Veronica shares her fellowship experience

Author: Grace Munene

Veronica Affuah Da-Silva, a 2015 Fellow from Ghana, shares her experience at the University of Notre Dame.

YALI fellows with Senator Joe Donnelly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So far, the University of Notre Dame is a perfect blend of unique academic sessions, professional networking, community services and cultural activities and looking back I cannot imagine how transformative, insightful and priceless my journey has been so far.A new chapter of my life opens up as I enter the world of business and entrepreneurship. Sunday marked exactly three weeks and three days since my Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders experience at the University of Notre Dame began.

Sunday started with an incredible lecture on Leadership through Sharing Fire by one of the world’s renowned speakers, Dr Marc Hardy –Director of Non-Profit Executive Program at the University of Notre Dame. The classroom session gave me the opportunity to identity my personal leadership potential. I also discovered that I possess a bottom-liner personality trait. The breakout session also made me learn more about a fellow I have had the least interactions with. After a healthy brainstorming session, Dr Marc together with his lovely Wife Marcia treated all fellows to a hot sizzling Chinese delicacy at a nearby restaurant. The dinning session created another platform for fellows to bond and exchange ideas on individual projects.

Monday’s session on NGO Leadership and Group Dynamics was extremely engaging and practical. The fellows were privileged to be given a lecture by the Author of Non-Profit Governance; Thomas J. Harvey on the Challenges faced by Non-profit Start-ups.The final session of the day which covered the CAPSIM business simulations was very engaging, instructive and hands-on. My highlight of the day was the Capstone Courier headlines where I was featured as the most outstanding CFO for the week’s Industry’s performance-in a simulation environment.

I started my Tuesday by attending a brief presentation on “The Executive MBA Program’s International Immersion” Opportunities for Entrepreneurs. The session gave me a unique insight into what the EMBA program offers to students including its key objectives which also gave me the opportunity to share my business challenge. The EMBA program presentation covered areas such as Business problem Identification, Strategic solutions, Marketing Implications and Financial Impacts on emerging businesses across the globe. The presenter also talked about how the program also gives EMBA students at the University of Notre Dame the opportunity to spend one week abroad to collaborate with entrepreneurs and organisations after which a final recommendation is presented using the capstone real-world experience tool.

The afternoon session was led by Sam Miller – Director, Gigot Centre for Entrepreneurship at the Mendoza College of Business. During this session, he spoke about Foresight and Innovation from the Entrepreneurial perspective. He also emphasized on why commercialization of our innovative products is key to maximizing profits as entrepreneurs. The presenter engaged us fully by walking us through the application of The Empathy Mapping Tool titled, “Understanding the user” which raises three main concerns: What products are they looking for? what problems do they experience? what are their expectations?

While wrapping up Tuesday’s session, the facilitator left us with an inspirational message, that as leaders, we must thrive to leave handprints and not just footprints whenever we have the opportunity to make an impact in our communities.

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The long awaited site visit to enFocus finally became a reality as we made our way to the historic Studebaker Union Station Technology building in South bend on Wednesday Morning. The ND Fellows were introduced to the enFocus team by David Murphy- Associate Dean of Entrepreneurship for the Colleges of Science and Engineering, as well as faculty member and Director of the ESTEEM (Engineering, Science, Technology, and Entrepreneurship Excellence Master’s) Graduate Program at the University of Notre Dame. Fellows were also privileged to receive an interactive presentation on Union Station Technology Centre by Shane M. Fimbel-CEO enFocus. The presenter talked about how enFocus is passionate about supporting civic entities, non-profit organizations, and for-profit companies with business development, co-creation of solutions, and skillful technology deployment. The presenter shared with us the four (4) pillars of enFocus – The Experience, Community, nCloud and Sponsors. I drew lots of inspiration from how enFocus is empowering NGOs with the nCloud initiative established to provide information technology shared services for non-profits.  

Later on in the day, we were again granted the privilege to meet  the  Mayor of South bend city, Pete Buttigieg- the city’s thirty second  Mayor who was sworn into office in 2012. Mayor Buttigieg gave an amazing speech on how he and his team are  working to strengthen the local economy by retaining and attracting businesses, partner with the local public school system, manage a cutting-edge and transparent city administration, improve neighbourhood quality of life, and use proven methods to enhance public safety.

Thursday morning started with a site visit to the South Bend Chocolate Company(SBCC) founded by Mark in 1991.The CEO made a brief presentation on how SBCC grew from an old kitchen to about thirteen company-owned stores in northern Indiana and 4 franchised locations throughout Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. We took a brief tour to the production department and the packaging room. The fellows including myself were given an opportunity to have a bite of our favorite chocolate flavors. It was amazing to learn about how the company got its start making chocolates under a license from the University of Notre Dame with its first three products as the Dorm, Rockne and Nuts for Notre Dame.  The rest of the day was full of mentoring activities, and I was privileged to have my one-on-one professional mentoring with Melissa Paulsen- Assistant Director at the Gigot Centre for Entrepreneurship in Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame. It was such an insightful moment for me as I was able to merge my two great business ideas into a one minute elevator pitch. It couldn’t have been this better!!!!

I can’t imagine we have only fourteen days left until we leave University of Notre Dame and its friendly Staff who will always go an extra mile with their time, sweat, blood and tears just to make us feel at home. The countdown to Washington DC has just begun and I feel we are riding in a roller coaster as our days are so packed with real life learnings, fun and adventure.

On Friday, the fellows embarked on a weekend trip to the capital of Indiana- Indianapolis early in the morning to participate at the forty fifth Indiana Black Expo Annual Summer event where I was again privileged to listen to a very inspiring speech from one of the World’s Diversity and Inclusion heroes- Linda W. Clement-Holmes. I realized how much more I have to give to my continent when she was called upon to receive “The Senator Carolyn Brown Mosby Above & Beyond Award”.

The afternoon session was packed with professional networking events during which fellows were given the opportunity to meet the Governor of Indiana- Mike Pence, the Senator of Indiana- Joe Donnelly and other key political personalities.

As we finished Friday’s networking session, the fellows were hosted by Barnes & Thornburg LLP, one of the largest law firms in the United States. There was a presentation on how Barnes & Thornburg LLP strives to appropriately reflect the communities in which their attorneys and other legal professionals work and live. They also shared with us some pro bono opportunities available for Non-profits. The evening networking professional session was complemented by representatives from IndyAfrica and Cummins. Jimmy Bettcher who represented Cummins as their Strategic Analyst and Project Manager for Corporate Responsibility gave a wonderful presentation on their commitment to Africa and how to access some of these opportunities.

We crowned the evening by unveiling the 2015 YALI Project dubbed Afribend which was presented by Raindolf Owusu-one of the fellows. Afribend is a web based platform that seeks to connect People from Africa to South bend on the basis of e-Commerce and cultural exchange.