October 5 2013
Simon Boehme, BSILR '14
This summer, I was fortunate to work at the African Leadership Academy (ALA) in Johannesburg, South Africa. This two-year school teaches, trains, and educates the future generation of African leaders. Chosen from thousands of applicants, 100 students come from almost every country on the continent to join an extensive network of leaders. Having conversations with these students was a rush of inspiration and hope. By far the best part of the trip was simply hearing them elaborate on their dreams, visions and goals to become change-makers on the continent. Often times I found myself in hour-long conversations learning about their passions and incredible background stories. After ALA, many of the students go to American or African universities to study. They then return to Africa to leave their positive mark. Through my experience, I was able to support ALA’s mission and goals.
My workload focused on two different components of ALA. I was able to utilize my ILR skill set through my report on diversity and conflict resolution in the workplace. ALA is extremely diverse in terms of race, language, ethnicity, and gender. With employees coming from over 15 countries and speaking over 20 languages, communication between managers and employees is often times difficult in the workplace. The HR Director charged me with finding actionable items to implement, in both the short and long term, to leverage diversity at ALA. Through my research, I reached out to two professors at Cornell, Brad Bell and Lisa Nishii. They were very helpful in providing guidance and resources for my report. In the end, I presented my findings to the CEO and other executives in the organization, which resulted in positive feedback. Some of the ideas will be implemented after I leave.
Another project I worked on was writing curriculum for ALA’s entrepreneurial leadership program. The curriculum focused on expanding across the continent to at least thirty countries by the end of the year. I was commissioned to examine the current curriculum, rewrite it for usage in different cultures, and examine how to measure the impact it had on students.
Additionally, I worked on teacher evaluation and professional development for over twenty teachers. It was very insightful and engaging work – especially before writing my senior honors thesis on teacher evaluation systems in New York.
Overall, I had a very positive experience working at ALA. I hope future ILR students will have the opportunity to travel to South Africa and give back in some capacity. Thank you to ILR International Programs for sponsoring my work this summer. Without their support, this experience would not be possible.