WDI Launches First M2GATE Group, EMU, WSU Students Invited to Apply

Friday, January 19, 2018

Students at Wofford College conduct a virtual exchange discussion in a program to increase cross-cultural understanding funded by the Stevens Initiative in 2016. (Image credit: Mark Olenckim/Stevens Wofford College.)


As the first cohort of Michigan students begin collaborating online with their peers in four North African countries, WDI is seeking interested undergraduate students at Eastern Michigan University, all three campuses of the University of Michigan and Wayne State University to join the next two groups of participants for this unique international opportunity.

The program, the MENA-Michigan Initiative for Global Action Through Entrepreneurship (M2GATE), pairs undergrads from the three Michigan universities with those in Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia to find entrepreneurial solutions to social challenges in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. It also increases cross-cultural understanding and equips young people with the skills needed to thrive in a 21st century economy.

Working virtually, teams will develop social entrepreneurship projects and accompanying pitches over an eight-week period with the help of instructors, mentors, and successful entrepreneurs from MENA and Michigan. Each cohort of approximately 128 international students and 64 Michigan-based students will culminate in a virtual competition.

The teams comprised of students from Michigan universities and students from Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia will coordinate times for virtual group work and produce a pitch video as a final assignment. In all, students will spend about 32 hours on the program. The second cohort is scheduled to run from early April to early June; the third cohort will be from early May to mid-July.

Judges will look for scalable solutions that feature science, technology, engineering, and math – or STEM-based – innovations. The MENA students from the winning teams will have the chance to travel to Michigan to interact with entrepreneurs in Ann Arbor and Detroit, and, as a team, pitch their projects to an expert panel for feedback and further development.

The partner organizations in M²GATE include Benghazi Youth for Technology & Entrepreneurship (BYTE) in Libya, Al Akhawayn University in Morocco, and Tunis Business School at the University of Tunis in Tunisia.

Michigan college students selected for the program will attend an orientation meeting as well as debrief and wrap-up sessions at the end of the eight weeks. They will be invited to watch lectures and interactive discussions on WDI’s ExtendEd learning portal on six topics: cross-cultural team building; communication skills; leadership development; design thinking and creative inquiry; introduction to entrepreneurship; and, creating a business model canvas.

WDI was one of 13 organizations chosen for the second round of the 18-month program, which is funded by the Stevens Initiative, an international effort to build career and global competence skills for young people in the U.S. and MENA region. The Initiative honors the legacy of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, who devoted his life to building bridges between people from different cultures.

“After the Arab Spring in 2010, young people in this region increasingly turned to social entrepreneurship to address the challenges in their societies,” said Amy Gillett, vice president of WDI’s Education Initiative. “Given the state of these economies and the upsurge of entrepreneurial interest, this program comes at an ideal time.”

The co-curricular program will equip students with skills in entrepreneurship, team building, innovation and design thinking, international business, problem solving and critical thinking.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for students to work cross-culturally, forge new international connections, and gain exactly the type of 21st century skills needed to succeed in today’s global economy,” Gillett said.

Interested undergraduate students from EMU, U-M and WSU can learn more about M²GATE at the program website. They may also attend an upcoming screening of the film “Extreme by Design,” at 4-6 p.m. Feb. 1 in Room R0210 at the Ross School of Business. WDI is co-hosting a screening of the documentary, which features college students introducing innovative products in emerging markets by applying design thinking and entrepreneurship principles. The showing will followed by a panel discussion and a reception. Space is limited, so students are encouraged to register here.

Housed at the Aspen Institute, the Stevens Initiative is a collaboration between the family of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. Department of State, the Bezos Family Foundation, the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Morocco, and Microsoft, Twitter, Vidyo, and LRNG.

For more details and to apply to M²GATE, click here.


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