The following professors have served as GKL advisors:

Regina Abrami
The Lauder Institute

Balkan Osman
The Lauder Institute & Swarthmore College

Denise Dahlhoff
The Wharton School

Mauro Guillén
The Wharton School

Witold Henisz
The Wharton School

Jim McGann
The Lauder Institute

Joao Neiva de Figueiredo
Saint Joseph’s University & The Wharton School

Stephen Sammut
The Wharton School

Joseph Westphal
The Lauder Institute

Janet Chrzan
Department of Anthropology & Nursing

Marilynne Diggs-Thompson
Department of Anthropology

Stephanie Dick
History and Sociology of Science Department

Eileen Doherty-Sil
Political Science Department

Ann Farnsworth-Alvear
Department of History

John Gans
Director of Communications and Research

Julia Gray
Political Science Department

Jennifer Hasty
Department of Anthropology

Mireia Lizandra
Independent International Sports Consultant

Research Areas and Topics

In the past, students have chosen topics in five areas: Culture & Consumption, Entrepreneurship & Development, New International Investors, Energy & the Environment, and Global Small Business Development.

Culture & Consumption

In the area of Culture & Consumption, the Lauder Institute has undertaken several research projects, including some on food consumption, luxury goods, and global sports:

For three years in a row, different teams of Lauder students have studied how food consumption patterns change over the course of economic development, focusing on urban and rural areas of Mexico, Brazil, China, Russia, India, and Egypt. This project is in collaboration with Booz & Co.

Students have conducted research on the emergence of new markets for luxury goods in China and Russia and on the prospects for green luxury goods and services.

Global sporting events are fertile ground for analyzing the economic, political, and intercultural dimensions of business. A team of Lauder students has explored these issues in Germany, Russia, Spain, and South Africa.

Entrepreneurship & Development

In the area of Entrepreneurship & Development, the Lauder Institute is engaged in analyzing cases of women entrepreneurs, helping Senegalese farms improve their business practices, and designing educational programs for entrepreneurs in developing and emerging economies.

The Lauder Institute is home to a worldwide effort to document the activities of women entrepreneurs in developing and emerging economies, sponsored by Goldman Sachs. The program, 10,000 Women, seeks to help women entrepreneurs succeed as a way to promote economic growth and wellbeing. Lauder students have travelled to China, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Rapa Nui (Easter Island) to interview a number of women entrepreneurs.

Teams of Lauder students have helped farms in Senegal improve their yields and business practices, in collaboration with the private equity for development group Aventura Invest. Students visited not only Senegal but also Brazil, a country that is a leading source of seeds and farming equipment.

A new project on entrepreneurial education will take Lauder students to Latin America and the Philippines in search of models to encourage more people to become entrepreneurs and to help them realize their dreams.

New International Investors

In the area of New International Investors, the Lauder Institute is pursing projects on the rise of sovereign wealth funds, the evolution of tax havens, the growing presence of Asian firms in Africa, infrastructure development in Western China and the central Asian republics, and new models of venture capital and private equity in emerging economies.

A team of Lauder students produced a report on the economic, political, and legal aspects of sovereign wealth funds, especially in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. This project was sponsored by the Wharton Center for Leadership & Management Change.

A new project on tax havens will examine the political aspects of special tax regimes and how multinational firms structure their operations to take advantage of them. This project will focus on tax havens in the Middle East (UAE), China (Macau), and Japan (Okinawa).

Asian firms, especially those from China and India, have become major investors in the energy, infrastructure, and financial services sectors of various African countries. This project seeks to understand the drivers of this process and the implications for the host countries. It focuses on Angola and Equatorial Guinea, where Portuguese and Spanish are spoken, respectively. The project is in collaboration with the World Bank Institute.

A team of Lauder students is researching the infrastructure needs of the Western Chinese provinces and the republics of Central Asia, in collaboration with the International Finance Corporation, which is part of the World Bank. This project seeks to identify needs and to design ways to attract private investment.

Several teams of Lauder students have researched new models of venture capital and private equity in Latin America, Asia, and Russia. Some parts of this project have been undertaken in collaboration with the Latin American Venture Capital Association.

Energy & the Environment

In the area of Energy & the Environment, the Lauder Institute is undertaking research projects on green products, global energy policies, and energy-efficient building practices.

Under the auspices of the Leon Lowenstein Foundation, teams of Lauder students have examined the viability of electric automobile engines, the required infrastructure for electric cars, ethanol fuels, mass transit solutions, and ecological tourism. They have traveled to Japan, Brazil, Mexico, and the Galápagos Islands to conduct their research.

Other teams of Lauder students have looked into the advantages and disadvantages of different carbon trading schemes aimed at the reduction of greenhouse gases. They are also engaged in an analysis of energy generation from space.

Given the strong interest among Lauder students in the construction and real estate sectors, teams have looked at energy efficiency in building, in collaboration with the Chan Center for Building Simulation and Energy Studies, a joint venture between the University of Pennsylvania and Tsinghua University in China. Students traveled to Brazil and China.

Public-Private Partnerships

In the area of Public-Private Partnerships, the Lauder Institute is engaged in two projects – one dealing with infrastructure development in mid-tier cities and the other with the use of mobile telecommunication technology for the provision of healthcare services in developing countries.

A team of Lauder students is presently examining the infrastructure needs of mid-tier cities in China, Japan, India, and Russia, with a view toward creating the necessary logistics to attract private investment.

Under the auspices of the United Nations Foundation, a team of Lauder students is designing a plan to create public-private partnerships between governments and telecommunications companies with the goal of improving the delivery of healthcare services in developing countries. The students will travel to Latin America and Africa.

Global Small Business Development

In the area of Global Small Business Development, the Lauder Institute is collaborating with Wharton’s Small Business Development Center to help Philadelphia-area companies enter foreign markets. Several teams of Lauder students have traveled to China and Europe to undertake this project.

GKL Sponsors

In addition to providing funding, GKL sponsors help identify the research topics that students will pursue. They also work with the Lauder Institute to agree on a range of formulas regarding the governance, supervision, and implementation of the projects, as well as the involvement of their employees and the frequency of meetings/presentations. The sponsors collaborate with the Lauder Director, Co-Director, Managing Director, and faculty advisors to determine the form of the final product or products to be submitted by each student team.

GKL Prizewinners

Class of 2020

Research Prize Winner
James Juchau, Les Oubliés: North African Soldiers Fighting for the French Army in World War II

First Runner-up
Danielle Cerepnalkovic, Women at the Top: A Comparative Study of Corporate Board Gender Quotas in France and Spain

Second Runner-up
Second runner-up: Tyler Wigington, Narco-Trafficking in Colombia: Drawing on the Past for a Modern Path Forward

Complete list of Prizewinners.

GKL Inspired Books & Examples

GKL Destinations

Angola, Argentina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Easter Island, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, France, Germany, Honduras, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Madagascar, Malta, Mexico, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, New Caledonia, Nicaragua, North Korea, Oman, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Tahiti, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam

Contact Us

For more information, contact

Dr. Ecaterina Locoman
Senior Lecturer, The Lauder Institute

The Joseph H. Lauder Institute
256 South 37th street
2nd Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6330