Wartime Education: Keeping Ukrainian Businesses Alive

Sophia Opatska, Vice Rector for Strategic Development at Ukrainian Catholic University

Time: 4 p.m., March 7

Location: Corner Commons, first floor of the Blau Building at the Ross School of Business

The William Davidson Institute and the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia are proud to present a discussion with Sophia Opatska, Vice Rector for Strategic Development at Ukrainian Catholic University. Opatska, an entrepreneur and an academic, leads University’s Lviv Business School. More than two years after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Opatska will explain how business leaders and business educators have persisted toward economic resilience in the face of war.

Through student programs, projects and university partnerships, WDI has worked in Ukraine for more than two decades. Before Russia’s invasion, the Institute sent multiple teams of U-M MBA students to Lviv Business School of Ukrainian Catholic University to assess and make recommendations to improve their consulting process for small- and medium-sized businesses in the country.

This event is open to the public. Attendees are encouraged to register and submit questions in advance. Light refreshments will be served.


Speaker Sophia Opataska graphic

Amy Gillett


with Amy Gillett on NGO Leadership Workshop in Lublin

Since 2015, the William Davidson Institute (WDI) and its partners have provided NGO Leadership Workshops to nonprofit leaders from across Central and Southeastern Europe. In September, the eleventh such workshop was held in Lubin, Poland. In partnership with the University of Michigan’s Weiser Center for Europe & Eurasia (WCEE) and in cooperation with Warsaw-based partner FED (Fundacja Edukacja dla Demokracji) the workshop is designed to equip NGO leaders with the skills and networks to run their organizations more effectively and sustainably. 

September’s workshop was focused solely on Ukrainian organizations and attracted 24 humanitarian and nonprofit leaders. 

Q: What made this year’s event unique among the NGO Workshops WDI has helped organize thus far?

Amy Gillett: This was our eleventh NGO Leadership Workshop and the first specifically for Ukrainian NGOs. It was also the first time we held the event in Lublin, a city in Southern Poland close to the Ukrainian border. The attendees included 23 women and one man, and all are at the front lines of providing critical services for the war effort. Participants were able to travel to Lublin by bus or train, though it was an arduous journey for many due to the heavy lines at the border crossings.

It was particularly difficult for this group of participants to leave their organizations and their families. At the beginning of the workshop, we provided an opportunity for participants to express their fears and expectations for the week. This fostered an atmosphere where participants could communicate openly and feel supported. 

Another great aspect of this workshop was our diversity of trainers, bringing a variety of viewpoints and perspectives. Our trainers came from three countries: the USA, Poland and Ukraine. They represented both academics, NGO leaders and trained facilitators.

Q: What were the key focus areas for the workshop?

Amy Gillett: Our curriculum was geared toward addressing their most pressing needs, with training on conflict resolution, negotiations, dealing with people with PTSD, burnout prevention, and building resilience.

Among those teaching in the workshop was University of Michigan LSA professor Eric Fretz, who also served for 24 years in the U.S. Navy and was able to draw on his experiences in conflict zones including Iraq. Following the event, he posted this look back.

Every session included lots of interaction and hands-on activities – by the end of the workshop, the entire wall of the training room was covered with Post-it notes and colorful posters. And each instructor had their own approach to training, which helped keep the energy up throughout the four days.

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“This workshop gave me the confidence that I am a leader, that I have the strength and ability to continue to support women. I have to take care of my team, prevent burnout and conflicts, and lead ethical policies, then the world will be a better place.”

—NGO Leadership Workshop Participant

Q: How about the attendees? What types of organizations did these leaders represent?

Amy Gillett: Their NGOs focused on a range of activities, including: providing critical medical services, offering psychological assistance, defending human rights, preventing gender based violence, providing legal services, and preserving Ukrainian cultural heritage. 

Among the workshop participants was noted video blogger Anna Danylchuk, who along with running an NGO focused on preserving and promoting the cultural heritage of Ukraine, releases daily video dispatches on the war in Ukraine. In fact, she continued to broadcast from our workshop, using her hotel room as her studio.

Q: How can these leaders apply what they learned to the immediacy of what Ukrainian citizens are facing as a result of the Russian invasion and ongoing aggression?

