Programs demonstrate the importance of understanding other people and cultures

David Zaret, IU vice president for international affairs, right foreground, presents his business card as part of a session about networking at IU's Kelley School of Business.

David Zaret, IU vice president for international affairs, right foreground, presents his business card as part of a session about networking at IU’s Kelley School of Business.

On a wet Independence Day at Indiana University, two groups of students interested in the intersection of business, language and international cultures hung out.

A group of 33 mostly American high school students and a group of 100 college students from the Middle East and North Africa played cards, Jenga and other games. They enjoyed all-American food such as hot dogs, fried chicken, mac and cheese, coleslaw and various sweet treats. There was music and dancing. They got to know each other better.

I heard about it when I recently sat down with participants from both programs – the Global Business Institute for the international students and Business Is Global for the American high school students, most from Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

We met over lunch at IU’s Kelley School of Business during a session where students from both programs were learning how people exchange information and “network.”

The July 4 party and networking may seem somewhat basic, but they highlight a powerful goal of both programs: They demonstrate the importance of learning about and understanding other people and cultures and looking for ways to work together.

Dancing was part of the joint gathering of participants in Business Is Global and the Global Business Institute.

Dancing was part of the joint gathering of participants in Business Is Global and the Global Business Institute.

‘Creating relationships’ and ‘learning new things’

LaVonn Schlegel, executive director of the Kelley School’s Institute for International Business, had simple instructions for us at lunch: meet three people and get their contact information.

“As you are just interested in learning about how to work in a new culture, a new climate, a new city or a new country, it is all about the networking — the people you know in this world — that helps smooth the pathway for what you want to accomplish,” Schlegel said. “Almost everybody you meet is going to be interested to know a little bit about you and who you are.

“We’re are all excited about creating relationships and about learning new things, and it’s all yours for the asking,” she added. “If you don’t ask, if you don’t reach out your hand, if you don’t reach out and ask them their name … what they want to accomplish in life, then you are missing out on an opportunity to be a bigger, bolder, braver version of yourself.”

My five new connections include people from Algeria, Pakistan, Jordan and Valparaiso, Ind.

“I was looking for something that would expose me to options,” Lily O’Connor, a high school senior from Valparaiso, Ind., said in explaining her decision to participate in Business Is Global. “I feel like a lot of high school students have somewhat of an idea of what they want to do already. I know what I want to do, but I don’t know yet what major it falls under. … The global aspects seemed like an extra bonus, which just makes it a lot more fun.”

One of other my lunch mates, Hamzah Al Mahameed, 22, is an engineering student and one of 15 participants from Jordan. He acknowledged that people in his country have a narrower view of the world. “In our country, it’s not like this,” he said, gesturing toward the room full of diverse students, IU and Kelley faculty and staff, and other campus visitors.

Left to right, Lily O'Connor, Hamzah Al Mahameed and Berrichi Abdelmaunaim.

Left to right, Lily O’Connor, Hamzah Al Mahameed and Berrichi Abdelmaunaim.

“Being here is such a great experience — getting to know all these people, these cultures, different cultures,” said pharmaceutical student Marsel Ammari, 20, another Jordanian. “It’s like getting out of your comfort zone. … Living with them can add to knowledge and experience.

“The people are so friendly here,” she said. “They are smiling all the time and so kind.”

The curriculum for Business Is Global includes introducing the pre-college students to less-commonly taught foreign languages spoken in emerging economies. Partners in the program include the Chinese and Turkish Flagship programs and the Swahili Language Division in IU’s School of Global and International Studies. The program is supported through a U.S. Department of Education grant to the IU Center for International Business, Education and Research.

Global Business Institute creates entrepreneurs

Participants in the Global Business Institute come from Algeria, Jordan, Pakistan, Palestine, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco. Created in partnership with the Coca-Cola Co. and the U.S. State Department, it provides a basic understanding of American business practices through an accelerated four-week curriculum based on core elements of Kelley’s undergraduate program.

The purpose of the program is to prepare students from a variety of racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds to develop and use entrepreneurial skills to address issues in their home countries.

On Thursday, they attended the eighth Innovation Showcase sponsored by the Indiana Venture Club and will visit several corporate settings. On Saturday, they participated in a Bloomington Habitat for Humanity build. On July 29, they will meet with Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent via teleconference.

An indoor July 4 celebration became a cultural exchange between students in both programs.

An indoor July 4 celebration became a cultural exchange between students in both programs.

Participants in the Global Business Institute program will leave Bloomington on July 30 and travel to Washington, D.C., where they will pitch business ideas at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and visit Capitol Hill and the State Department. They also will visit Atlanta and Coca-Cola’s world headquarters.

Since the program was created in 2012, new businesses have been created by Global Business Institute alumni in every participating country. Nearly 75 participants have started their own businesses and created more than 270 jobs. Nearly 70 of GBI alumni are involved in entrepreneurship clubs, start-ups and start-up competitions.

Al Mahameed is interested in setting up food trucks that will provide Syrian refugees with employment. “They are always taking money from our government in Jordan. This is so they can make money for themselves, their families and feed other refugees in the camps,” he said. “I believe that food is always sharing love.”

Another Global Business Institute student I ate with is learning all he can about e-commerce. “In my country, I hope that we use the Internet more in our lives,” said Abdelmounaim Berrichi, 20, a computer scientist from Algeria. “There is only one school where you can study computers in Algeria, in all of Algeria and 40 million people.”

