Yeutter Institute Program Director Jill O'Donnell poses for a portrait at the Yeutter Institute on UNL's east campus on Thursday, Sept. 26th, 2019, in Lincoln Nebraska.

The study of international trade and finance isn’t limited to only business majors, and the Clayton Yeutter Institute of International Trade and Finance at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is proof of that.

The Yeutter Institute, part of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, aims to prepare students of all disciplines for leadership roles in international trade and finance, according to its website. Yeutter Institute director Jill O’Donnell said the institute offers courses and events to increase students’ understanding of international trade and finance.

The institute will hold a student panel on Thursday, Oct. 10, called “What’s on the Horizon for International Trade?” featuring an economics major and two students from the Nebraska College of Law. The students will interview former Chief Agricultural Negotiator Darci Vetter about the impact of recent trade policy dynamics on Nebraska, according to O’Donnell.

“The Yeutter Institute exists to serve students,” she said. “It’s important to bring students in to as much as we can with whatever we’re doing.”

O’Donnell said the institute is closely monitoring how the U.S.-China trade war is affecting Nebraska farmers and will discuss this at “What’s on the Horizon for International Trade?” where an Iowa State University professor will present research on the estimated impacts on retaliatory tariffs.

“When this trade tension started to flare up and tariffs were put in place on Chinese exports that were sent here, soybeans were hit by Chinese tariffs,” O’Donnell said. “This caused a severe dropoff in the amount of soybeans that were sent here.”

In February 2019, the institute offered a course called Trade Policy and Negotiations: Context and Current Issues, centered around a simulated trade negotiation. The class had more than 12 different majors, from economics to animal science, O’Donnell said.

“There are a lot of non-tariff barriers when it comes to trade where plant and animal science majors’ knowledge is needed,” she said. “Those can be things like animal health regulations that may be in place in a certain country for good reason, but they might constitute a barrier to trade if U.S. regulations aren’t the same there.”

O’Donnell said the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, College of Law, College of Business and Vetter collaborated to create the institute. The Board of Regents approved the institute’s creation on Dec. 5, 2017, according to O’Donnell.

Clayton Yeutter, a UNL alumnus and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under the George H.W. Bush administration, envisioned establishing an institute studying issues related to trade and finance at his alma mater, according to O’Donnell. 

O’Donnell said it was important to Yeutter that the institute was interdisciplinary.

“He talked a lot at the end of his life about students internationalizing their education and having the skills to look at the big picture and put together all these pieces that are important when engaged in a career like he was, but other careers as well,” she said. “He really believed strongly in the leadership attributes of students who graduate from here.”

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Commerce gave a grant to the university that supported an interdisciplinary graduate level course on international trade. The course, which Yeutter was involved in, consisted of law students and graduate students in economics.

The Yeutter institute builds on the success of that course and its interdisciplinary nature, O’Donnell said.

David Morfesi, director of international trade for Australian legal and consulting firm MinterEllison and a visiting lawyer and law instructor, said trade is constantly changing because of technology.

“Today, international trade is a lot more accessible to businesses of one, two, five or 10 people,” he said. “They’re trading internationally, and their businesses and livelihoods are depending on it more and more where it was never accessible before.”

Morfesi said all disciplines can benefit from understanding trade and finance today.

“Not only is it open and available, but we’re inviting you, [students],” he said. “All of the perspectives and disciplines feed into a better result.”