Amy Gillett: This workshop offered practical skills for improving wellbeing, building resilience, preventing burnout and increasing emotional intelligence. Many participants spoke out about how useful these areas are given the current situation. The fighting spirit of the Ukrainians is very impressive — participants always speak of “when we win the war.” The week in Lublin was a chance for participants to recharge and renew their energy for this ongoing battle. As one participant commented to me at the closing dinner, “I’m in a good place emotionally and psychologically and that means I can do more to help others.”

The workshop also enhanced the participants’ confidence as leaders. This will help them guide their organizations through these very challenging times. As one participant expressed, the workshop gave her the strength and ability to continue in her organizational mission of supporting women. 

Many participants also found cooperation opportunities with each other. They are now embarking on new joint projects, combining resources and ideas to undertake high-impact work together.

Q: WDI is always seeking feedback for our projects, what have participants reported back?

Amy Gillett: Here are some notable quotes from participants:

“This workshop gave me the confidence that I am a leader, that I have the strength and ability to continue to support women. I have to take care of my team, prevent burnout and conflicts, and lead ethical policies, then the world will be a better place.”

“The workshop is really helpful and important for my personal development and beneficial to my organization. Lots of insights, practical instruments, brilliant speakers!”

“Ukrainian civil society has proven to be very brave, effective and productive. Invest in it and together we will win!”

The next workshop is planned for June 2024 in Košice, Slovakia and will again focus on Ukraine, with the NGO leaders coming from Ukraine and nearby countries. Learn more about upcoming and previous workshops here

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Photo: Participants at the NGO Leadership Workshop Warsaw during a session on Networking.

WDI’s most recent NGO Leadership Workshop welcomed nonprofits serving Ukrainian refugees—and shared life-changing tips on making a difference.

For decades, the William Davidson Institute (WDI) at the University of Michigan has held Ukraine close to its mission. When the Institute was founded more than 30 years ago, Eastern Europe was its very first geographical focus area — and for good reason. At the time, there was no guarantee that countries on the other side of the fallen Berlin Wall would embrace and deliver market-driven economies. Rather, there was concern that they would revert to government-planned economies. Those early WDI educational projects in Eastern Europe reflected the Institute’s core purpose: sharing the tools of commercial success with students, partners and other stakeholders to build both lasting economic and social prosperity.  

While the conditions in Ukraine and Eastern Europe have certainly changed over the course of three decades, WDI’s commitment to the region has remained strong — even stronger after Russia invaded Ukraine nearly one year ago.

WDI’s NGO Leadership Workshops are one example of this dedication. Run in partnership with the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia (WCEE) at the University of Michigan, the workshops engage and guide nonprofit groups providing a variety of social services during times of struggle. The most recent workshop, which took place in October in Poland, showed just how crucial these sessions can be for participants.

With the destabilizing impact of war in the region, it is more important than ever to invest in civil society, explained Geneviève Zubrzycki, Director of the WCEE. And NGOs are key in that process.

“For NGOs working with Ukrainian refugees, there’s a level of urgency and human tragedy that we can’t ignore,” said Zubrzycki.

These biannual four-day workshops have been held in Slovakia and Poland since 2015. They bring together nonprofit leaders to network with one another, learn about topics close to their work, and connect with global experts. The sessions regularly cover planning and sustainability, NGO management, marketing strategies, advocacy and fundraising.

It’s powerful work that many of these managers would be unable to tackle on their own, but through the support of WCEE, they can come together without being saddled with the cost of tuition, room, or travel. Leaders can focus entirely on boosting their impact at home, and the coursework is built to do exactly that. “Each session raised important points that I will consider in my work with my team at our NGO,” said a Romanian participant, one of the 24 leaders who joined the workshop in Warsaw.

For NGOs working with Ukrainian refugees, there’s a level of urgency and human tragedy that we can’t ignore.

For NGOs working with Ukrainian refugees, there’s a level of urgency and human tragedy that we can’t ignore.