Mohammed Alshurafa from Gaza, Palestine, takes a selfie with Uncle Sam's hat and his keffiyeh scarf.

Mohammed Alshurafa from Gaza, Palestine, takes a selfie with Uncle Sam’s hat and his keffiyeh scarf.

For many of the Global Business Institute students, this is the first time they have been to the United States and spent much time around Americans. “It’s been quite a culture shock,” said Shahrukh Khan, 21, a business student and one of 14 participants from Pakistan. “It’s good to see a different kind of America than what we see in the media. … It’s a great country.”

Ammari, who hopes to develop new products that help the disabled, said she looks forward to returning home being “more open-minded, because you’ve widened your horizon and you’ve seen things you can’t back home.”

How the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders benefits IU and Indiana

mandela fellows in fourth of july parade

Through the Mandela Washington Fellowship at IU, 25 young African leaders from 18 nations became immersed in the life of the campus and the city of Bloomington. They participated in the Bloomington Farmers’ Market and marched in the city’s Fourth of July parade.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve introduced you to a group of enthusiastic young people from 18 African countries who are fellows of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.

The benefits of this program to these 25 visitors, participating in a program that is part of President Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative, should be obvious. But how does it benefit Indiana University and the surrounding community?

Teshome Alemneh, IU associate vice president for international development, said the answer is quite simple: IU’s participation in the U.S. State Department project demonstrates the university’s commitment to global engagement, including promoting people-to-people relationships.

It also aligns with other priorities outlined in the university’s Bicentennial Strategic Plan, including celebrating a vibrant and collaborative community of scholars and global engagement.

“It has been a helpful experience for them, but it also has been a helpful experience for us,” Alemneh said. “It’s become a two-way street where we have learned and they have learned.”

Raising awareness and boosting understanding

The program has helped many at IU and elsewhere in Monroe County to develop a greater awareness about Africa and its people, and to better understand the level of development there — not just the poverty that often gets portrayed.

“At all the places that we’ve visited, there has been really intensive engagement and interaction,” Alemneh said. “In terms of development challenges, I think many people were able to understand that the challenges that we face here and the challenges that they face in Africa are more or less similar. The degree, the intensity and the way that we address them might be different.”

Teshome Alemneh

Teshome Alemneh

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders project is being coordinated by the IU Office of International Development, a unit within the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs.

Downtown Bloomington Inc. and the Bloomington’s Main Street Program worked with IU to arrange for tours at businesses and organizations, interviews with local leaders and other activities to show how Hoosiers approach projects and issues.

“I was recently reminded of how special this area is while sharing our stories with people from around our region and across the globe. They come to Bloomington to learn, and we learn from them,” said Talisha Coppock, executive director of both organizations, in a column for the Herald-Times.

May lead to future partnerships

The interaction over the past four weeks may lead to future collaboration. Alemneh said several faculty members have exchanged contact information and interest areas where they can work together with the Mandela Fellows.

For example, the Kenyan students were eager to learn more about the IU Kelley School of Business student projects that provide consulting support in their country.

“It was a great opportunity to meet with professionals from a number of industries and sectors. We are already talking with a couple of folks from Kenya and South Africa about how the Institute for International Business might be able to assist with projects and opportunities around entrepreneurship, business skill training and capacity building,” said LaVonn Schlegel, executive director of the Kelley School-based institute.

“This was a lively and engaged group. They asked pointed questions and were looking for ways to apply the ideas that were being presented,” added Fred Schlegel, a senior lecturer of management and entrepreneurship in the Kelley School of Business. “As they continue to develop ideas and programs that benefit their communities, I hope we can find ways to continue engagement.”

The Mandela Washington Fellows also met with Jon Racek, a lecturer in the Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design, who is the founder and executive director of Play360, an organization that helps build playgrounds in underdeveloped countries. Engagement between Play360, which also teaches people how to make and maintain playgrounds using locally available materials, is expected to continue.

This weekend, the fellows will leave Bloomington for a gathering in Chicago with other Mandela Washington Fellows from Purdue University, Northwestern University and the University of Notre Dame, and then spend two weeks at IUPUI.

On July 31, they will depart Indiana for Washington, D.C., and a leadership summit that President Obama is expected to attend.

After the Mandela Washington Fellows return to their respective countries, it is hoped that they will maintain ties with IU and help to bridge new kinds of relationships with governments and donor organizations that will encourage institution building, Alemneh said.

“IU is becoming really visible now in a way that it wasn’t in many (African) countries before,” he said. “I think they are going to become champions for IU.”

“I think they are going to go back and talk about the good things that they see here in Indiana, in Bloomington and in Indianapolis.… It’s an opportunity for us.”

After all, they are Hoosiers now.

Some of our newest Hoosiers offer their warmest thanks

Whenever we run into friends around the Indiana University campus, the range of greetings usually is pretty narrow. Most of us will say “hello” or “hi,” followed by an inquiry about their health or well-being.

But with an international enrollment of more than 6,100 students, it’s not uncommon to hear greetings in other languages.

Around some Chinese students – who represent the largest group of international students at IU Bloomington – you might hear someone say, “nǐ hǎo.”

Among Indian students, the traditional greeting is “namaste.” According to one reference, it began as a way to show deep respect, and it is now used as a common greeting in India between strangers and friends of all age and status.

However, it’s not quite as simple a gesture to offer an introductory greeting or an expression of appreciation across Africa, as we learned when we asked a group of 25 young leaders from 18 sub-Saharan African nations visiting IU to offer thanks in their own languages.

