the strive for excellence

During our recent trip to West Africa, our group had the opportunity to learn more about entrepreneurship and education in Ghana through meetings with representatives from various universities, government organizations, companies, and community leaders.

One of the visits that inspired me was a trip to Ashesi University – a private, non-profit liberal arts college located in the Eastern Region of Ghana, at about an hour’s drive from the capital Accra – ranked as one of the most respected organizations in Ghana (PwC, 2012) and one of Ghana’s 50 Best Places to work (Goodman AMC, 2015). Ashesi’s President, Dr. Patrick Awuah, was also ranked among the most respected CEO in Ghana (2012) and among World’s 50 Greatest Leaders (Fortune Magazine, 2015).

Inspired by the words of Goethe: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it — begin it now,” Awuah left Microsoft to create a state-of-the-art education hub that would help educate his native country’s next generation of leaders. Ashesi – in translation, “beginning” – combines technical majors with a liberal arts approach, and teaches entrepreneurship and design thinking courses.

But Ashesi’s mission goes way beyond its curriculum. The school inspires a new generation of leaders through its focus on community service – many students volunteer with various organizations and/or make a significant impact in the local community (e.g., Senso-mu working with local farmers to enhance agricultural practices). Ashesi also inspires students to voice their values – in 2008, students pledged to adhere to Ashesi’s Honor Code and obtained its approval by regulatory bodies.

In a CNN interview in 2013, Awuah sums up his hopes that Africa’s universities will cultivate a new generation of innovative leaders and ultimately help the continent to transform itself: “If you come back in 30 years, universities will be competing for the best and brightest students. I hope that universities will also be competing on things such as whose students are the most ethical. If that happens, it will change the continent.”

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