Shifting the Curriculum for the Times

The 2022 workshop in Warsaw was scheduled prior to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. War had fallen on communities across the country, and Ukrainians fled the violence with whatever they could carry, clinging to family members and ditching cars when they ran out of gas. According to the UN Refugee Agency, 6.3 million people from Ukraine have been recorded crossing international borders into neighboring countries including Poland and Moldova since the invasion. The effects have sent a wave of challenges through the continent.

As WDI planned the workshop in 2022, it was impossible to ignore the growing pressure placed on regional nonprofits. WDI and WCEE worked to adapt the program to meet the realities on the ground. 

“Dedicating the workshop to NGOs working with Ukrainian refugees made it possible for us to tailor sessions to their specific needs. It also created a safe space for them to discuss difficult topics,” said Zubrzycki.

WDI similarly shifted its curriculum to meet the needs of the many NGOs in the area serving Ukrainian refugees. Experts joined to share advice on maintaining digital security, planning strategically during crises, avoiding staff burnout, and working with people with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“The entire workshop was driven by on-the-ground needs,” explains Amy Gillett, Vice President of Education at WDI. “It was developed with a design-thinking approach. We considered what the organizations’ immediate needs were and what they were grappling with, and then we created the curriculum around that, focusing on the most pressing needs.”

A Focus on Mental Health

Working for an NGO operating in a warzone carries “all of the stresses and drama of a normal workplace raised to 11, then add in the fact that everyone you’re working with has left everything they own, is stressed through the roof, and perhaps has lived through various war-related traumas,” explained Eric Fretz, a professional educator and coach focused on personal development, emotional intelligence, and resilience who teaches at the University of Michigan. Fretz led conversations at the workshop about post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma, emotional intelligence and mental strength.

He dug into the basics of trauma with participants and shared advice on managing their own stress, which he hopes will create a ripple effect. “Leaders can share this with their team, and then everyone on their team is much more able to take care of those that they encounter. It’s an upward lift.”

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Powerful Connections with Powerful Partners

Relationships are everything — in serving people, in building businesses, and in running nonprofits. “These groups need to know each other to be more effective,” Gillett said. “The connections that take place outside of the formal instruction are just as important as the skills that they’re learning in the classroom sessions. It’s during these informal conversations where resources and ideas are shared that are critical to their success.”

Participants at the NGO Leadership Workshop spent time together talking about their struggles, joys and plans. They shared tips over morning coffee for better reaching refugees and advice on soliciting global support for long-term aid while walking through Warsaw’s Old Town on a guided tour offered as part of the workshop. “We were left with so many brilliant acquaintances and friendships, and we have gathered priceless information,” said one participant from Georgia.

WDI has seen the bonds built during past workshops flourish after participants returned home — and the Institute is just as dedicated to continuing to support long-standing connections in Ukraine. Though it was forced to suspend a project that would have sent four University of Michigan MBA students to the Lviv Business School of Ukrainian Catholic University (LvBS), WDI President Paul Clyde recently spoke to the university’s Vice Rector Sophia Opatska about the role universities and students will play in country’s resistance and rebuilding.

Workshop participants, particularly ones from Ukraine, were grateful to learn alongside leaders from other countries who were working on the ground with them. David Estrada, Program Coordinator at WDI, said “They were thankful that we were able to provide a space for them and be around other people doing this same type of work.”

Two NGO Leadership Workshops are planned for 2023, in Bratislava, Slovakia and Warsaw, Poland. 

Sophia Opatska, Vice Rector at Ukraine Catholic University

Q & A

A Discussion with Sophia Opatska, Vice Rector at Ukraine Catholic University—a WDI partner

Editor’s Note: Through student programs, projects and university partnerships, the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan (WDI) has worked in Ukraine for more than two decades. This year, the Institute planned to send MBA students to Lviv Business School of Ukrainian Catholic University (LvBS) to assess and make recommendations to improve their consulting process for small and medium-sized businesses. The project, the second in as many years with LvBS, was part of an expansion of the Michigan Academy for Developing Entrepreneurs (MADE). 

But with Russia’s military advance in February, WDI and U-M decided not to send the team of four students to Lviv, which is located in western Ukraine. WDI President Paul Clyde has been in contact with Sophia Opatska, Vice Rector at Ukraine Catholic University. Opatska offered to give an interview to help spread the word about what is happening there and its greater context. Her responses were sent on March 5—the tenth day of the invasion.

