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When students Katrina Warren and Lynnfield Mitchell travelled to India last February on the MBA’s Global Immersion Program they found themselves working to support schools in some of the poorest parts of country.

That experience is now having a ripple effect that is spreading across the University of British Columbia and will continue to be felt on the other side of the planet for years to come.

While in India the pair worked on a project for VIDYA, an initiative that empowers underprivileged women and youth through education. When the project was complete and it was time to return to Canada they were left with the strong desire to help more.

So, in the spirit of the Global Immersion program which sends full-time MBA students to work with organizations and collaborate with MBA peers around the globe, the pair decided to pursue an entrepreneurial approach to the challenge. They enlisted the help of fellow MBA Britta Wickham and decided to tap into the enthusiasm of students at Sauder and UBC at large to continue making an impact – and the new Global Connectivity E-Mentorship Program was born.

The program was officially launched on November 27 and is now working to connect students from Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School with students selected by VIDYA, with the aim of helping to guide their progress.

A lasting connection

The idea for the online mentorship program stemmed from Warren and Mitchell’s work with VIDYA schools in Mumbai and Bangalore. Their Global Immersion group helped VIDYA develop a social media strategy. While engaging with the project, the MBA students visited two schools to get to know the students that their work was meant to support.

“We spent the day helping them with English and computer skills, and we played games with them, which was a lot of fun,” said Warren about their school visit. “We really immersed ourselves in their environment, and learned from their teachers about what they deal with on a daily basis.”

“It was an impactful day for all of us, and the kids were so welcoming and excited to have us there. So we were inspired to do more.”

Making a difference

Many of the UBC mentors who have signed up for the program are MBA students, and some of them will end up meeting their mentees in February when this year’s class returns to India for Global Immersion. Murali Chandrashekaran, Associate Dean, Professional Graduate Programs, said the initiative is a fitting development of the Global Immersion program.

“Global Immersion provides an opportunity for students to engage in innovation and difference-making,” he said, adding he is continually inspired by students like Warren, Mitchell and Wickham who are driven to make a difference in communities globally.

Good ideas have a tendency to spread. The MBA students’ initiative has blossomed into a larger program which will have engineering students working with the Tech Mahindra Foundation to mentor women and girls pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

Creating global citizens

At the official launch of the program last week Rashmi Misra, founder of VIDYA, came to UBC to speak about the work of her organization. The event brought together the applied science and Sauder communities, as well as two representatives from Tech Mahindra. 

At the event, Sauder’s Dean Robert Helsley, Grosvenor Professor of Cities, Business Economics and Public Policy, said the e-mentorship program shows how business can contribute to the social goals of society. “Our goal as a university should be to change the paths of people’s lives,” Helsley said. “This is a fantastic example of that.”

Misra took the stage for a conversation with Chandrashekaran, and told the story how she began educating underprivileged children. The impetus came when she met a few young girls playing in a slum area of Delhi, who told her they didn’t go to school because they were told that only boys went to school. She invited them to her house for lessons, and from there, her informal classes flourished into full school programs with a goal of empowering the underprivileged.

She said she’s looking forward to her students getting to know Sauder students, and she says the MBA students will be valuable role models they can look up to.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re from,” she said. “We’re trying to create global citizens.”