IU’s Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses are hosting these bright young people, between the ages of 25 and 35, who are participating in an academic and leadership development institute. They are here through the U.S. State Department’s Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.

Unfortunately, many Americans see the African continent in a singular sense, not appreciating that it is one of the most diverse and multi-cultural places on the planet.

IU participants in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program, with their hosts at Grazie! Italiano restaurant.

IU participants in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program, with their hosts at Grazie! Italiano restaurant.

But you’ll appreciate that fact if you watch a simple video that was produced at a gathering of Mandela Washington Fellows with members of the community at a downtown Bloomington restaurant.

For example, in Zimbabwe, where Mandela Fellow and women’s rights advocate Karen Mukwasi is from, 28 local languages are spoken. In Cote d’Ivoire, where Mandela Fellow and social activist Landry Guehi is from, people speak 64 local languages.

Seventeen languages are commonly spoken in Ethiopia, where Mandela Fellow and pan-Africanist Zemdena Abebe is from.

In Tanzania, where Mandela Fellow Janet Manoni is from, the primary language is Swahili, but there also are about 120 tribes which contribute to many dialects being spoken.

In Cameroon, where Mandela Fellow Lilian Banmi is from, about 230 languages are spoken.

French is the official language of Guinea-Conakry, where Mandala Fellow and ChildFund International finance manager Therese Sagno lives, but more than 24 indigenous languages also are spoken there.

Mandela Fellows told us that it’s not uncommon for their parents to understand and speak different dialects or languages. Several shared different expressions of thanks – one from their mother’s tongue and another from their father’s language.

As in other places, English is a common means of communications for speakers of different first languages, which I also found to be evident as I’ve gotten to know many of the Mandela Washington Fellows.

These young people also are diverse in their professions and occupations. They include a school teacher, medical doctors and public health professionals, a scientist, business people, lawyers, activists, broadcasters and even a hip-hop artist who promotes positive social behavioral change.

Other nations represented by the Mandela Fellows include Angola, the Central African Republic, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland and Togo.

In case you’re interested in learning a new language, IU’s African Languages Program offers regularly scheduled courses in Akan/Twi, Bamana, Kiswahili, Wolof, Yoruba and Zulu during the academic year. Kiswahili is also taught as an intensive course during the summer sessions. Other languages may be available.

Arabic, which is commonly spoken in Sudan, the home of Shohdi Al Hag, another Mandela Fellow and the Sudanese Voices Association founder, is taught through the Near Eastern Languages and Cultures Department.

Please take a look at the video and meet some of our latest Indiana Hoosiers.

Mandela Washington Fellows hear IU students’ personal experiences helping their communities

IU doctoral students speak to mandela fellows

Three IU Ph.D candidates speak to a group of Mandela Washington Fellows at the IU School of Global and International Studies.

Post by IU Newsroom intern Amanda Marino

When Ph.D. candidate A’ame Joslin was growing up in rural Indiana, her family relied heavily on the government and members of their community to help them with financial troubles.

Despite their needs, Joslin said she and her sister were still actively involved in community service. She said her mother would bring them to nursing homes and ask which people didn’t have any visitors or family coming to see them.

Joslin and her sister would sing songs and play games with those people, serving in a way not limited by their financial situation. Spending time with the elderly cost the family nothing and was a great service to people otherwise left alone at the ends of their lives.

She was one of three Indiana University Ph.D. candidates who met with 25 Mandela Washington Fellows for Young African Leaders to discuss their personal experiences with civic engagement and community service in the United States.

This meeting was one of many stops the Mandela Washington Fellows have made so far during their six-week academic and leadership development institute at the IU Bloomington and IUPUI campuses.

The session on Tuesday focused on how people in the United States address community issues and what roles volunteers can play in serving the people around them.

Service experience

To begin, the three doctoral candidates described their personal community service and volunteering experiences. From these anecdotes, the group would go on to pose questions about both the people and the program aspects of volunteering.

Kirk Harris, a Ph.D. candidate in political science, said his service began at a young age through his church in Seattle. He said messages about the importance of service and volunteering are typical in the United States.

IU students discussing their experiences with the Mandela Washington Fellows

As Kirk Harris, right, looks on, A’ame Joslin discusses her experiences as a volunteer in her community and in the Peace Corps.

“The messages I heard as a child are sort of embedded in American culture,” he said.

Joslin, a Ph.D. candidate for comparative education, said that thanks to her experience as a young person, she realized it didn’t take a lot to make a difference.

During her time in the Peace Corps, Joslin said she observed community interactions worldwide, searching for ideas she could bring home and implement.

For her, it was never about trying to make a global change. Instead, she was inspired to do small things in communities around the world.

Unlike his counterparts, Justin Wild, a Ph.D. candidate in comparative education, said his youth did not involve civic engagement. Because he never asked why he wasn’t doing something service-oriented, he never really understood its importance to the community.

Wild later wondered how to get a student like himself, caring but not inquisitive, involved in community service. To him, it isn’t a matter of capability as much as engagement with children.

“Children are capable of much more than we give them credit for,” he said.

By directing programs toward children and getting them involved from a young age, Wild believes a passion for service can be instilled early and made to grow throughout a person’s life.

Practical applications

As soon as the presentations were finished, hands shot up in the air, ready to pose questions to the three Ph.D. students and the group at large.

It was evident from the presentations and the questions that the needs of communities through the United States and Africa are not all that different. Basic human needs like food, water and shelter need to be provided. Opportunities to engage socially with other people and to become educated are vital to a healthy community.