Paul Clyde: Your university has been very active in a variety of areas in response to Russian aggression. How are you able to do that and what is the overall morale in your community?

Sophia Opatska: First of all, we should mention that our University is in the west of the country. Though we do not feel safe because the air is open and we think when Putin gets really angry, we will be the target. If not number 1, probably number 2. Of course, compared to east and south of Ukraine we are in a much better situation, but everybody tries to keep himself or herself busy and help. It not only creates some value for others, but also helps mentally to people. If you are just watching only news, it is really scary, creates a lot of anxiety and you are very unproductive in that way.

We also have a number of initiatives on the campus to help and keep (up) the morale. For example, we have very clear rules for people who are living with us as refugees. They have to get engaged in volunteering and social work and have meetings with our community. We are in communication with our students who left the country. And of course, prayer helps. We have a number of prayers that happen in our Church, which are also online and people can join.  Psychology faculty created psychologically advisory, anyone can approach. Our law students are getting all the evidence, which they can provide to the International Court. Our historians are collecting a lot of stories to create (an) oral history of the war. Maybe right now it looks a little bit weird and strange, but it will be something crucial for the nation in a year, five or ten. In my class, students are writing appeals to international companies to stop work in and with Russia. Indeed, we know that our small contribution helps. (It is) one thing when the Ukrainian Office is putting pressure on the headquarters, but another thing when they start to be bombarded by letters from young people that you have to stop doing business with Russia and in Russia because you are financing the war.

We also communicate with various international communities and ask them to stop the rhetoric of the “Ukrainian crisis.” This is wrong rhetoric. We don’t have crises, we have a war. It is the tenth day of the war when thousands of civilians have been killed, where 7.5 million children are in danger and wording has to be correct.

We also communicate with various international communities and ask them to stop the rhetoric of the 'Ukrainian crisis.' This is wrong rhetoric. We don’t have crises, we have a war.

Clyde: You have been providing education to the youth of Ukraine for over twenty years. Can you describe how student views are different now than twenty years ago and how that is affecting the Ukrainian response?

Opatska: Over the last twenty years, we had two revolutions and a war: The Orange revolution in 2004, we had a Revolution of dignity 2013-2014 and it was a long-standing protest for three months during winter, which then succeeded and which made Russians and Putin so angry that they invaded part of Ukraine. Which means that war has been going on for eight years. So in some sense we already have experience of fighting.

Of course, young people who are now students of the University, in 2014 were between nine and 15 years old. So, this is a new experience for them. I would say that those who are older were able to get into work very quickly, we already had experiences with volunteering activities and maybe that is why all initiatives started so quickly. But for students, it is a new experience and I think they are going through a very huge learning process in that. But when you combine their initiatives and new ideas with the experience of those people who were in previous revolutions, who were in the war in the east of Ukraine, it helps a lot on both sides.

Clyde: Over the past thirty years, culminating in the current war, it has become clear that Ukraine is a mature independent country. How much do you think that fact versus some of the other stated reasons (e.g. NATO enrollment) is causing the Russian actions?

Opatska: Great question. I think that was a lot of manipulation that this is about NATO, that this is about us joining the EU. Putin is really furious that in 2014 we stood for democratic values, for human dignity, and for European values and he lost in it. And I think his plan was to have Russian tanks in a couple of hours in Maidan (the city center of Kyiv), and that is why he is targeting Kyiv so badly as a symbol of freedom and democracy, and obviously we went through the long journey of self-identification as a nation. The issue of language was very long used to divide Ukraine, but if you look on the people who are fighting the most at the moment – Kharkiv, Kherson, Zaporizhia, Sumy, Chernigiv – in many ways those regions are Russian-speaking regions and they are not ready to give (up) any piece of land. Probably the plan of Putin was to come and be greeted with flowers in those regions to rely on people who are against Ukraine, and we don’t see that. His global plan is to show the whole world that democracy is not working. The rhetoric of Ukraine as a failed, corrupted state was very actively supported in various media and it was also one of the plans of Putin and (his) servants. Unfortunately, it was also very well accepted in the west, and I think we did a huge journey as I mentioned, but I think the reflection should be done, not only by us, but reflection should be done in the west. We get some signals by admiring (the) courage of the Ukrainian people, and how great our President shows leadership, character. But I think the reflection should be done much deeper: Who we are and what is our effort to save the whole of humanity.

