By Janelle Hamre ’11
Wake up. Shower. Get dressed. Keys, phone, wallet. Caribou. Work. Lunch. Work. Home. Dinner. Family. Sleep. Repeat daily for average life in America. In August, students from Daystar University in Kenya visited University of Northwestern and the Twin Cities and found themselves swept quickly into the current of activity that propels the American culture.
Daystar University is a sister school of University of Northwestern, located in east Africa with campuses in both Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya. It offers studies ranging from Economics to unique areas of study such as Peace and Conflict Transformation.
Biannually, students from the Daystar commerce (business) department take an international tour to study business in another culture. After discussion with University of Northwestern President Alan Cureton, Ph.D. and Vice President for Global Initiatives Al Ottley, Ph.D., Daystar selected the Twin Cities as the destination for their 2010 tour.
During their two-week visit, Daystar students enjoyed a rich Northwestern experience, living intermingled with summer residents in Arden Hall and even seeing the Rock along the campus road artfully stenciled with the Kenyan flag (by Northwestern student Rachel Moretto). More central to their trip, however, was their study of business, which included presentations and discussions with CEOs and leaders of major companies including General Mills, Medtronic, Best Buy and KPMG.
Reflecting on their experience, Daystar students commented on the business men and women (many Northwestern alumni) that they had met: “Passion. They have a passion for excellence.” Another student said, “What interests me… is the culture of togetherness working in the same spirit as a team. This would make us a society where we are able to bring up the poor.”
After visiting companies in Minnesota, Daystar students began to develop ideas to bring home to Africa. Their ideas even included application of American time-management skills. Students were surprised by how relentlessly efficient their schedules were constructed to be, even for a two-week stint studying business in the Twin Cities.
Between events, there’s about enough time for a sneeze. In the U.S., children, college students and adults alike always seem to be wishing they had more unscheduled time. But students from Daystar University saw advantages to the scheduled lifestyles that most Americans live. They suggested that their communities in Africa might be more likely to advance if they worked with a similar (though perhaps not as extreme) efficiency.
The Northwestern/Daystar exchange program is the beginning of other similar opportunities as Northwestern focuses on outreach and partnerships with colleges, universities and organizations across the globe.
“We want to see other countries grow and develop,” Ottley said. “We encourage students to work in their country—to better their country. We would love to see the students go back home and provide the resources and talent to build their country.
“We are reaching out, to provide not only exchange opportunities but also sending opportunities,” said Ottley. “We want our students to go out into the world as much as we want other students to come here, to Northwestern. It has to be a two-way street.”
The Daystar visit created opportunities for fresh perspectives and cultural exchange. With collaboration from the Northwestern Department of Business, Event Services, and the Global Initiatives Task Force, students from Kenya were able to experience U.S. business culture in a way that was, according to Ottley, “beyond outstanding.”