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Afghan scholars explore entrepreneurship

For the Miami Student

Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 03:10

Afghan students spent five days in Oxford last week learning about and developing entrepreneurial skills and solutions as part of the Fullbright Program’s social entrepreneurship seminar.

Miami University was selected to lead the seminar for the second year in a row, according to Brian Bergman, assistant director of Miami’s Center for Social Entrepreneurship. The seminar was held this past week at the Marcum Conference Center and hosted around 60 students who are studying in postgraduate programs in Afghanistan.

The Fulbright Program is the United States international exchange program and provides funding and opportunities for participants to study, teach and research abroad.

According to Brett Smith, director of the Center for Social Entrepreneurship, the Fulbright Program was founded after WWII in order to improve relationships with other countries and is sponsored by the United States Department of State.

During their five days at Miami, the students went through an enrichment program to learn about social entrepreneurship and to experience it firsthand, Bergman said.

The students were from many different majors and concentration areas since the seminar was focused on providing students with experience in using social entrepreneurship skills including leadership, networking, and presenting in their daily lives, according to Bergman.

“This seminar is valuable for students because it is giving them tools that are actually transferrable to their daily lives,” Bergman said.

According to Smith, students began the program by developing business ideas for a startup company and presenting them to the rest of the students. The students then collectively selected nine of the ideas and divided into groups to work together to develop a business plan for each.

Each of the groups’ ideas centered around developing a solution to some of the issues Afghanistan is currently facing, including water scarcity, forced marriages for women and children and violence in marriages, Smith said. On Friday each group presented their business plan to a panel of Miami faculty.

“What we are trying to do is give the best and brightest students of Afghanistan the tools to rebuild their country,” said Smith.

While the Fullbright students were in Oxford, Miami students and faculty were actively involved in their experience, according to Bergman. Students lived with Miami faculty members as their host families and students who have gone through the curriculum acted as student mentors. The student mentors assisted the Fulbright students with the development of their business plans. Senior Jenna Setters said she agrees the seminar was beneficial for both the Miami and Afghan students involved.

“Fulbright provides important real world experience and research opportunities for a variety of students across the world and in many different areas of study,” Setters said. “I think this seminar was an invaluable experience for everyone involved.”

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