Clyde: What is the main thing you want the world to know about how you, your university, and your country are reacting to the war with Russia?

Opatska: So, there are two levels, I am always saying we have short-term planning and long-term planning. We don’t think in weeks, we think in hours, and days and we think in months and years that are very important for us that give us hope.

Of course, there is so much help short-term and we really appreciate that help from many countries: help to our army, help to refugees, welcoming people who right now need a home, food, and some comfort. We are very grateful for bigger and smaller efforts. At the same time, we as an educational institution need to think about what will be our role in the future.

We truly believe that the victory will come: We do not know when and what will be the price. In case we fail, the whole world will fail. No matter if you are in Portugal, France, the UK, or North America, the ocean does not help much when nuclear power is being used. And the whole system of democracy can fail to be totalitarian, therefore Ukraine is on the frontline of saving it.

So our role as University will be very significant when we will be rebuilding the country and we really need to have a Marshall Plan for Ukraine and our human capital. Though many people leave Ukraine now, we need the best people to come back.

Paul Clyde, President of WDI

Paul Clyde is president of the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.

National flag of Ukraine

We face today a world in disorder, and before us rises the challenge of building a new world order more quickly than at any time in mankind’s history—and with infinitely more at stake. The book is now closed on a period of intense, bi-polar hostility that has defined our lives for more than four decades, and is now for us to determine what will fill the next pages of history. We stand up now at the dawn of a new era—an opportunity unprecedented in history. What we do today—by act or omission—will shape the world for generations to come. At no other time has the necessity of success and the consequence of failure been so great.

The events in Ukraine highlight the persistence of the hostility that has long existed between those who envision and are working for a better future through the freedom of the human spirit, and those who would have others subjected to the dictates of a small group of individuals or, in this case, one individual who fears that freedom and seeks to control the human spirit. The people of Ukraine are showing how powerful that spirit can be and are reminding us why we all need to be vigilant in protecting that freedom. Efforts to extinguish freedom are never far away.

We at the William Davidson Institute have had the honor of working with many Ukrainians and Ukrainian Institutions throughout our history, including a current program with the Lviv Business School at Ukrainian Catholic University, and we are inspired by their courageous stand against the unprovoked aggression and in defense of a freely elected government and its people. We stand with UCU and our other Ukrainian partners and friends, and will continue to work with them as they strive to create a thriving, free society through the power of their enterprises and the spirit of their people.

Paul Clyde

President, the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan

Teams have been working with LvBS Consulting to develop a consulting program focused on marketing. Specifically, a survey tool is being developed to help identify areas in which the clients can focus their efforts, and training materials have been identified to help educate clients in specific areas of marketing.

A 2018 WDI MAP team in Ghana.

Carrie Boyle, a MBA student at Michigan’s Ross School of Business, hopes to work in philanthropy somewhere in the U.S. after graduation. But for a couple of weeks in March, she is excited to be traveling to India as part of the school’s annual Multidisciplinary Action Projects (MAP).

“Working in another country is something I may never get the chance to do again,” she said. “This will be my first time in India and the country really interests me.”

Boyle and her teammates will work with Michigan Academy for the Development of Entrepreneurs (MADE), a nonprofit institute established at Ross by the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, in partnership with WDI and Aparajitha Foundations. MADE works with entrepreneurship development organizations in India to help entrepreneurs operating small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) succeed.

Boyle said she had some criteria when looking for MAPs that interested her.

“I wanted an opportunity to be on the ground having meaningful conversations with the people most immediately impacted by SMEs,” she said. “SMEs employ so many people and impact so many lives.”  

Her teammate Shoko Wadano said she too is interested in working with SMEs, “which are very common in India.”

“I’m interested in how businesses mature in India,” she said. “I want to learn what pressures and impacts SMEs have in common, and what kind of value we can bring to them.”

WDI is sponsoring the MADE MAP project along with 10 others this year. MAP is an action-based learning course in which MBA students receive guidance from faculty advisors from WDI and Ross. Each project requires analytical rigor, critical thinking and teamwork. (Find out more about WDI’s MAP projects over the years here.)

