Going Beyond the Classroom: Gonzalo Garland
No other individual embodies IE’s philosophy towards cultivating a truly international educational experience more than economics Professor Gonzalo Garland. His father’s family is English in origin but has called Peru home for centuries. His mother was born to a Spanish mother and a German father who emigrated from Spain to Peru in the 1930s during the war. This vibrant background, combined with his strong Peruvian roots, gives Professor Garland not only a unique perspective in his discipline, but allows him to relate to IE’s diverse student body in a way few others can.
As a young boy, Gonzalo began his education at a Canadian Catholic school. His worldly family, in addition to his parents’ foresight and his father’s years studying in the United States, served as the impetus for Gonzalo’s and his 6 sibling’s English training, most of whom have stayed in Peru. He, along with his sister who practices medicine at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., are the only two who have chosen to leave home. But as he mentioned, Gonzalo left one home only to move to another here in Spain. Years spent as a child visiting family in Madrid gave him the comforting sense of a homecoming when he came more than 20 years ago.
While preparing for university in Peru, each prospective student must pass an examination, similar to the SAT. At 16, Gonzalo underwent preparatory classes at an academy in the months preceding the exam and received the highest mark in the country. His impressive performance earned him a position teaching at the same academy where he had been a student only months earlier. “I’m naturally quite shy,” said Gonzalo, “and the first day I was trembling like a leaf, but teaching helped me come out of my shell.”
After university, Gonzalo spent 7 years in the United States, first studying a Master degree at Stanford University and, later, switching coasts to attend the University of Pennsylvania for a PhD in economics. The formal economic training at these prestigious American universities was elegant yet heavy on theory and the abstract. Gonzalo mentioned several times the important role theory plays in economics, yet what truly calls him to the field is the transformative nature from theory to reality and seeing the application and impact economic theory has in practice.
Two very different economic narratives exist in Peru and the United States. Gonzalo grew up during a military dictatorship with crisis wreaking havoc in Latin America in the 1980s. Poverty, inequality, inflation and political unrest plagued these countries, and Gonzalo was failing to see how his theoretical American training was relevant for his country. He was eager to make the connection between the theory and the policy, the abstract and the concrete, and to emphasize that in his classroom.
At times, Professor Garland admits being torn by his decision to leave his home country. “Being in Spain for as long as I have, I sometimes feel guilty for being away from Peru for so long and neglecting, to some extent, my roots and my people.” But Gonzalo’s illustrious career at IE, playing a formative role in this institution’s story, has allowed him to reach an international student body and pass on his message of inequality, poverty, and the economic tools needed to eradicate both. “Spain has been great, but IE has been extraordinary. Through teaching, I’ve passed on a message to people from all corners of the world who, one day, will be very influential,” said Gonzalo. By making a life for himself outside of Peru, he may be doing more than he ever imagined for his own country, as well as other emerging economies, by preparing individuals today who will be guiding those countries tomorrow.
The Beyond the Classroom series is a monthly installment on our blog where a current Academic Fellow for the Master in International Relations shares with us insights into current MIR professors and faculty. The scope of this series is to see our diverse faculty in a different light away from the classroom, highlighting aspects of their rich personal lives and experiences.