Several Mandela Washington Fellows asked repeatedly if and how volunteers were paid and how people were kept involved and motivated.

Sophie Ranaivoharisoa of Madagascar shared concerns that people value money over volunteering

Sophie Ranaivoharisoa of Madagascar shared concerns that people value money over volunteering

Landry Guehi, a Mandela Washington Fellow who leads the Network of Associations for Voluntary Service in Cote d’Ivoire, said his civic engagement experience also began with his parish as a young person. His concerns revolved around whether young people were engaged in the community for a payment received and not because they were passionate about serving.

Harris said that might be the case, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Even if a person gets involved with a program for the sake of a stipend, both the volunteer and the community will still benefit.

Sophie Ranaivoharisoa, a Fellow from Madagascar, shared similar concerns that people value money over volunteering. While she thought it might be something that people could overcome, Wild suggested the two could go hand in hand.

“Volunteering is definitely a gateway into employment,” he said.

Common themes running through the discussion were the importance of encouraging people to learn and be culturally aware because they will naturally become involved when a sense of community or shared identity is present. Once they are there, seeing their work make a difference in any way will keep them coming back to serve.

IU Maurer School program sparks reflection on laws that can serve the disabled across Africa

Zukiswa Nzo, center, is one of 25 Mandela Washington Fellows visiting IU and an advocate for the disabled in South Africa.

Zukiswa Nzo, center, is one of 25 Mandela Washington Fellows visiting IU and an advocate for the disabled in South Africa.

It should have been a night remembered for other reasons than becoming disabled.

A trained development economist, Zukiswa Nzo was out with friends celebrating a new job on Feb. 16, 2007, when suddenly someone yelled, “Ngicela amafone (give me your phones),” followed by a gunshot.

Instead of advancing in her career, Nzo – known by her friends as Zuki – found herself recovering from injuries suffered during a carjacking and beginning a new life as a paraplegic. Paralyzed from her hips down, she spent the next eight months recovering in a Johannesburg hospital.

“When I got out of there, my eyes opened up, in terms of the discrimination that persons with disabilities face in our society,” she said. “I was facing all of the barriers first hand … That’s when I decided to become a change agent.”

She began a blog, “My Journey as a Paraplegic,” while working at the South African Broadcasting Co., and became a columnist to give people a forum where they could ask questions. She has served on the South African Disability Development Trust board, and received disability equality training to help others become more aware. She’s an ambassador for the Wings for Life World Run, aimed at finding a cure for spinal cord injury.

Today, she is an entrepreneur and an advocate for disability inclusion. She also is one of 25 people from 18 countries who are at Indiana University participating in the Mandela Washington Leadership for Young African Leaders program.

On Thursday, she and other Mandela Washington Fellows spent a morning with faculty in the IU Maurer School of Law, learning about how the American legal system offers protections for people with disabilities and domestic violence victims as well as those who face discrimination due to the race and gender.

They heard from Kevin Brown, the Richard S. Melvin Professor of Law and founder of the Maurer School’s Summer in Southern Africa Program; Leslie E. Davis, assistant dean for international programs; Catherine Matthews, assistant dean of students; and Aaron Bonar, a J.D./Ph.D. candidate and a graduate fellow at the Center for Constitutional Democracy.

Kevin Brown, the Richard S. Melvin Professor of Law in the IU Maurer School of Law.

Kevin Brown, the Richard S. Melvin Professor of Law in the IU Maurer School of Law.

In his presentation, Brown highlighted the importance of the U.S. Constitution in governing through the rule of law, as compared to how law functions in other lands. He highlighted the fundamental importance of the 14th Amendment, which requires equal protection for all, not only at the federal level but also in all 50 states.

“It’s important to note that the concept of equality, that America holds dear, is a concept of individual self-determination. This is what really makes the United States unique among human societies,” said Brown, who has traveled to Africa more than 10 times. “It is a society that at its very core believes in the ability of the individual to develop him or herself in the way that they want to develop and then to pursue their own plans and purposes, consistent with the rights of others to do the same.”

He went on to explain that the U.S. concept of equality is based on individual freedom and liberty and not on tradition. Thus, it suggests the law should ignore individual characteristics that people can’t choose for themselves, such as race, ethnicity and gender, so it “transcends those characteristics.”

Brown was followed by Matthews, who described the challenges and limitations of U.S. law when it comes to protecting victims of domestic violence. The last two speakers, Bonar and Davis, addressed legal issues for people with disabilities.

Being disabled and impoverished go hand-in-hand across Africa. Bonar has studied the issue on the ground in Liberia, where a protracted civil war left many people maimed at the hands of combatants.

He cited statistics from Handicap International, which found that 16 percent of Liberia’s total population are disabled in some way. Within this population, 61 percent have mobility issues, 24 percent are visually impaired, 7 percent are deaf and 8 percent suffer from psycho/social illnesses.

Of that same 16 percent who are disabled, 99 percent live in extreme poverty. Among the rest of the total population, 48 percent live in poverty.

While Liberia signed and ratified the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2012, it did not ratify an accompanying protocol on how to implement the legislation, Bonar pointed out. Efforts to promote equal protections there have been “lackluster,” as has access to services, he said.

Several Mandela Washington Fellows acknowledged similar problems in their home countries. They were keenly interested in what Davis had to say about the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, begun in 2014, is the flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, begun in 2014, is the flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking.

