Eighteen students from Brigham Young University’s Romney Institute of Public Management traveled to Ghana for a two-week educational field study and a chance to share their business knowledge with 12 local nonprofit organizations.
The students offered one-on-one consultations to the nonprofits on personal empowerment, timelines, budgets and outcome measurement, as well as open workshops for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on business and personal management.
“We’re preparing these students to become managers in the field of international development,” said Jeff Thompson, assistant professor of public management and faculty supervisor. “The environment in Ghana — a strong, stable, developing nation — is a perfect laboratory for our students. They will be better equipped to be advocates for their own organizations as their careers progress.”
Thompson also said the students’ interactions with the local directors highlighted the difficulties associated with identifying a clear mission, conveying that mission to others and making a strong case for financial support of that mission.
Many local nonprofit organizations attended the workshops, including the Women and Youth Forum for Sustainable Development, Society of Albinos, Social Support Foundation, Family Advocacy and the Edikanfo Progressive Foundation.
During one workshop, the students taught nonprofit directors how to write effective grant proposals for specific project plans. Alex Tettah, director of the Ghana Society for the Physically Disabled, says he will be forever grateful for the training the students offered — a revision of his proposal resulted in a $10,000 grant from LDS Humanitarian Services.
Many of the students recognized how the skills they learned in the master of public administration program enabled them to make a difference.
“Despite feelings of inadequacies, we learned that being a leader is having confidence in yourself and being able to transfer that confidence to those you are leading,” said Jennifer Clark, a first-year MPA student from Belmont, Mass.
In between workshops, the students gained insight about future development in Ghana by visiting organizations like the World Bank, UNESCO, USAID and the West African AIDS Foundation. These opportunities allowed the students to see the challenges and successes of the organizations and discuss with the directors their decision-making process.
“My mind expanded as I realized the scope of development work,” said Sarah Hall, a first-year MPA student from Iowa City, Iowa. “I realized how complicated it can be, especially looking through the lens of different cultures.”
“I am really proud of how thoughtful the students were about the challenges of managing in the developing world,” Thompson said. “I’ve heard so many probing and intelligent discussions between students about development issues, and I believe they have gained a great deal of sophistication in their understanding.”
The Romney Institute of Public Management was named in 1998 for three-term Michigan Governor George W. Romney. Part of BYU’s Marriott School of Management, the Romney Institute offers a master’s degree in public administration through both pre-service and executive programs.