Twenty-one BC students, along with their leaders Professors John Gallaugher and Betty Bagnani, traveled to Accra, Ghana early this past summer as part of the Carroll School of Management's TechTrek program. The program gives select BC undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to travel to global technology hotspots such as Silicon Valley, Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Boston, and Ghana.
TechTrek Ghana began in 2013 after Kevin Schuster, MCAS '11, who was working at Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) in Ghana, called Professor Gallaugher in 2012 inquiring about Gallaugher’s textbook, Information Systems: A Manager's Guide to Harnessing Technology. Their conversation over time turned into the creation of a TechTrek trip to Ghana with MEST as the host location.
Although they had hoped to start with Kenya, Gallaugher explains Ghana “is considered a safer place to visit than many European nations and also has a Transparency International anti-corruption index better than many in the EU,” which made it an ideal place for BC TechTrek students to travel.
Gallaugher recalls that “the Carroll School sponsored [him] to travel to present at MEST, meet with local firms, and explore the accommodation and transport possibilities of running the program.” When he learned that Professor Bagnani was using a reading about MEST in her freshman Portico class, he invited her to join him.
Prior to their weeklong TechTrek trips, students undergo a preparatory half-semester, during which knowledgeable professors and visiting experts prepare students in the classroom. Gallaugher explains that the work is a necessity. “We demand that everyone involved have deep and broad knowledge of the industry, so they can best engage with the executives we’re privileged to meet.” During the half-semester, students “learn a lot about the culture of Ghana and how they conduct business there versus in the U.S.,” according to Gaby Fuchs, a TechTrek to Ghana participant. Students are also required to turn in a final project once they return from their trip.
As for the value of a trip to Ghana, Gallaugher remarks, “There is world-class, highly impactful industry happening there, and technology such as the cloud and mobile phone are driving massive economic impact, even among the poorest of citizens.”
“We see how in some areas Ghana is leapfrogging older technology and using state of the art software development to address world problems,” remarks Bagnani. Thus, during their nine company visits in Ghana, students get a firsthand look at how technology leads to advancement in the developing world.
In Ghana, students spent a large portion of their time at MEST, which is a program for people who have graduated from colleges in Ghana, Kenya, or Nigeria. MEST students are required to pitch a realistic business idea after just one year of study, and upon hearing some of these pitches, the TechTrek participants were very impressed.
Bagnani recounts, “Many BC students and I found that a highlight of the experience was having a conversation with a MEST student about their life and hopes for the world.”
There have been a total of three TechTrek trips to Ghana (in 2013, 2014, and 2016), but neither Gallaugher nor Bagnani are able to participate in TechTrek to Ghana this year, so the course will not be offered. Professor Bagnani says they hope to offer the course again in May 2018.
Bagnani describes the value of field studies such as the TechTrek trips as “the kind of wide learning that comes through connection with people and through all senses. They help us sense tensions and challenges and, perhaps, help us consider some of our own tensions and actions.”
Yet, BC students do not have to be a part of the course to experience TechTrek. Gallaugher says that “nearly every Friday we bring students on TechTrek Boston.” He believes it is a fantastic career discernment opportunity, since students can see “big firms, startups, social-impact firms, regional offices of tech leaders, and more.”
A past TechTrek participant, Branick Weix, CSOM '19, expresses, “Not only do we get an in-depth classroom learning experience, but we get to take what we learn and see it in action in the real world. I’m amazed at the companies we’re able to meet with and learn from firsthand.” His praise is echoed by countless other BC students who have had the opportunity to enhance their learning with the TechTrek program's hands-on, immersive excursions.