I am leaving the Philippines as I am writing my last blog entry. I have had a lot of impressions over the last three months and made new friends in a remote part of the world. It was a privilege to experience developing country life for ten weeks, with all its attendant chaos.
My last week at African Leadership Academy (ALA) has been filled with the commotion and excitement of a new school year underway. Students and faculty are back on campus and ALA finally feels like a school! Second year students have already jumped into their A-level (akin to AP) classes and first year students are busy with new student orientation. I've sat in on a leadership and an African studies class, which were both phenomenal. I am generally taken aback with the level of engagement and thoughtfulness of the students, and with the poise and commitment of the teachers.
Back in the U.S. after two months in India and still getting used to the idea that water from the tap is safe again, I am thankful that I had the opportunity to see so much of the country. With more than a billion people, saying that India is a diverse country is pretty much a no-brainer. Yet experiencing that diversity is eye-opening.
Crisscrossing the country with a hectic travel schedule that took me to seven states in about as many weeks as part of my internship with D-REV gave me an opportunity to begin to appreciate that diversity:
As I readied myself for the 35 hour journey from our nation's capitol (SMIF internship with the U.S. Department of Energy) to rural Cambodia (GMIX with an off-grid solar developer), I had something that can only be described as aberrant at the GSB: a spare minute to think. Having just wrapped up my first ever stint working for the government and looking forward at the impending prospect of trading in a luxury high-rise for a mosquito net, I thought through how my SMIF experience at the DOE stacked up against my prior expectations and biases.
And just like that, it was over. The past ten weeks really have flown by, but I'm really delighted with how my summer as an Education Pioneer at Aspire Public Schools turned out.
My main focus this summer was on helping Aspire increase the effectiveness and efficiency of its central office teams. This involved analyzing internal feedback data, researching external best-practices, developing new tools and processes, as well as facilitating key management level discussions. Going into this internship, I set two goals for myself: to learn what it takes to build and sustain a world-class schools management organization and to help Aspire continue to do just that. Looking back, I'm happy to say that I achieved both.
I've been here in Washington, DC, working at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967. Briefly, CPB funds local radio and TV stations to develop and provide universal access to educational, diverse, non-commercial programming--programming that speaks especially to children and minorities.
I've spent the last seven weeks working at African Leadership Academy (ALA) in Johannesburg, South Africa. ALA was founded by two GSB alums with the mission of transforming Africa by developing and connecting entrepreneurial and ethical leaders who will bring lasting peace and prosperity to the continent.
The last few weeks at Embrace have been exciting and nerve-wracking, as we have seen the start of the first clinical trial for the infant warmers. Our anxious wait for the first low birth weight baby to be enrolled in the trial was finally over this week, and I am happy to report that everything went well. It is a fantastic time to be at Embrace, to witness the sense of fulfillment that reaching this milestone gives to the founders and staff.
Working in India is not an easy task, as you may have gathered from those of us spending the summer there. It requires an ability to withstand the sweltering summer heat and monsoon floods, a stomach of steel, and endless patience and persistence. The difficulties are worth it, though, to be in one of the world's most exciting economies, surrounded by unbelievable nature, culture, and history. This has been an amazing summer and I am so thankful to SMIF for this opportunity.
Wrapping up my time at Puentes, and reflecting on the course of the summer, I'm extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to work here. It has been a great learning experience, and I feel I have learnt a lot about the trials, tribulations and opportunities of working at a start-up social entrepreneurship.
Working at a small organization, I've had a great opportunity to help shape its strategy and the projects it will work on in the future. Sadly, because they are still in the inception phase, I won't be around to see them come to fruition. But Puentes has ambitious plans, including starting a franchising program for entrepreneurs in Mexico and I wish them all the luck in making it happen.