01 Dec 2018
Alumni Are Integral to HBS
Alumni are an integral part of the HBS educational ecosystem, sharing their knowledge and expertise with today’s students and faculty members.Topics:
Engaging with Students to Share Insights About Africa
On the final day of Africa Rising, a course about business in Africa taught by Professor Caroline Elkins, Hakeem Belo-Osagie’s (MBA 1980) emotions were running high.
“I had that sense of accomplishment when you know you’ve managed to say something relevant and stimulated ideas within a younger person, which has added to that individual’s store of knowledge,” says Belo-Osagie.
What had started as a conversation with then Harvard University President Drew Faust two years ago about the University engaging more with Africa ended in January with Belo-Osagie in an Aldrich classroom engaging with 57 first and second-year MBA students. During the four-day course, he worked with Elkins to provide an overview of Africa’s economic landscape, range of business opportunities, and the speed of growth and change occurring there, and also dispelled preconceived notions about doing business in the continent.
Photo by Susan Young
“At the end, I had this feeling of wonder and excitement that I probably haven’t had for years, which is why I’m looking forward to doing it again!”
Africa Rising was one of seven Short Intensive Programs (SIPs) offered during HBS’s four-day Wintersession, and will be offered again in 2019. Through case discussions and interactions with 15 alumni guest speakers, most of whom traveled from Africa, students explored multinationals, regulation and compliance, public-private partnerships, and what makes Africa unique among emerging markets. Vice President of Nigeria Oluyemi Oluleke Osinbajo also attended to share insights about Nigeria’s business environment.
“A number of students said that it was particularly valuable having alumni present who were experts in the areas being discussed,” says Belo-Osagie, the chairman of Metis Capital Partners in Lagos, Nigeria, who also chairs the advisory board of Harvard’s Center for African Studies. “As alumni, we need to give students the benefit of our judgment so that they aren’t always reinventing the wheel.”
That meeting Belo-Osagie had with Faust two years ago led to his connection with Elkins, who was founding director of the Harvard University Center for African Studies. She is also Harvard’s professor of History and of African and African American Studies, and a visiting professor at HBS. Elkins subsequently traveled to Lagos, to visit Belo-Osagie and his wife, Myma Belo-Osagie, a lawyer and 1978 graduate of Harvard Law School. During Elkins’s visit, the idea for the course began to germinate.
Professor Caroline Elkins, Vice President of Nigeria Oluyemi Oluleke Osinbajo, and Hakeem Belo-Osagie (MBA 1980)
(photo by Russ Campbell)
“We thought it would be interesting if there was an HBS course that could give students an understanding about the political, economic, and business dynamics in Africa,” recalls Belo-Osagie. However, a semester-long course would be challenging for both because of their busy schedules.
But when HBS introduced SIPs this past year, they both jumped at the chance. “We made an effective team. Carrie is an esteemed educator and one of the world’s leading professors of African history, and I’m an alumnus who has been working in business in Africa across a number of industries as well as in the Nigerian government,” Belo-Osagie notes. His career has focused on the petroleum sector, finance, telecoms, and property development.
For Belo-Osagie, the opportunity to work with a faculty member and engage with students was particularly meaningful. “At the end, I had this feeling of wonder and excitement that I probably haven’t had for years,” he says, “which is why I’m looking forward to doing it again!”
MBA students and alumni during a session of The Boardroom.
The Boardroom is a daylong exercise designed to put students in the shoes of executives facing a leadership challenge. Piloted in 2017, the MBA capstone provides an opportunity for students, at the end of their first year, to integrate their learning and tap alumni expertise. Alumni volunteers serve as a “Board of Directors” as students play the role of a case protagonist. “I feel energized by the experience,” said Amy Lang (MBA 2004). “I feel like I have a little bit of a different perspective going back to my work life.”
“I feel like I have a little bit of a different perspective going back to my work life.”
—Amy Lang, The Boardroom participant
Class of MBA 1980, Section A
Class of MBA 2004, Section B