U-M and community partners support Middle Eastern and North African entrepreneurs

May 1, 2014

ANN ARBOR—Sixteen young entrepreneurs from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are arriving in Ann Arbor this month for month-long fellowships at the University of Michigan to learn more about how to build businesses with the potential for growth and job creation. The program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, enlists U-M experts and organizations based in the Ann Arbor/Detroit area, as well as host organizations in Chicago and Austin, Texas.

2013 program participants during a classroom session on entrepreneurial ecosystems. Photo by Eva Menezes/ISR.

2013 program participants during a classroom session on entrepreneurial ecosystems. Photo by Eva Menezes/ISR.

“The program this year will focus specifically on the economic empowerment of women through entrepreneurship, and 13 of the 16 participants are women,” said Barbara Peitsch, who directs the program based at the U-M Institute for Social Research. “We would like to see women play a larger role in technology-oriented startups in the MENA region. They have the education in biotechnology, engineering, and computer science, but are not entering the workforce. Women have the potential to start businesses that are scaleable and create jobs.”

Small business owners, business educators, representatives of nongovernmental organizations, and government officials involved in supporting small business development from Egypt, Israel, Oman, and the Palestinian Territories will be taking part.

Participants will study entrepreneurial ecosystems, business planning, and leadership development with U-M marketing, communication, and entrepreneurship experts. (View photos of 2013 program participants during a classroom session.)

After completing the classes, participants will either stay in the Ann Arbor/Detroit area or go to Chicago or Austin for two-week internships. In Michigan, internship hosts include Zingtrain, Sensei Change, Tech Town, the Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3), and Miller Canfield Paddock and Stone. Michigan internships were arranged by the Arab American Women’s Business Council, Chicago internships by World Chicago, and Austin internships by Dell’s Center for Entrepreneurs.

“The program offers professional development opportunities for participants, and facilitates people-to-people connections that promote better mutual understanding and respect,” Peitsch said.

Following the internships, the group will travel to Washington, D.C., for the State Department’s Professional Fellows Congress. There, participants will meet other young leaders in their fields and further refine their entrepreneurship goals.

In addition, Peitsch will bring two groups of U.S. hosts to the MENA region this fall for two-weeks to encourage consulting and information exchange.

ISR is one of 14 U.S.-based nonprofits and universities that are hosting foreign professionals from more than 50 countries and territories. For more information about the State Department program, visit http://exchanges.state.gov/citizens/profs/professional-fellows.html.

For information about the ISR program, visit http://www.isr.umich.edu/cps/M-ABLE/, or to comment on program blog posts, visit http://mableexperiences.wordpress.com/. Follow Barbara Peitsch on Twitter for program updates: @bpeitsch.


Contact: [email protected]

By Diane Swanbrow


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