From politician to professor: Jim Kolbe

Claire Conrad

A group of 26 MBA and law students at the UA have been learning about political development and international trade from one of the insiders.

Former Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe began teaching “”Trade, Development and Globalization,”” a course offered jointly by the Eller College of Management and the James E. Rogers College of Law, this semester.

Kolbe’s class covers the history of trade, the development of key organizations, and treaties involving trade as they relate to current social and economic issues like globalization.

It examines what factors nations consider when making trade policy initiatives, development of countries and the effect of globalization, he said.

The course also focuses on how the U.S. and other developed nations can help underdeveloped countries reduce poverty and enter the competitive realm.

“”The knowledge that I gained from working on trade issues and on development issues and on foreign assistance as the chairman of the foreign operations subcommittee of appropriations, all the work I’ve done on trade over the years, has done a lot in giving me a lot of background,”” said Kolbe, who joined the U.S. House of Representatives in 1985.

Stan Reynolds, vice dean of the Eller College of Management, said both Toni Massaro, College of Law dean, and Eller Dean Paul Portney encouraged and approved Kolbe to teach a course after he announced this year that he was not running for another term.

“”He had a lot of experience in foreign affairs,”” Reynolds said. “”This is a graduate class, with a mix of MBA and law students, and is something we set up to highlight his experience and background.””

Although the course is new, Kolbe’s presence on campus is not.

“”He has given many lectures to classes in the past,”” Reynolds said.

During his time in Congress, Kolbe said he spent many hours going into university and high school classes, but that his experience as a professor thus far has been a new adventure.

“”I always taught, but this is the first time I’ve been responsible for the whole planning of a course and the curriculum and the reading and the grading,”” he said.

While Kolbe’s expertise is undeniable, his students also have their own fair share of experience, including some who have worked in D.C., he said.

“”I’m very impressed with the quality of students I have,”” Kolbe said. “”They really have a lot to contribute. I learn as much from them as they do from me.””

Other public officials have made the transition into the UA classroom. Thomas Volgy, a former Tucson mayor, teaches political science. Former U.S. representatives have also taught.

Kolbe plans to continue his teaching venture and said students are what keeps him interested.

“”I just love being around students and interacting with them – (the) interchange of ideas and stuff,”” he said. “”They keep me young.””