Despite the limitations of virtual learning, Ivey and African students participating in this year’s Ubuntu Management Education Initiative have discovered not just new knowledge but also new personal relationships that span continents.
Launched in 2012 and led by associate professor Nicole Haggerty, HBA’89, PhD’04, the Service Learning in Africa course typically sends HBA students to African universities to demonstrate case-teaching and develop new African business cases. The goal is to help African schools build capabilities in case-based management education, while allowing Ivey students to better understand specific African business environments and cultures, and to experience personal growth through service.
This year, due to COVID-19, Ivey students participated in the course virtually in May. Although the students missed the in-person element, there were some unexpected positives to the new format.
Kyleigh Stubbs, an HBA’23 candidate who taught at the University of Rwanda, would not have been able to participate in person because of a work internship. The virtual learning opportunity allowed her to take the course while keeping her internship.
“‘Zoom University’ actually created more opportunities than would have been available in person,” she said.
Zoom’s transcript feature also allowed a deaf African student to participate in class, which Stubbs said would have been difficult in person since no one in her class knew sign language.
Bridging the distance
Despite challenges with technology, the Ivey and African students were able to forge strong connections.
“I was amazed at the kinds of relationships you can make virtually,” said Alexandra Cleary, an HBA’22 candidate who taught at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia. “I related to the African students very well. We talked about things like recruiting and starting an entrepreneurial venture.”
Niels Hurst, an HBA’23 candidate, also bonded with his students at Addis Ababa University and did extra after-class virtual chats to get to know them better. Among other things, he learned about their appreciation for Kitfo, a traditional Ethiopian dish of raw beef.
Driving business growth in Africa
The Ivey students also saw firsthand the opportunities for business in Africa, learning from their African students who had entrepreneurial ideas.
Cleary has continued to support some students who are starting one of the first social media marketing companies in Ethiopia. And Stubbs is working with one of her students, Kalisa Godfrey, on growing his youth-based non-governmental organization, Youth For Rwanda.
Godfrey said the program helped him develop critical thinking, noting that his new skills will help him and his team with the final stages of pitch competitions.
“I’d like to thank Ivey and my lecturers for giving us a great opportunity that changed our capabilities and skills and transformed our lives,” he said.
Another African student, Bemnet Getahun, from Hurst’s class at Addis Ababa University, said learning through cases added to her business education. “For the first time since I started college, I felt like a business student, so the honour is all mine,” she said.
The Ivey students also shared the program’s impact on their personal growth, gaining new appreciation of their opportunities.
“They were so excited and prepared for the classes. They put their all into it. I will take that with me to my next classes. I will remember that it’s a privilege to get an education,” Cleary said.
Stubbs said she became a better communicator, built her network, and gained a new perspective of Africa. After being introduced to case teaching, she might even consider teaching one day.
“Regardless of what I end up doing, I’ve developed as a person. It has pushed me out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I initially thought academic knowledge would be the biggest takeaway, but that was ultimately the most miniscule thing in the entire experience. It’s perspective-changing and the most important takeaways will never be on my resumé.”
Learn more about the Ivey students’ experience here.