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An Interview with Dr. Mark M Michalski

Updated: Feb 21, 2019

By Gordon Nary

Gordon: When did you join St James Parish of Falls Church, VA, and what feature of the parish do you appreciate the most?

Dr. Mark: Our family joined the St James Parish in the city of Falls Church in 1997.

Our parish is very vibrant, dynamic and beautiful. There are lots of activities and support groups. I belong to just a couple, Men’s Group led by Fr. Cozzi and am an Auxiliary in our Legion of Mary. I used to teach CCD and loved it, but since I also teach evenings-am not able to do it. There are almost three thousand families so it is relatively large parish.

Before coming to Falls Church we lived on the Capitol Hill, in Washington DC for more than a decade. Our children went to St Peter’s parish school. We also have lived in Europe, specifically in Poland, for seven years. Here a small digression how it happened.

In Fall of 1990, soon after the fall of Berlin Wall, the then President of Poland Lech Walesa came to Washington and at the Embassy he made an impassionate speech to Poles and Americans. Walesa was pleading and inviting all - but especially Polonia (native Poles living in the US) - to come and help Poland in their transition to become a market economy. He said that Poland needs lots of technical assistance more than money - to rebuild its defunct administrative, economic, financial and legislative framework. The most help would be to move there, to be a part of the historic, peaceful transition from socialist system, to an emerging market economic system. So, in 1991 my wife and all small children moved to Poland. We intended to be there only one year. We ended up being there more than seven (amazing and unforgettable) years. When we came back, my wife and all children were fluent in Polish.

Gordon: As an Adjunct Professor, what courses do you teach at The Catholic University of America?

Dr. Mark: I work part-time at Te Catholic University of America. It is both privilege and pleasure to be a part of such a magnificent Christian learning institution. I teach mostly marketing courses: International Marketing and Marketing Management. I also teach Vocation of Business Lab, which is an introductory workshop to complement Andreas’ Widmer course with the same name. Andreas is a visionary professor and practical educator of an increasingly important field of entrepreneurship. The University is growing rapidly, especially its School of Business, which just recently was named Busch School of Business after having received almost 50 million funding to expand business, marketing and entrepreneurship programs.

Gordon: As an Adjunct Professor, what courses do you teach at the University Maryland University College?

Dr. Mark: Currently, I teach Management and Organization Theory at the University Maryland University College (UMUC) During the previous semester I taught Cybersecurity and Cyberspace. It was a graduate course and was an online course, with occasional teleconferencing. It focused on the recent policy implications and leadership role staff must play in this fast changing and important field. The UMUC takes a lead role in promoting new and now needed high tech security courses and these are most popular. There are lots of new jobs and the UMUC is hosting regularly job fairs, networking seminars and conferences, which attract lots of attention and many graduates find their new employment through these events.

I have also taught there a range of business and management courses, such as Principles of Management, or Business Ethics, which I enjoyed the most. Also, I taught Leadership in Organizations, Organizational Behavior, and Strategic Management. I also teach entrepreneurship and innovation in China. I commute by plane some 20 hours during the summer semester each year since 2014 for 4 or 6 weeks of intensive seminars. Chinese students are very disciplined and highly motivated. It is fascinating o see them so dedicated to their studies even if they have so much fewer opportunities and flexibility than American or European students have. Also, I notice their thirst for religion, specifically Christian religion. I am often stopped by some students asking if I am Christian and if I could talk with them.

Gordon: You have extraordinary expertise in Cost Control, Management, Procurement, Business Ethics and Organizational Leadership Where did you receive your training?

Dr.Mark:I have studied much of my life in many universities and still consider myself a student. Now as I teach in China and study their language I appreciate the need to constantly learn. I gained experience by studying in quite a few of the universities, in Cracow, Stockholm and in several in DC. I studied at the Georgetown U, then the CUA and GWU, and was taking many courses in many universities (also by osmosis) I have received good American training. I liked studying the business and economics -- subjects that now I love to teach. Also, working as a consultant at the World Bank gave me wealth of opportunities to work as an instructor, to run workshops and give presentations. I also taught and studied at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, where St. John Paul the Great studied.

Gordon: You have worked in Eastern Europe: Baltic States, Moldova, Poland , Ukraine, and Russia. What are some of the projects in which you have been involved?

Dr. Mark: Working for the World Bank was one of the great privilege and amazing experience. I started working there as a Research Assistant. After some time, I became a consultant. This gave me more opportunity to pick and choose some of the projects and geographical regions where I could work. Working on external debt issues (it was during the 1980s, when desk computers were not yet available at all). We used calculators for calculating interest rate, principle, time and cost overrun). There were many weeks, during which we worked many and long hours doing tedious calculations for many “highly indebted poor countries”. These reports were then published and it took long time to prepare, to verify, coordinate and make sure there were no errors. When we got our first IBM office computers installed in the late 1980s, we could get these reports done in a fraction of time: not in months - but in days. We all marveled how much time could be saved by using programs, which also reduced the errors and heavy manual labor.