After learning about their projects and conducting secondary research for several weeks, the student teams spend two to four weeks working with their organizations in the field.

David Butz

David Butz

“The complementarities between the talents our students bring and what our sponsors need are sublime,” said David Butz, a WDI senior research fellow in the Healthcare sector who is an advisor on two projects. “Our students experience impact in brand new ways. Our sponsors learn, too, how disciplined management methods can yield dramatic innovations.”

Butz said he enjoys working with the student teams on MAP because it “poses such a unique challenge for both the students and their sponsor organizations, and forces us all to think big.”

For me, the best achievements are tangible, direct and narrow but at the same time big and high-impact,” he said. “In our short time, can we help to break some key bottleneck, expedite a critical process pathway or otherwise liberate resources and expand capacity? Is the innovation scalable or replicable elsewhere? Do the students and organizations thereby feel empowered?”

Here is a summary of each WDI-sponsored MAP project:

Aravind Eye Care System – India

MAP Team: Rohan Dash, Sid Mahajan, Aman Rangan, Nik Royce

Aravind Eye Care System (AECS) is a vast network of hospitals, clinics, community outreach efforts, factories, and research and training institutes in south India that has treated more than 32 million patients and has performed 4 million surgeries since its 1976 founding.

AECS opened a tertiary eye care center in Chennai in September 2017 that will ultimately serve more patients than any other facility in the AECS system. The MAP team will formulate a detailed three-year strategic plan for Aravind Eye Hospital in Chennai.

CURE International, Inc. – Kenya, Ethiopia, Zambia, Uganda

MAP Team: Dominique James, Sarah Raney, Hannah Viertel, Olga Vilner Gor

CURE operates clubfoot clinics in 17 countries around the world, each tasked with helping children and families deal with the congenital deformity that twists the foot, making it difficult or impossible to walk.

For CURE, the student team will develop a strategic evaluation framework to assess opportunities for market entry and expansion building on global data.

Ghana Emergency Medicine Collaborative – Ghana

MAP Team: Benjamin Desmond, Benjamin Quam, Nicholas Springmann, Vishnu Suresh

The Ghana Emergency Medicine Collaborative aims to improve emergency medical care in Ghana through innovative and sustainable training programs for physician, nursing and medical students. The goal of the training programs is to increase the number of qualified emergency health care workers retained over time in areas where they are most needed.

The MBA team will formulate a detailed strategy to implement interoperable digital payment systems in Ghanian hospital emergency departments.

India Investment Fund – India

The India Investment Fund is working to become the first international, student-run fund at the Ross School of Business. Ross MBA students would be responsible for investing, managing and growing a real investment portfolio.  

MAP Team: Charlie Manzoni, Patrick Riley, Queenie Shan, Sheetal Singh

The student team will conduct due diligence on Indian small- and medium-sized enterprises to assess viability for investments, and an appropriate financing instrument.

Infra Group – Ethiopia

MAP Team: Rin Chou, Chandler Greene, Yuki Ito, Brittany Minor

Infra Group is diversified international group with business units in financial services, industries and infrastructure development. Infra Group helps build a more prosperous society through global-scale business development with integrity as its top priority.

The MAP team will conduct due diligence on a group of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and recommend which ones to invest in and what amount to invest.

Lviv Business School & Ukranian Catholic University – Ukraine

MAP Team: Blake Cao, Emily Fletcher, Kelsey Pace, Adam Sitts

Lviv Business School and Ukranian Catholic University is a private educational and research institution in western Ukraine.

The student team will undertake a needs assessment of the small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to determine if Lviv Business School should begin offering consulting services to these SMEs and if so, how those should be structured.

MADE – Poornatha/Aparajitha Foundations – India

MAP Team: Carrie Boyle, Lawrence Chen, Dillon Cory, Shoko Wadano

Michigan Academy for the Development of Entrepreneurs (MADE) is a nonprofit institute established at the Ross School of Business by the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, in partnership with WDI and Aparajitha Foundations. MADE works with entrepreneurship development organizations in developing countries to give individuals operating businesses in these environments the knowledge and best practices they need to thrive.