“The difference between the United States and South Africa is that we haven’t localized UN convention as much,” Nzo said. “We are still having a debate about whether it is necessary to have a separate disability act, or would we still be separating the disabled. Should we start making sure that disability is included in every single piece of legislation? Disabled people are everywhere … All these laws should be fully inclusive.

“But I’ve seen pluses in having legislation, based on what I’ve seen in Bloomington,” she added. “It’s what enabled (American) society to become more accessible.”

Ishiyaku Adamu, another Mandela Washington Fellow, who is national president of the Nigerian Association of the Blind, agreed.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act has provided immense opportunities for a person with disabilities here,” he said. “For the two weeks I have been here, there hasn’t been any building that I can’t enter. There is no public transportation that I haven’t found accessible. All the websites that I have been accessing, the materials have been accessible … This is something very great that ADA provides. We hope to see that in Nigeria.”

Adamu said his country does not have a single law that protects those with disabilities. On three different occasions – in 2003, 2010 and 2014 – laws to address the rights of the disabled were passed by Nigeria’s national assembly, but not signed into law by the president.

He said an effort is now underway among several organizations, including his group that represents 6.4 million Nigerians who are blind or partially sighted people, to resolve issues that prevent the bills from being signed.

Both Adamu and Nzo will be meeting with and hoping to learn from representatives of organizations that advocate for the rights of the disabled in Bloomington and Indianapolis.

“One thing that struck me so much when I came into the United States and Bloomington in particular was the accessibility of services to the disabled,” said Lillian Banmi, a medical doctor and gynecologist from Cameroon. “I felt like weeping. I was so touched and impressed that the disabled are recognized to be equal to those who are able … If there is one thing I will take back to my country, it’s (support for) the implementation of services that they put into the law (in my country) but have not been followed.”

“One of the things that really impresses me about this country is the accessibility of this country,” added Hombé Kafechina, programs manager at a nongovernmental organization in Togo that protects the rights of children. “The roads, the buildings and the buses are accessible for people who live with disabilities. This is not the same reality in our countries … There are some ideas here which are simple ideas that can be implemented in our countries.”

African leaders learn about civic engagement during visit to Bloomington City Hall

Mandela Washington Fellows at City Hall

Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton, center, helped to welcome 25 young leaders from 18 Sub-Saharan countries who are visiting Indiana University through the U.S. State Department’s Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program.

As a Bloomington City Council member, Isabel Piedmont-Smith is accustomed to meeting with constituents. While the farmer’s market was abuzz with activity Saturday, she spent time discussing concerns and issues facing those who reside in her district.

At times, Piedmont-Smith’s presentation in City Hall chambers on Monday — to 25 participants in the U.S. State Department’s Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program — had the same vibe as the meeting she had just two days earlier.

They peppered her with questions about taxes and zoning and asked what the city was doing about the homeless and the environment.

Jose-Landry Guehi, a social activist who leads the Network of Associations for Voluntary Service in Cote d’Ivoire, wanted to know whether people are allowed to operate businesses out of their homes and learned about Bloomington zoning laws.

Zemdena Abebe, a writer and activist from Ethiopia, inquired whether real estate gentrification is much of an issue in Bloomington. In her response, Piedmont-Smith shared concerns about the impact that a new park being developed could have on affordable housing in that area.

Bloomington City Council member Isabel Piedmont-Smith, center, discussed how the community is managed.

Bloomington City Council member Isabel Piedmont-Smith, center, discussed how the community is managed.

The 14 women and 11 men from Sub-Saharan Africa are spending six weeks at IU Bloomington and IUPUI to study America’s model of civic leadership.

Half a world away, but similar issues

An ocean may divide the United States from the African continent and the 18 nations where the Mandela Washington Fellows are from, but people face common issues no matter where they live.

And Bloomington city officials readily acknowledged that they also encounter major challenges in finding solutions.

“I loved the questions,” said Bloomington City Clerk Nicole Bolden, who joined Piedmont-Smith at the presentation and gave the fellows a tour of city hall. “It’s hard, because we’re all trying to figure out the answers.”

Piedmont-Smith and Bolden gave an hour-and-a-half presentation about what it takes to manage and govern a city with a $72.3 million budget and 690 employees in 13 departments. She explained the role that the city’s 11 elected representatives play.

During their visit, the Mandela Washington Fellows toured the rest of City Hall, a renovated historic building that previously housed the world’s largest furniture factory. They met Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton, who was first elected to the post in the fall after a career working for Hoosiers in both the state and nation’s capitals.

They also are gaining perspectives from faculty in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, including former Fort Wayne Mayor Paul Helmke, who serves as a professor of practice at IU. On Thursday, they will discuss American legal thought with faculty in the Maurer School of Law’s Center for Constitutional Democracy.

Last week, they visited the Bloomington campus of Ivy Tech Community College to learn about workforce development.

A different perspective

The Mandela Washington Fellows are seeing what works and also some of our society’s greatest challenges to finding solutions. The students are here to study the U.S. model, but they also are seeing that it is imperfect, including when it comes to social issues.

For example, several Mandela Washington Fellows inquired how city government tackles social service issues, including hunger and suitable housing. One student asked whether the city provided meals to those less fortunate.

Sandrine Mengue M’Efoue, a Mandela Washington Fellow from Gabon, listened intently to the response to her question.

Sandrine Mengue M’Efoue, a Mandela Washington Fellow from Gabon, listened intently to the response to her question.

As part of her response, Bolden acknowledged the limitations that Bloomington has in addressing social issues. “I’m afraid it is bigger than the city,” she said.

