ANN ARBOR—Fourteen Middle Eastern and North African entrepreneurs are at the University of Michigan to learn firsthand how to succeed in their fields, as part of a U.S. Department of State-sponsored program that partners U-M experts with southeastern Michigan community organizations.
"This program is unique in that it not only offers professional development opportunities for the
participants, but also cultivates the kind of people-to-people connections that help to dilute stereotypes and lead to better mutual understanding and respect," said Barbara Peitsch, who directs the program based at the U-M Institute for Social Research.
Participants, who hail from Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories and Tunisia, are primarily small business owners, including web and app designers, and representatives of nongovernmental organizations and government agencies involved in supporting small business startups.
"Being here is a whole new experience for me," said Nada Heggy, a program participant from Egypt who runs a nonprofit aimed at bridging the gap for young graduates between college and the job market. "It's my first time in the U.S. I've been exposed to different cultures, different people, different mindsets. I'm trying to gain more ideas in different fields, especially in entrepreneurship, and how to grow my business better back in Egypt."
As part of the program, participants attend strategy and coaching sessions with U-M marketing, communications and entrepreneurship experts, and connect with representatives of community organizations, including the Arab American Women's Business Council, the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, Menlo Innovations, Google and Ann Arbor SPARK.
After spending three weeks in Michigan, the group will travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in the State Department's Professional Fellows Congress to network with other young leaders in their fields and refine the plans they will implement when they return home.
To follow up on the connections established here, Peitsch will bring two groups of U.S. hosts to the Middle East and North Africa starting in January 2013 for two-week "reverse exchanges" that will include workshops, organizational visits and onsite consulting.
The Institute for Social Research is one of 17 U.S.-based nonprofits and universities that are hosting foreign professionals from over 50 countries and territories.
- U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs: http://exchanges.state.gov/citizens/profs/professional-fellows.html
- ISR's Economic Empowerment through Entrepreneurship: www.isr.umich.edu/cps/project_bpeitsch002.html
Established in 1949, the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research is the world's largest academic social science survey and research organization, and a world leader in developing and applying social science methodology, and in educating researchers and students from around the world. ISR conducts some of the most widely cited studies in the nation, including the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers, the American National Election Studies, the Monitoring the Future Study, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the Health and Retirement Study, the Columbia County Longitudinal Study and the National Survey of Black Americans. ISR researchers also collaborate with social scientists in more than 60 nations on the World Values Surveys and other projects, and the institute has established formal ties with universities in Poland, China and South Africa. ISR is also home to the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research, the world's largest digital social science data archive. For more information, visit the ISR website at www.isr.umich.edu.