In January 2018, Alae Essadki participated in the MENA-Michigan Initiative for Global Action Through Entrepreneurship (M²GATE), organized by the William Davidson Institute (WDI) at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. This virtual exchange challenged groups of undergraduate students from Michigan, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia to find entrepreneurial solutions to social challenges. Alae and his local and international classmates developed social entrepreneurship projects and accompanying pitches over an eight-week period with the help of instructors, mentors, and successful entrepreneurs from Michigan and the MENA region. Alae and his teammates proposed using excess plastic to create recycled fabric that would address excessive plastic pollution in their community.
Using skills he developed during his virtual exchange program, such as collaboration, communication, and critical thinking, Alae started working on his own start up soon after M2GATE concluded. This enterprise will help decrease the impact of car transportation on the climate in Morocco through a carpooling digital platform. Alae reports that his M2GATE experience helped prepare him for the private sector, saying the program allowed him to make his business ready for mobile applications and even led to support from an accelerator. His experience with M2GATE also prepared him for the collaboration required of running a business; he is now able to successfully work with a partner in another country in Africa.
The impact of Alae’s virtual exchange has reached beyond his current professional interests. This past summer, Alae participated in the Student Leadership Program from the U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), an effort supported and funded by the U.S. Department of State. This program brings exceptional undergraduate students from the MENA region to an intensive leadership training course in the United States. Alae’s successful application and program experience had roots in his virtual exchange. “During my interview for MEPI, I could talk about my cultural exchange and cross-cultural communication skills… and I had practiced virtual collaboration so I could connect with others before we went on the program and during the program since we were in different U.S. states,” he said. “The M2GATE skills helped me throughout this program.”
In addition to his startup and participation in another exchange program, Alae finds other ways to stay active in his community. Recently earning his master’s degree in Quality Health Safety and Environmental Management at Hassan II University in Casablanca, he was the President of the student association. He is actively engaged with the FTSM faculty, volunteers with other student organizations, and is a project management trainer. He plans to continue learning and contributing to the local business community until he can pursue his startup full time. He is an advocate for virtual exchange, recommending this learning opportunity to other students. “In virtual exchange, you really get to learn first and then apply what you learned,” Alae said. “You get to master content and collaborate with others all over the world…no matter the distance, language, or time barriers.”