In many of the African countries, nongovernment organizations play a large role in addressing social issues, and most of the fellows are involved with them.

“We come from 18 countries, and we all have different ways that we deal with issues,” said Juliana Owolabi, a public school teacher from Nigeria. “We listen to them and we try to compare what we have with our countries with what they have here … They learn from us and we learn from them.

“Bloomington is a beautiful city with beautiful people, who are always eager to help. They’re just wonderful,” she added.

For her sake, Bolden said the questions she received from the Mandela Washington Fellows made her think about the city in a new way.

“The questions are informative,” she said. “One woman said, ‘We approach issues from a holistic approach. We don’t just look at a child falling asleep at school, we look and see if there’s a problem with somebody not working or if there’s a problem at home. We look at the whole child and the whole family.’

“We don’t do that here, but to think about it in those terms is wonderful. How can we do that here?”

IU faculty in Britain and across Europe observe Brexit vote, consider its aftermath

As the world attempts to make sense of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, many Indiana University faculty had a closer vantage point to see history unfold: in countries that will be most directly affected.

Timothy Hellwig

Timothy Hellwig

Timothy Hellwig, director of the Institute for European Studies and an associate professor of political science at IU Bloomington, is in Brussels, Belgium, where the headquarters of the European Union and the European Commission are located.

“People are shocked here,” Hellwig said. “I was at a Brexit watch party last night. When we heard around 9 p.m. that Nigel Farage of the U.K. Independence Party was predicting a ‘Remain’ win, we were collectively relieved. This made it all the more surprising to wake up this morning to see what transpired.”

Nick Cullather, executive associate dean of the School of Global and International Studies, arrived in England with his family last week. In Manchester and the industrial north of the country, they witnessed strong support for Brexit. But they saw more support for remaining in the EU as they got closer to London.

“Polling had indicated a slight lead for ‘Remain’ until the end,” Cullather said. “People here are shocked, gathering in little crowds around the newsstands. Many are angry enough to buttonhole an American on the tube or the street to vent about how upset they are with the outcome.

Nick Cullather

Nick Cullather

“No one in the ‘Leave’ camp seems jubilant,” he added. “There isn’t a coherent vision for a post-EU Britain. In fact, Boris Johnson, the chief ‘Leave’ campaigner and the presumptive next prime minister, is out of step with the working-class voters who won the referendum.”

What happens next?

Ellie Mafi-Kreft, a clinical assistant professor of business economics in IU’s Kelley School of Business, has been in France during the Brexit campaign. She has been able to share insights observed more closely with MBA students enrolled in her class about the United States in the global economy.

“For the next few months, the world is going to be divided between those who benefit from the Brexit and those who won’t,” she said

Padraic Kenney, chair and professor of the Department of International Studies in IU’s School of Global and International Studies, is in Poland, an EU member country since 2004.

Padraic Kenney

Padraic Kenney

“The pessimistic version is that now there will be a rush for the exits,” Kenney said. “But Britain was always a special, reluctant case in the EU, and the loud calls for further departures will probably not be as popular in other countries.”

More than 17.4 million people in Britain voted in support of the “Leave” campaign, as compared with about 16.1 million people who voted to remain in the European Union. Financial markets worldwide have responded sharply, and many have questioned which other nations might leave the 28-member bloc of countries.

“An optimistic version is that now the rest of the EU will be able to regroup and emerge stronger,” Kenney said. “But this will require some thinking about what it is that unites the countries of the EU. Until recently, EU leaders assumed that they knew what this was.”

Winners and losers

The “Eurosceptics” and the nationalists clearly have altered the picture, according to the IU experts.

Mafi-Kreft believes the Scottish independence movement emerged as a strong winner. “They want their independence from U.K., not from Europe, and given that the majority of the Scottish voted to stay in the EU, a new referendum on Scotland the victory of the pro-independence is more likely,” she said.

Ellie Mafi-Kreft

Ellie Mafi-Kreft

She agrees with many who believe that Johnson, the American-born former mayor of London and currently a member of parliament, likely will become England’s next prime minister. But the vote also could have a political impact in France, where the anti-immigration Front National party could see its image and political potential “reinforced”; as well in the United States, bolstering the campaign of presumptive Republican Party presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“Those who defended the Union in the mist of the Euro crisis and did everything to avoid the Grexit (Greece’s departure from the EU) and then the Brexit are now very fragile,” she said. “Francois Holland in France and Angela Merkel in Germany will have a hard time to renew Europe and regain the people’s trust.”

Kenney said the vote and support for anti-EU parties in so many countries suggests that it might be time for the EU to look within and reconsider how it is viewed by citizens in its member countries.

“A pragmatic EU, without all the lofty ideas but able to actually get things done, should appeal to most people in every EU country,” he said. “If EU leaders try to play by the old rules, they may find their union weakening more and more.”

Observing from this side of the Atlantic, but with a unique perspective, is Lee Feinstein. The dean of the School of International Global and International Studies served as U.S. ambassador to Poland from 2009 to 2012 and advised secretaries of state and defense.

Lee Feinstein

Lee Feinstein

“It has immediate and longer-term economic consequences. But looking at this from the broader perspective, what it means is a setback for the effort that started after World War II to build a Europe whole and free,” Feinstein said. “The worst-case scenario of this dis-union is the return of geopolitics to Europe.

