Dinner in Ghana shows growing student, faculty, and alumni network on the continent.
This is the second in a series of Dartmouth News stories about how some faculty, students, and staff used the winter interim to enrich their Dartmouth experience.
When Thomas Candon and Amy Newcomb, from the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, began planning a winter-break swing through West Africa to connect with alumni of the Dartmouth Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and the students and alumni who are working with these African entrepreneurs, they happened upon a magazine profile of Selassie Atadika ’98 that showcased her Accra restaurant, Midunu.
“We wanted to find an interesting way to bring some of our alumni together for a special event and as we read about Selassie’s journey and the creation of her restaurant, we just knew we had found the right place to gather,” says Newcomb.
Atadika was enthusiastic about hosting the Dartmouth gathering, which brought together faculty, staff, students, and friends who jumped at the chance to get together with other Dartmouth friends and sample the restaurant’s West African cuisine. Among the guests were Associate Professor of History Naaborko Sackeyfio-Lenoch, who had just finished leading the Ghana Foreign Study Program; Professor of African and African American Studies Jesse Shipley, who was conducting research; Kingsley Osei-Karikari ’19, who was home for the break; Pascal Mensah Tuck ’18, who was home visiting family and helping plan the first Tuck School of Business Global Insight Expedition to Ghana; and Ghanaian Dartmouth YALI fellows JayJay Segbefia, Evans Owusu Amankwah, and Eyram Tawia.
“The dinner at Midunu was incredible,” says Newcomb, who spearheads Dartmouth’s engagement with YALI and its graduates. “Selassie inspired us all with her dishes.”
Osei-Karikari, a neuroscience major, said the dinner was like a family gathering. “Meeting with people affiliated with Dartmouth in a foreign land was an honor. It reminded me of the family that stretches beyond national and cultural lines, of which I am a proud member. Ghana is home. Dartmouth is home. I was truly at home during the meet-up at Midunu.”
Candon, the associate managing director of the Dickey Center, says in the four years that Dartmouth has been hosting the State Department-sponsored YALI program, the College has developed a network of more than 100 YALI alumni from 37 African countries. In that time, Dickey has connected dozens of undergraduates through internships and collaborations with these entrepreneurs, artists, and public policy leaders; established Dartmouth-designed business and entrepreneurship curricula for African leadership training centers; and built connections among a new generation of leaders across the continent.
After the meet-up at Midunu, Candon, Newcomb, and Mensah visited a number of Ghanaian startups, some run by YALI alumni, including Tawia’s LetiArts, a video game design company focused on stories of African heroes; and Regina Honu’s (YALI 2014) Soronko Academy, which focuses on teaching young girls how to code. They also traveled with Honu and Tawia to the Ghanaian city of Tema for a graduation ceremony at the School for the Deaf, where Honu awarded certificates to the students for completing a coding course she designed. Honu has maintained a strong connection to Dartmouth and has hosted many Dartmouth computer science students as interns at her coding academy.
Candon and Newcomb also attended an “Apps Challenge” launch event at the Ghanaian headquarters for MTN, a South Africa-based telecommunications company. Tawia is one of four judges for the challenge. At the event, they ran into Ayorkor Korsah ’01 Thayer ’03, who was there to deliver the keynote address.
Korsah is now head of the computer science department at Ashesi University in Ghana. While at Dartmouth she received her BA in computer science, modified with engineering, studying under professors David Kotz and Tom Cormen. At Thayer School of Engineering, she was active in the Women in Science Project, recently delivering the keynote lecture at the Wetterhahn Symposium, established at Dartmouth in 1992 and named for the late Karen Wetterhahn, a professor of chemistry and co-founder of the Women In Science Project.
Candon also met with representatives of the YALI Regional Leadership Centers (RLC) at the West Africa RLC in Accra to discuss building alliances between African entrepreneurs and American academic institutions.
Meanwhile, Newcomb traveled to Nigeria, where she met up with Brian Kunz and Lindsay Putnam from the Dartmouth Outdoor Programs office, Ashley Manning ’17, and Robert Halvorsen Thayer ’17, to help run a “Train the Trainers” workshop for the social enterprise Inspire Africa; the workshop is a joint project with the U.S. Consulate in Lagos and 2015 Dartmouth YALI fellow Cynthia Mene Ndubuisi, a co-founder of Inspire Africa.
Mene Ndubuisi modeled the Inspire Africa entrepreneurship program on the Dartmouth YALI curriculum, incorporating Thayer’s human-centered design program and Dartmouth Outdoor Programs’ team building exercises. Inspire holds sessions several times a year to train young leaders in that curriculum who then fan out to lead training sessions in their home countries.
“The ideas and curriculum developed at Dartmouth are truly spreading to the next generation of leaders across Africa,” Newcomb says.
In the two-week workshop in rural Nigeria during the winter interim, Kunz and Putnam ran team-building sessions based on the program they had developed for YALI, and Newcomb, Manning, and Halvorsen led the sessions on human centered design and engineering problem solving. Through this capacity building project, Inspire Africa trainers aim to teach these skills to over 3,000 young entrepreneurs across Nigeria, Ghana, and Tanzania in the coming year.
Halvorsen, who assisted Associate Professor of Engineering Peter Robbie with the human-centered design curriculum for the 2016 YALI fellows at Dartmouth, says he was humbled by the opportunity to teach the curriculum to young professionals in Africa.
“All the people I met at Dartmouth through YALI are talented and inspiring,” Halvorsen says. “If we can do this training in Nigeria right, then these fellows can take it and run with it. It’s incredible to imagine how far the program we developed at Dartmouth can go.”