M²GATE Students Reflect on Experience

By Amy Gillett

“I’ve never worked with people from so far away. M²GATE gave me the opportunity to work with people from another culture.  I enjoyed it a lot,” said Ryan Berg, a freshman at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan at the final session of Cohort 1 of the M²GATE program. During this wrap-up session, students and program instructors convened virtually to share their key learnings from the program.

For Berg and many other students from the University of Michigan, the program presented a unique opportunity to learn firsthand about serious challenges in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Berg and his teammates from Cairo named themselves the Guardian Angels and decided to focus on the problem of child labor. “I didn’t know that child labor was such a huge problem in Egypt. This was an eye-opening experience.”

“I appreciate that the students from Michigan were willing to invest time and effort into understanding the issues in our region, said Maroua Nouira of Tunisia, who recently completed her degree in finance and whose team, Caerus, chose to focus on pollution in the MENA region as their challenge.

For Deena Berri, a sophomore at University of Michigan Dearborn, meeting people from different cultures and hearing their social issues was of great value. A double major in business and international studies, Berri said that the program taught her useful skills she’ll be able to apply in her future career in international business. “I sharpened my cultural sensitivity skills, my teamwork skills, and my delegation skills,” says Berri, whose teammates were from Libya. Her team, Alpha, focused on the refugee crisis for its project.

For Abdalrahim Braika of Benghazi, working with teammates from diverse backgrounds and cultures was very valuable. “The diversity of the team helped us open our minds and think differently,” he said. His team, the Eagles, decided to tackle the issue of the weak education system in Libya.

Chaima Jahouri, from Marrakesh, said M²GATE was a great opportunity to take learning from theory to practice. “This program let us see how to do things in real life.” Her team, the Alters, took on as their issue the lack of soft skills training in Morocco.

Many participants mentioned the useful skills they acquired in the program. “I was delighted to take part in this program and learn so many things related to the business model canvas, leadership and entrepreneurship skills,” said Mohcin Bounadar of Rabat, Morocco.

Like many other participants, Bounadar hopes to continue on the project his team started. His team, the Cross Atlantic Green Coalition, addressed the scarcity of water in Morocco as their challenge. “We must figure out how we can make our projects into reality and transform them into real solutions,” he said.

Noureddine Aroury, program manager based in Morocco, summarized M²GATE by saying, “I saw with my own eyes that students got new skills related to entrepreneurship, cultural exchange, project management, and leadership. I think this program must continue because its impact is much great than we can see.”



M2GATE partner logos (from left to right) USAID, U.S. Department of State, the Stevens Initiative and The Aspen Institute

The Stevens Initiative is also supported by the Bezos Family Foundation and the governments of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

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