“The fracturing of Europe, the withdrawal from the EU of one its most powerful countries economically and its most militarily capable country, as well as a country that has a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, is something that’s not good for the United States,” Feinstein added. “The U.S. is stronger when it works with its allies, and when its allies are united — and the United States has no stronger, more like-minded partners than its European friends.”

Economic consequences of Brexit

Financial markets worldwide took a tumble in response to the news, but Mafi-Kreft sees other economic consequences. U.K.-grown products will become more attractive to the British as tariffs and taxes likely will be reinstated for the European agricultural products. But “it will be a hard hit on French agricultural industry as Britain represents their fifth (largest) export market,” she said.

“London City will lose her status as the premier finance place of the union. The Frankfort stock market should profit from this,” she said. “The ‘financial earthquake’ will touch British banks first, as Barclays lost 30 percent of its stock value this morning and JP Morgan confirms it will relocate jobs out of England.”

U.K. automakers also will take a hit. “Most of the auto production in the U.K. is destined for export. Jaguar-Range Rover (recently bought by the Indian company Tata) estimates a loss of billions of euros on their profit, all due to higher border costs.”

Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program begins at IU

485807_actualAs he welcomed 25 of Sub-Saharan Africa’s brightest young people to Indiana University on Monday, Teshome Alemneh cited two well-known proverbs about the power of education.

One proverb, from Alemneh’s native land of Ethiopia, simply says, “He who learns, teaches.”

The other proverb, commonly shared across the Democratic Republic of Congo, says, “Wisdom is like fire. People take it from others.”

As Alemneh shared the proverbs, many in the audience nodded in agreement or audibly voiced their agreement.

“Through the program, we hope that you’ll build technical capacity in areas such as community building, entrepreneurship, grassroots activism, leadership and volunteerism,” said Alemneh, IU associate vice president for international research and development.

Enthusiasm is high, not only among IU officials, but particularly among this group of young African leaders, aged 25 to 35, who were selected to participate in the U.S. State Department’s Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program.

They went through orientation and were formally welcomed to the IU campus at a reception Monday evening at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.

Over the next six weeks, they will learn how individual Americans shape U.S. society through community engagement, business development and governmental activity, and compare it with experiences and opportunities on the African continent.

David Zaret, IU vice president for international affairs, Monday welcomed the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program to IU.

David Zaret, IU vice president for international affairs, Monday welcomed the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program to IU.

They will learn from IU faculty at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, the Maurer School of Law, the African Studies Center, Political and Civic Engagement, the Kelley School of Business and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Visits are planned at Cook Inc., the Bloomington Herald-Times, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the Indiana Department of Correction. They will learn more about workforce development offered at Ivy Tech Community College. They will also engage with staff at BioCrossroads and the Sagamore Institute in Indianapolis.

On July 18, in celebration of Mandela Day, the fellows will engage in community service activities with Big Car Collaborative and other community organizations in Indianapolis.

Another part of IU’s far-reaching international legacy

Alemneh was joined by David Zaret, IU vice president for international affairs, who said IU’s involvement in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program is yet another example of how IU is engaged globally and helping to make the world a better place.

Zaret recounted a history that goes back more than 100 years, to the early 1900s, when IU faculty helped the Philippines to develop its public education system. After World War II, IU helped to found the Free University of Berlin, and has been active across Europe, Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa in helping to develop or improve higher education institutions.

In 1965, IU helped Thailand to found the National Institute of Development Administration, which trains the majority of the country’s civil servants. This spring, Zaret and IU President Michael A. McRobbie traveled there to help NIDA celebrate its 50th anniversary.

About 15 years ago, IU helped to found South East European University in Macedonia. After the fall of the former Yugoslavia, various ethnic groups were engaged in a civil war. After the end of the conflict, the university was established with support from the European Union and the Ford Foundation.

It was the first university in Macedonia to offer instruction in Albanian, Macedonian and English. “It now has several thousand students, no more shooting and students are integrated. It is an example of the kind of thing that we try to do,” Zaret said.

IU also has been engaged in working on leadership development projects that promote managerial skills, economic and democratic reform and professional development across Africa – including in South Africa, South Sudan, Angola and Liberia.

Mandela Washington Fellows come from 18 African countries

The 14 female and 11 male participants in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program come from 18 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Nations represented include Angola, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea-Conakry, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo and Zimbabwe.

They include physicians, social entrepreneurs, advocates for the disabled and for women’s health issues, a management consultant, scientists and a school teacher.

Launched in 2014, the Mandela Washington Fellowship empowers young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, mentoring, networking, professional opportunities and support for activities in their communities.

After spending four weeks at IU Bloomington and two weeks at IUPUI, the Mandala Washington Fellows will join their peers now studying at more than 35 other U.S. universities at a White House event in early August. President Barack Obama is expected to attend.

“As much as you will learn and enrich your experiences, the program also is designed in such a way that we also learn,” Alemneh said. “It’s going to be a two-way communication. We are also here to learn from you, as much as you are here to learn from us.

“You are the young leaders, the future of Africa.”

New Kelley School study finds psychological toll of Madoff fraud case went far beyond the victims

Bernard Madoff

Bernard Madoff, U.S. Department of Justice photograph, 2009

Millions of people are expected to tune in to tonight’s ABC broadcast of a miniseries about Bernie Madoff, who is serving a 150-year sentence for running one of the largest Ponzi schemes in U.S. history.

Among them will be Noah Stoffman, an associate professor of finance in Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, who suspects that some of Madoff’s victims will be watching as well.

