President Obama announced March 23 the nomination of Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim ’82 to lead the World Bank. Kim, a public health expert and physician, has been called an unconventional choice for the presidency, a position that has been filled by individuals with experience in politics or business since the bank’s founding.
“It’s time for a development professional to lead the world’s largest development agency,” Obama said in a Rose Garden ceremony when he announced the pick.
The Obama administration searched for candidates outside the traditional banking and government fields due to signs of developing countries’ increased dissatisfaction with the United States’ control over the World Bank’s leadership. Bloomberg reported earlier this month that the Obama administration had included President Ruth Simmons on an initial list of potential nominees to lead the World Bank.
The interdisciplinary nature of Kim’s scholarship would allow him to bring a fresh viewpoint to the World Bank, said Ed Wing, dean of medicine and biological sciences. “Jim Yong Kim has a unique perspective on world health, particularly on developing countries. He’s very aware of the importance of economics to health and vice versa,” Wing said.
Kim has served as Dartmouth’s president since July 2009. His selection made him the first Asian-American president of an Ivy League school. Kim previously headed the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights within the Harvard School of Public Health. He also served as a director of the department of HIV/AIDS at the World Health Organization from 2004 to 2006 and co-founded the nonprofit Partners in Health, which offers health care services for the poor, with internationally known physician Paul Farmer in 1987.
“As a physician, anthropologist and pioneer in the field of global health, (Kim) has proven himself to be a creative, determined leader,” wrote Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations, in an email to The Herald.
Kim has been widely regarded as a leading voice in global health issues. He received a grant from the MacArthur Fellows Program in 2003 and was mentioned on the Time 100 list of influential people in 2006 for his work on global health issues. In 2009, he received an honorary Doctor of Medical Science degree from Brown. “It’s my personal belief that every human being on the face of the earth deserves access to health care,” Kim said during an April 2009 lecture at the University that focused on health care delivery in developing countries.
Kim is embarking on a “listening tour” to meet with World Bank stakeholders in developing countries from March 27 to April 9. The impetus for the tour was increasing dissatisfaction among developing countries with U.S. dominance over the World Bank.
The U.S. traditionally selects the World Bank president under an informal agreement that keeps the International Monetary Fund’s top position in European hands. In recent months, though, two challengers have emerged as candidates for the World Bank position: Nigerian finance minister and former World Bank official Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, around whom many African countries have coalesced, and former Colombian finance minister Jose Antonio Ocampo, who has garnered similar support in Latin America. “We have been locked out of the system for the past 60 years,” Okonjo-Iweala told the Washington Post last week. Though both candidates will be interviewed for the position, most analysts believe Kim will still win the nomination.
Current World Bank President Robert Zoellick announced his resignation in February and will step down from the post June 30.
Kim’s tenure at Dartmouth has been marked by clashes with student leaders and dissatisfaction within the university community. If selected to lead the World Bank, he will leave a campus lit up this semester by controversy over hazing - Dartmouth was recently spotlighted in a Rolling Stone article on hazing that harpooned the school for “rampant” sexual assault and an “attitude of inherent entitlement,” particularly among fraternities.
The article came after Dartmouth senior and ex-fraternity member Andrew Lohse penned a January column for the Dartmouth that detailed humiliating experiences he underwent as a pledge for Sigma Alpha Epsilon. The column prompted Dartmouth’s Undergraduate Judicial Affairs Committee to charge 27 of the fraternity’s members – including Lohse – and the fraternity itself with hazing. But the committee dropped all individual charges last week, The Dartmouth reported Friday. The hazing scandal this semester, during which Kim remained largely silent, combined with initial impressions of Kim’s aloofness, rubbed many students the wrong way, said Max Yoeli, the student body president and a Dartmouth senior.
“I think now, especially with his recent World Bank nomination, people look back at the early criticism of him and see that a lot of it was warranted,” Yoeli said. “There is a sense of outrage among a lot of the students that he would spend as little as two years, nine months at Dartmouth.”
Kim’s tenure failed to catalyze widespread support, said Dartmouth junior Ashley Afranie-Sakyi. “From the start there were mumblings that he was going to be like an interim president, he wasn’t going to stick around, and with what’s going on right now – his nomination of course is what’s good for him, but it kind of bolsters what people were saying,” she said.
In an editorial Friday, the Dartmouth cited Kim’s inadequacy in addressing student life matters. “Successfully addressing these issues requires a College president who is keen to interact regularly with the entire student body and listen to its concerns and ideas, not one who simply slashes budgets and concentrates on reputation behind an opaque veil of bureaucracy,” the paper wrote.
Yoeli said Kim’s focus on fundraising and improving Dartmouth’s image often made him more popular outside the school, creating a dichotomy between reactions in the press and on campus. “In part because of his devotion to image and reaching out to the alumni community, President Kim seems to be pretty popular among the alumni,” Yoeli added.
Born in South Korea, Kim grew up in Iowa and graduated from Brown in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in human biology. He also holds a medical degree and a doctorate in anthropology from Harvard.
- With additional reporting by David Chung