Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, October 25, 2012

U-M partners with community to promote global entrepreneurship

Fourteen Middle Eastern and North African entrepreneurs are at U-M to learn first-hand how to succeed in their fields, as part of a U.S. Department of State-sponsored program that partners university experts with southeastern Michigan community organizations.


Nada Heggy, an Egyptian entrepreneur, takes part in an active listening exercise with other program participants. (Photo by Eva Menezes, ISR)

More information
U.S. State Department's Professional Fellows from the Middle East and North Africa Program
ISR's Economic Empowerment through Entrepreneurship

"This program is unique in that it not only offers professional development opportunities for the participants, but also cultivates the kind of people-to-people connections that help to dilute stereotypes and lead to better mutual understanding and respect," says Barbara Peitsch, who directs the program, which is based at the Institute for Social Research.

Participants, who hail from Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories and Tunisia, are primarily small business owners, including web and app designers, and representative of non-governmental organizations and government agencies involved in supporting small business startups.

"Being here is a whole new experience for me," says Nada Heggy, a program participant from Egypt who runs a non-profit aimed at bridging the gap for young graduates between college and the job market.

"It's my first time in the U.S. I've been exposed to different cultures, different people, different mindsets. I'm trying to gain more ideas in different fields, especially in entrepreneurship, and how to grow my business better back in Egypt."

As part of the program, participants are attending strategy and coaching sessions with U-M marketing, communications and entrepreneurship experts, and are connecting with representatives of community organizations including the Arab American Women's Business Council, the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, Menlo Innovations, Google and Ann Arbor SPARK.

After spending three weeks in Michigan, the group will travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in the State Department's Professional Fellows Congress to network with other young leaders in their fields and refine the plans they will implement when they return home.

To follow up on the connections established here, Peitsch will bring two groups of U.S. hosts to the Middle East and North Africa starting in January 2013 for two-week "reverse exchanges" that will include workshops, organizational visits and on-site consulting.

ISR is one of 17 U.S.-based non-profits and universities hosting foreign professionals from more than 50 countries and territories.