When I moved to the Agriculture and Economic Policy Department, I worked still on calculating costs and benefits of some projects and assessing rate of returns, not only for agricultural projects of the World Bank and also infrastructure and energy projects. Conducting this research was very fascinating. For some time, I worked in the Operations Evaluation Department (OED). The unit was responsible for conducting key research on projects’ implementation and completion, studying lessons learnt and providing constructive feedback for new projects. Warren Baum, Chief of OED wrote a classic brief that addressed how to conduct the project cycle at World Bank lending programs.

That experience led me to travel to several regions in Europe, Baltics, Russia and later on Middle East and Africa. In Moldova, I worked on one of the first emergency agricultural projects. Moldova was a fascinating case of one of affluent Soviet-era countries, rich in agricultural goods, high quality wines. After initial transition to the market economy it became one of the poorest countries.

In Russia, the World Bank had many projects, ranging from technical assistance to structural assistance, to fixing financial and budgetary constraints. I worked on procurement of computers for Moscow tax administration. Later, I also went to Siberia for energy rehabilitation project in the region of Raduga (in Russian: rainbow). It was very much North and near Ob River. We were there during the short summer month of July. Our translator explained that already from early September up to June there is very cold winter there. But for the rest of the year… it is a nice summer there, lasting two months.

Gordon: In how many languages are you fluent?

Dr. Mark: I can converse well in Polish, Russian, Swedish and English. I know a bit of Italian and Spanish. Now I am studying Chinese. Some time ago my friend told me that pessimists study Russian but optimists are learning Chinese.

Gordon: You also serve as Editor of Business and Public Administration Journal of the Business and Public Administration Journal of the Washington Institute of China Studies. We keep getting some mixed message from the White House on China. Could your share with our readers your overview what the challenges may, or may not be?

Dr Mark: In the recent issue of the journal, which I edit I reviewed one of a new IMF reports on China: Modernizing Soft Infrastructure. The Chinese economy slowed down in recent years, (from its peak 10-11 percent to 6-8 percent over the last three years), but it is growing still at quite impressive pace. Of course there are some inherent problems and ideological constraints. Not only related to corruption, inefficiencies and contradictions of trying to mix command economy with open market system. The government monopoly is remarkably pragmatic and wants to avoid any direct confrontations.

Gordon: If you were invited by any administration to discuss what the United States should do on the emerging global markets, especially in China, what would your recommendations be.

Dr. Mark: In a few words: persevere in prudence with political diplomacy. There are more people who treasure peace and prosperity than there are warmongers. We all recognize that we live in an incredibly fast-paced, interdependent, disruptive, with instant social media reaction -- global village. The new technologies and inventions made our already small world even smaller. We produce more information than is humanely possible to consume in one short day.

The US is unquestionably the world’s leader, both in political and economic terms. And China, though some like to say is a “frenemy”, does not likely wish to “confront” the existing state of affairs. What it means, is that we need one another more than ever. We need to learn more about our cultures, traditions and aspirations. We also can achieve much more by cooperation than by confrontation. While America leads as a strategic and pivotal innovator and trailblazer, China has own ambitions, audacity and an attitude to catch up as fast as possible and - to do many things just as well, or even better.

China is incessantly innovating, modernizing and improving its economy – and thus affecting the US as well as the rest of the globe. Just about three decades ago it was not uncommon to assess and analyze economic development across countries without much reference to international trade. China owes much of her success to trade (initially primarily with the US), with export of increasingly more and more sophisticated, innovative, practical goods and commodities. Yet, China is still at a critical crossroads as it undergoes escalating modernization and transformation to an (very incomplete still) market economy. Whether the leading officials want that China achieves the status of a full open market economy is another issue. The government at the present time aims to rebalance what has generally been recognized as an expansive growth model. An underlying refrain for these reforms and continuous transformation is that it may not be achieved by increasing the levels of historical levels of investment. The government policies for are creating new frameworks to allow established and emerging markets function better, more effectively, also work efficiently, in an interconnected world. So, as China is building its neglected infrastructure: the institutional interdependence, that reinforces and guides the smooth operation of markets - the main challenge is toward achieving sustained economic and social progress that benefits us all. China needs strong America. And America needs a partner that stimulates and inspires innovation and growth that benefits global village that we now live in.

Gordon: Thank you for a fascinating interview and your recommendations on China which I hope will be addressed our political leaders.

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