Written by Carol Carrier, University of Minnesota Learning Partner
I spent a very interesting week at the University of Veracruz during the week of Oct 10. This was my third site visit to that very dynamic university and its flourishing YEPI program. Several impressions were particularly pronounced for me this time.
First, I felt very grateful to have participated in the convening in Talloires, France this past September. Being together that week, with so much opportunity for conversation, spread across a number of informal settings, encouraged all of us to reveal more of ourselves, to be more natural with our colleagues. I felt that as we got to know one another better, it allowed us to be more comfortable honestly discussing a range of topics. Getting opportunities to play together—swimming, sleeping under the same roof in our respective houses, eating great food, drinking wine and dancing (even if badly!)—strengthened our own sense of being on the YEPI team. Throughout the week, our ideas grew more expansive; our laughter became more frequent and spontaneous. Most of us came away from the convening feeling energized as we looked in the future, with new ideas germinating and optimism abounding. This experience set me up well for the third site visit to Mexico.
Second, I observed how the Veracruz YEPI team has experimented with their program components over the three years, sculpting these new approaches that better address deficiencies staff has observed in their program. One example (200) is a new program they implemented that provides work readiness training and resources for students who enter local businesses and agencies to work for 4 months in practical professional experiences. So, for example, the student who is majoring in finance at the University works as a financial person for a luxury car dealer. The UV nursing student spends her four months in a professional role at a gerontology center, gaining practical experience attractive to employers within this industry. What employers told me is that UV has been responsive to their need to have a pool of new graduates better prepared to enter the workforce, to have more skills that make the start-up employment flow more easily.
Third, I observed that teams of entrepreneurs consisting of both men and women, demonstrate that leadership is not limited to one gender but can flourish when either men or women leaders, valuing collaboration, engage one another. I interviewed a number of these teams and was struck with their intensity, practicality and commitment to their ideas. Reaching out to take advantage of all available resources available, these teams are producing products and services that are innovative but also practical. Many of these teams pitch their innovations in local, regional or national competitions and often are among the winners.
I left Mexico this third time filled with admiration for how our colleagues at the University of Veracruz are slowly integrating the YEPI program components and spirit into the fabric of this university and the communities it serves.