by Ariane Baer-Harper, Director of the AC Center for Global Engagement
During Spring Break in 2018, 12 Allendale Columbia students went to Dakar, Senegal, to participate in an entrepreneurship program entitled, Developing Entrepreneurship Skills through Intercultural Collaboration. This eight-day program was created by the AC Center for Global Engagement, the AC Center for Entrepreneurship, and Baobab Consulting, a company based in New York City and Dakar which specializes in facilitating collaboration between cultures through innovation. Throughout the program, AC students were paired with Senegalese high school students and were tasked to come up with an innovative social entrepreneurship idea.
WROC News 8 interviewed two students and Director of the AC Center for Global Engagement, Ariane Baer-Harper.
(Photos by Garrett Wilson ’21, Anna Mihalyov ’19, and John Palomaki)
All students, with trip leaders Ariane Baer-Harper (Director of Global Engagement) and Gabe Costanzo (Music and Band instructor), stayed at the Tostan Training Facility in Thiès, about 40 km outside of Dakar. Tostan is an international NGO focusing on human rights issues in Senegal, particularly women’s rights. The group also had the opportunity to spend some time in Dakar, the capital, and St. Louis, a city north of the country which was once the colonial capital of Senegal.
During the course of the week, students learned about social entrepreneurship, how to create a Business Model Canvas, and how to create a pitch presentation that would be shown on the last day of the program to local and established Senegalese entrepreneurs who would then judge their ideas and provide feedback to the groups. The groups were designed to have both Senegalese and American students so that, while they were innovating and creating ideas, they could also be working on intercultural communication. Competencies in French and English languages varied, and students found interesting ways to make sure they were understood. Students learned about empathy, the first step of design thinking, as being the most important foundation for systemic change. Throughout the week, they engaged in activities that would allow them to develop their empathy for each other, and very strong life-long friendships were formed.
Emily Atieh, Global Scholar ‘18, said about her experience, “Going into this trip, I expected to have fun and meet some amazing Senegalese students, which I did. I never expected to fall so much in love with Senegalese culture that I want to live in Senegal now. I feel like the Senegalese embody everything that I value in their culture. They are living closer to how we should all be living. In response, I want to bring a little bit of Senegal back to the U.S. by embracing what I believe to be Senegalese values in my own life: making strong human connections, treating everyone as if they are you family, sharing what you have as much as you can, going with the flow, relaxing, and not obsessing over every little detail in life.”
For the culminating event on Saturday, April 7th, students presented a variety of ideas ranging from a creative way to collect and reuse plastic in the community, how to provide scholarship opportunities to basketball players of Senegal, how to best provide transportation to students who have a hard time getting to and from school. The issues they tackled were based on the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and the solutions they came up with for systemic change had to be applicable in both the United States and Senegal. Students were able to see that, through conversation and collaboration, they could come up with ideas that could have a lasting impact on the world.
In addition to the programmatic part of the trip, students also engaged in cultural activities where they could see entrepreneurship in action. Whether bargaining with artisanal vendors on Gorée Island or seeing how salt was collected from the Pink Lake, one of the goals of the trip was to show students that innovation is happening everywhere.
When asked to summarize his experience, Garrett Wilson, Global Scholar ‘21, said it best, “Seeing how friendly people were in Senegal and how simple life can be really made me think about how I live back in the States. I now question what I can change about my environment. Overall, it was a phenomenal experience, and I am beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to take part in it.”
Ariane Baer-HarperAriane, Director of the AC Center for Global Engagement, discovered her passion for teaching languages while working at a school in Senegal. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Modern Language from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and a Master of Science Degree in Education from SUNY Geneseo. Ariane has taught languages at every grade level from nursery through college and has also had the experience of working as an administrator in a bilingual total-immersion school.
Posted in: Centers for Impact, Eighth Grade, Eleventh Grade, Entrepreneurship, Global Engagement, Highlights, Middle School, MS Birches, Ninth Grade, Partnerships, Tenth Grade, The Birches, Twelfth Grade, Upper School, US Birches