Like other successful Ponzi schemes, Madoff’s took advantage of what researchers call an “affinity relationship.” Madoff is Jewish, and nearly everyone who was “invited” to invest with his firm was Jewish. Many were active within the Jewish philanthropic community.

In a new paper, Stoffman and two co-authors set out to study where Madoff’s fraud case left its deepest impact and on whom — not just among his direct victims, but also on how others viewed the trustworthiness of financial markets.

“The cost of a fraud like this is much larger than just the money that was lost by the victims,” Stoffman said. “We showed that about $430 billion was moved out of risky assets and into bank accounts as a result of this fraud. That has a huge potential economic impact.”

In other words, because of what happened to Madoff’s victims, their neighbors, friends and others in the same “affinity group” may have left perfectly good investments, costing themselves higher financial returns, at a time when returns potentially were very high.

Stoffman and associates, Umit Gurun of the University of Texas at Dallas and Scott Yonker of Cornell University, used court documents to get a complete list of Madoff’s victims and then created a map of affected areas. That was then used to perform a statistical comparison of outcomes, in terms of who invested in riskier assets versus cash deposits in banks.

Noah Stoffman

Noah Stoffman

In areas of the country where many of Madoff’s victims resided – such as the Northeast, South Florida and Southern California – they found a precipitous decline in the use of registered investment advisors, people who provide service to access financial markets.

At the same time, using data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Stoffman and his colleagues found higher levels of bank deposit activity in those same areas.

“We saw this shift in areas that were more affected by the Madoff shock,” said Stoffman, who studies the role of social interactions in investment decisions. “We saw a shift from risky investments to safe investments. Among those people who somehow are more exposed to the fraud, it affects their investment behavior.

“We can’t track person by person to see what they did with their money, but we have a sense in the aggregate that this money was shifted from risky assets to cash and probably ended up earning lower returns than it would have.”

The paper, “Trust Busting: The Effect of Fraud on Investor Behavior,” will be presented in March at the Conference on Financial Decisions and Asset Markets, hosted by the Wharton School’s Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research. It also was presented recently at a meeting of the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Behavioral Finance working group.

They did find that the same people had more trust in investment advisors, who provide additional services – such as financial planning and tax services – face to face, and thus build a deeper relationship with clients.

In the past two decades, the Securities and Exchange Commission has investigated more than 360 Ponzi schemes, but the Madoff scheme dwarfed them all and provided the researchers with a good “testing ground” to study trust.

The Madoff case directly affected many geographically dispersed investors whose trust was shaken — as shown in the 113 victim impact statements, which mention “trust” 45 times. Because the fraud targeted a particular group of investors, Stoffman and his colleagues were able to study how trust shock was transmitted through social networks.

Stoffman suspects that the miniseries starring Richard Dreyfuss and Blythe Danner may lead some to revisit the emotions they had in 2008, when Madoff’s actions came to light.

“It’s entirely possible that people who either had previously been affected, whose trust was diminished in the past, may be reminded now of this event, and it may well have another effect in that more people may want to shift their assets to something that’s less risky now,” he said.

Madoff victims

This map from Stoffman’s paper shows the number of Madoff’s victims by county.

Talking shop: Retail experts to assemble at IU for a full-day forum

Guest post by Karen Land, who normally writes at the Art at IU blog:

The Retail Studies Organization at Indiana University Bloomington has a special day in store Feb. 9. Its annual retail and design forum will feature a lineup of industry leaders from DSW Inc., Google, Kohl’s, Under Armour and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Whittenberger Auditorium in the Indiana Memorial Union.

Janis Shaffer, a faculty adviser for the organization, said the forum offers all IU students the chance to learn more about current industry challenges and opportunities.

Janis Shaffer

Janis Shaffer

“The executives will be speaking about intriguing topics, and they represent some of the most successful companies in the retail industry. It is a tremendous gift to IU students that they volunteer their time, talents and financial resources to come to campus,” said Shaffer, a senior lecturer in the Department of Apparel Merchandising and Design.

In fall 2016, the Department of Apparel Merchandising and Design will join studio arts programs in the new School of Art and Design, which will remain in the College of Arts and Sciences.

“Students leave this event with a newfound passion for retail every year,” said Alex Larson, president of the Retail Studies Organization.

Members of the organization also can sign up to attend small-group sessions with the visiting speakers. More information on these sessions appears on the group’s website.

Retail and design forum speakers

9:30 a.m. — Katherine Finder, vice president of product development at Kohl’s, “Brand Clarity and Connecting with the Customer”

10:45 a.m. — Julie Krueger, retail industry director at Google, “My Life Before and After the Internet”

noon — Panel discussion featuring all of the speakers

1:15 p.m.Adam Peake, executive vice president of category management at Under Armour, “Marketing in a Global Retail Environment”

2:45 p.m.Fred Bedore, senior director of business strategy and sustainability at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., “How Resource Scarcity and Technology Could Redefine Retail”

4 p.m. — Brian Seewald, vice president of transformation at DSW Inc., “Challenges in Operationalizing Innovation.”

Seewald, who assumed his present title in the DSW Office of Innovation in 2015, said retail customers now expect “omnichannel engagement.” In other words, customers want the ability to purchase goods both in stores and online.

“We realize now that ‘omnichannel’ is really just retail, that it isn’t something that differentiates your brand. The difference now is that we have to make that experience consistently excellent regardless of how the customer chooses to shop us,” he said.

“We have a few accomplishments under our belts, but there is a long way to go, and it is the most exciting work I have done in my career.  I can’t imagine a more exciting time to be in retail.”