The MAP team will develop an expansion plan for MADE in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The Ihangane Project – Rwanda

MAP Team: Lauren Baum, Nadia Kapper, Paul Mancheski, Jason Yu

The Ihangane Project (TIP) empowers local communities to develop sustainable, effective, and patient-centered health care delivery systems that holistically respond to the needs of vulnerable populations. Partnering with Ruli District Hospital and its associated health centers, TIP is working to identify key strategies for improving health outcomes.

The student team will develop a business model to grow the ready-to-use therapeutic food that is used to treat severe, acute malnutrition.


Awash Bank – Ethiopia

MAP Team: Matthew Campbell, Joshua Dodson, Joseph McCarty, Aman Suri

Awash Bank, a private, commercial bank, was established in 1995 and features more than 375 branches across the country.

The MAP team will develop a product that can provide capital to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Ethiopia by utilizing remittances already being sent back to that country. The students will work with the bank on all aspects of the loan product. They also will give the bank recommendations on how to monitor the loan and provide business support to SMEs that borrow from the fund.

Grace Care Center – Sri Lanka

MAP Team: Daniel Cady, Yizhou Jiang, Gerardo Martinez, Daniel Murray

The Grace Care Center (GCC) is a home to about 70 orphaned children that offers daycare services and vocational training. It also is home to several poor and displaced seniors, many of whom have chronic health issues such as hypertension and diabetes.

Past MAP student teams from the Ross School of Business developed a diabetic care center model for GCC. This year’s student team will examine the current model and make any needed updates and revisions.

International Clinical Labs – Ethiopia

MAP Team: Emily Mascarenas, Torre Palermino, Alexander Santini, Matthew Traitses

ICL was established in 2004 to provide quality laboratory service all over Ethiopia. ICL serves more than 240 health care centers throughout the country, and is expanding its service throughout Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian government is building its first medical waste incinerator facility outside the capital city of Addis Ababa and has committed to building seven more around the country. WDI is assisting a group of business managers with business plan advice who are interested in managing the business aspects of operating the incinerators. The MAP team will develop a proposal to be presented to the government later this year for the business managers to operate the incinerators.



WDI’s executive education programs, delivered in partnership with the Stockholm School of Economics (SSE) in Riga, are attracting more international participants, bringing diverse opinions to the classroom and thereby adding value to the programs.

In past years, participants in the executive education offerings from WDI’s Education initiative at SSE Riga are citizens of host country Latvia and one or two neighboring Baltic countries. But for this year’s spring programs – the flagship, 10-day Strategic Management Program (SMP), Supply Chain and Logistics Management and Advanced Negotiations – drew participants not only from Latvia but also Russia, Chile, Estonia, Lithuania, Germany, Ukraine and even from as far away as Canada.

Santa Zeidaka, program manager at SSE Riga, said a key selling point is that its offerings are highly ranked in the Nordic and Baltic regions. She also said SSE Riga leverages its alumni network to spread the word on its programs and promotes them at conferences and on social media.

Zeidaka said a more international classroom benefits all the participants.

“Having an international group helps people open up more,” she said. “Participants get to see the problems from more diverse perspectives and this pushes participants to open their minds more, which is valuable when people work in international companies.”

For the popular SMP – also known as a “mini MBA” – participants came from Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Canada. The program, tailored for high potential, mid- to senior-level managers, features four modules – strategy, finance, marketing, and leadership – and is structured around an integrative strategic framework. The program, held in May, combines lectures, discussions, cases and exercises. Participants also conduct group work, which enhances their critical thinking, decision-making and teamwork skills.

Amy Gillett, vice president of WDI’s Education Initiative, said the fact that the SMP drew participants from four countries speaks to its strong reputation. She said participants around the world are recognizing the great value of this program.

“The Strategic Management Program is greatly enriched by having such a global audience,” she said. “Since the program is highly interactive with participants sharing their experiences, these diverse viewpoints spark new ideas and connections. Next year, we expect to attract participants from even more countries.”

