You can always reach for the stars, but you have to keep your feet on the ground. Mehitabel Markwei, a pre-medical Yale undergraduate and the president of Yale African Students Association (YASA), will never forget this advice from a Ghanaian alumnus she met at a two-day conference held in her hometown. From July 18–19, 2013, in Accra, Ghana, the Yale Club of Ghana, the Association of Yale Alumni (AYA), and the Afro-American Cultural Center at Yale hosted a conference entitled “From Success to Significance: Thought Leaders in the African Renaissance” that brought together more than 250 participants, including alumni and students of Yale University, their families, Ghanaian government officials, and business leaders of West Africa.
Six conference panels, which included Kimberly M. Goff-Crews ’83 B.A., ’86 J.D., Secretary and Vice President, Yale University; Mark Dollhopf ’77 B.A., Executive Director, AYA; Ken Ofori-Atta ’88 M.B.A., most recent chairman and cofounder, Databank; and Dr. Ernest Aryeetey, Vice-Chancellor, University of Ghana, discussed major issues of Ghana’s development in education, governance, entrepreneurship, social responsibility, technological innovations, and global heath. From Ghana’s mobile phone boom to the new standards for election governance, distinguished leaders and experts from Yale and West Africa shared insights on Africa’s recent economic growth and explored possible solutions and collaboration opportunities to address Ghana’s challenges in the 21st century. Additionally, conference participants visited the Yamoransa community, where the Yale Alumni Service Corp (YASC) has led two service trips in partnership with AFS Ghana and University of Cape Coast since 2012.
“The conference showed the best of what Yale could pull together to spur creative thinking about Ghana’s future,” said Kofi Blankson Ocansey ’84 B.A.,’91 M.B.A., president of the Yale Club of Ghana. “Fortunately, we have a large number of influential alumni who can help bring Yale’s influence to bear on policy through initiatives like the conference, and given the steady flow of students from Ghana to Yale, we believe that what we started this year can be sustained going into the future.”
On a panel about education, Mehitabel shared her experience as a Ghanaian student in the United States who plans to return to her country. “If you are a Ghanaian, your experience of going back home will be what you make it. You need to adapt to the local culture in Ghana because people there know more about the real issues, but you’ve got to try to push the culture a bit if you have ideas for how things need to change.”
The conference was part of a continuing partnership between the Yale Club of Ghana, the Association of Yale Alumni, and the Afro-American Cultural Center at Yale that began last year. Rodney T. Cohen, Assistant Dean of Yale College and Director of the Afro-American Cultural Center at Yale, and Nicholas Roman Lewis ’93 B.A., Senior Director of Shared Interest Groups of Association of Yale Alumni worked together to lay foundation for the first strategic planning forum and symposium that was held in Accra in 2012. At this inaugural meeting, alumni in Ghana and West Africa officially launched the Yale Club of Ghana, becoming the first Yale alumni club in Africa. The Association of Yale Alumni and the Afro-American Cultural Center continue to engage alumni in West Africa, organizing substantive meetings with alumni from Ghana, Nigeria, Niger, and Senegal, and exploring the possibility of providing Yale students with more internship opportunities in the region.
Additional panelists at the conference included Fred Binka, Vice-Chancellor, University of Health and Allied Sciences; Franklin Cudjoe, Founder and CEO, IMANI Center for Policy Education; Kwaku Sakyi-Addo, CEO, Ghana Chamber of Communications; Jeannine B. Scott ’85 M.A., president of US-Angola Chamber of Commerce; Michael Cappello, MD, Director, Yale World Fellows Program; Elijah Paintsil, MBChB, MD, Assistant Professor, Pediatrics and Pharmacology, Yale School of Medicine. Keynote speakers of last and this year’s events were named in the honor of Sylvia Boone, the first African American woman to be granted tenure at Yale in 1988, who spent most of her academic career studying Ghana and West Africa.
To learn more about the Yale Club of Ghana, visit: http://www.aya.yale.edu/category/international/ghana.
- By So Yoon Sim