Regent Students Leave Mark on Rwandan Business Community

Date & Timestamp : MAY 17

Story By Amanda Morad, originally posted 03 July 2012

Regent University has been developing relationships with several African nations over the last decade, but in the past two years, some of the most impressive strides have been made in the genocide-torn nation of Rwanda. This May, a cohort of 14 Regent students converged on Kigali, Rwanda, to complete their major projects for the Holistic International Development course.

The class is housed in the School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship (GLE) but is open to any student seeking to expand his or her studies. GLE professor Dr. John Mulford developed the Holistic International Development course as a Regent-wide opportunity for global study and experience. “The course was a huge success,” said Mulford. “Students from diverse backgrounds came together to share a cross-cultural experience and contribute their expertise to a nation.”

Trip coordinator Brittany Hoffman emphasized the diversity of the group. “One of  the greatest strengths of this program is that students came from almost every school—business, divinity, psychology, education and undergrad,” she explained. “They learned from one another and helped one another. This diversity was an incredible strength for the class and for their overall impact on Rwanda.”

Each student participated in at least one project—many participated in more—related to fields including business, research, community development, ministry, leadership and communications. Through the connections established by Regent’s Business Development Center (BDC) in Rwanda, students were able to work with some of the most prestigious government and private organizations in the nation.

“The Holistic International Development course was the most valuable educational experience for me since I have been an MBA student,” said GLE student Karen Pruitt. “I felt more fulfilled in serving in this capacity than in my 10 years of working in IT consulting.” Pruitt conducted a two-day IT project management seminar for 25 IT entrepreneurs under the sponsorship of the Rwanda Development Board.

Dori Fileccia was the group’s only student from the School of Undergraduate Studies and had the chance to work with MTN Group, Rwanda’s largest telecom company and mobile provider which operates in 21 nations. “What I learned was that not all businesses are created equal,” she explained, having also worked with Rwandan government agencies and entrepreneurs throughout the trip. “In each situation, businesses have their own culture, and as business leaders, we must continue to adapt our style of mentoring to the culture of that individual or organization.”

Fileccia started by working with the human resources department, but after a meeting with the CEO, he asked her to deliver a leadership training seminar for him and his vice presidents.

Eric Ketcham, a student in the School of Divinity, focused his project on community development research. The goal was “to see how community development is done in Rwanda in various contexts and provide a paradigm for others as they begin to develop community in neighboring Congo,” he reported.

Ketcham also shared a project with School of Psychology & Counseling student Trevor Olson. “A well-known Christian architect and his business partner have concessions for three mines in neighboring Congo, and they want to use the profits from this mine for community development and for supporting the church in an area of Congo that is very much in need of transformation,” Ketcham explained. Their model of “business as missions” benefited directly from his broader research.

The preparation for an undertaking like this trip involves researching the needs of the organizations, strategizing solutions and learning to operate in a culture unfamiliar to the students’ own. But a semester’s worth of work paid off as the teams delivered valuable research, advice and training to a wide variety of Rwandan audiences—from youth to poor women to business executives and government leaders. Through these interactions, Mulford explained, “the students delivered such excellence that they increased the credibility and reputation of the BDC and of Regent University in Rwanda.”

Though business projects kept students working late into the night, they also experienced Rwandan culture and history through site visits throughout the area, including the Genocide Memorial.

Through all of their professional, cultural and personal encounters, the Regent students gained a tremendous appreciation and respect for the Rwandan people.

“Their warmth and enthusiasm to grow as a society is outstanding, in spite of the tragic history they are still recovering from,” Fileccia said. “To be in a room with individuals who have survived some of the most atrocious events we can only imagine, yet still convey hope, love and forgiveness, is a model to all.”

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