This article traces the development of management education in Central and Eastern Europe over the past 30 years and provide recommendations for the future of management education in this part of the world. The authors, Danica Purg and Alenka Braček Lalić of IEDC-Bled School of Management, identify emerging business issues in Central and Eastern Europe and the resulting opportunities for institutions in the region to respond to these challenges with appropriate management and leadership development.

This article is part of the 25 Years of Market-Based Solutions article series released in honor of the William Davidson Institute’s 25th anniversary. Since its founding in 1992, the Education Initiative at the William Davidson Institute has helped management education institutions around the world develop their capacity. We look forward to continuing this work — and sharing key learnings — over the coming decades.


Professor Linda Gasser, WDI faculty affiliate and a founder of the Central Europe Human Resource Education Initiative, who led the NGO management session.


Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) around the world are facing increased scrutiny and even intimidation by government ministries and regulators in several emerging democracies. Equipping them with the managerial skills and tools they need to advance positive social and political change is critical to their missions, and was the focus of a four-day workshop in Bratislava, Slovakia earlier this month.

WDI, along with the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia at the University of Michigan and the Slovakia-based Pontis Foundation, organized the NGO Leadership Workshop. Twenty-five NGO leaders from 14 countries, including Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, participated in several highly interactive sessions during the workshop.

This was the second year WDI partnered with the Weiser Center, which sponsored the event, and the Pontis Foundation to coordinate the NGO Leadership Workshop. It comes at an especially challenging time for many NGOs. As communist regimes fell in Central and Eastern Europe, South Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union, civil society organizations emerged to help support the fledgling democracies in these regions. However, distrust in NGOs has generated new problems for their managers.

“NGOs from across this region are in a particularly difficult position these days,” said Amy Gillett, vice president of WDI’s Education Initiative. “Some of the countries stigmatize them as ‘foreign agents’ meaning they are an enemy of the state and, therefore, under surveillance. This creates an atmosphere where people in the society do not want to associate with them.”

The NGO Leadership Workshop, held Dec. 6-9, attempted to maximize the effectiveness of the organizations by giving their leaders the necessary skills to properly interact with international partners, government stakeholders and the public. The daily workshop topics were: planning and sustainability of NGOs; essentials of NGO management; marketing strategy for the NGO; and, advocacy and public policy building.

ngo-leadership-workshop-bratislava-2016“The changes in the government of these countries cause tremendous stress,” said Professor Linda Gasser, WDI faculty affiliate and a founder of the Central Europe Human Resource Education Initiative, who led the NGO management session. “People need to find ways to mitigate this. The great value in this program is that participants are networking and understanding that there are others experiencing similar things.”

Many workshop participants cited the interaction with faculty members, guest speakers and each other as a key benefit of the program. They plan to remain in contact in the months to come and also will receive additional training through WDI’s interactive ExtendEd portal. This portal, designed and implemented by WDI, guides participants’ learning before, during and after a program, and encourages them to apply this knowledge back at their job.

Another workshop highlight was a presentation on the development of civil society in Slovakia by Martin Butora, who served as that country’s ambassador to the U.S. from 1999-2003. He also was one of the founders of the political movement Public Against Violence, which opposed communist rule in Slovakia.

ngoworkshop-participantThe presentation was followed by an engaging question-and-answer session with Ron Weiser, former U.S. ambassador to the Slovakia. In 2004, Weiser received the White Double Cross —the highest award given to non-Slovaks — from Slovak President Rudolph Schuster for his work as ambassador.

“Regardless of the countries we come from, we are all experiencing the same problems,” said Nadiia Bureiko, vice head of the Ukraine NGO, Quadrivium. “This program has created a valuable network for future cooperation.”

Stefan Veljkovic, program director of the Kosovo NGO, YEC Synergy, praised the workshop faculty and speakers. He said he learned how to build organizational capacity, recruit people to join a cause and that there are “many ways to get across a message.”

Lenka Surotchak, executive director of the Pontis Foundation, said it might be difficult for someone living in an established democracy to understand the day-to-day fear, struggles and sacrifices of “people fighting for rule of law and attempting to undertake democracy.”

“They do it because they believe in freedom and a better future in their country,” she said. “Interaction with the faculty from one of the renowned U.S. universities, the University of Michigan, the knowledge and belief in their skills, mission and work give them the power and optimism to continue their important job.”

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