NORMAL — A program that brings officials from developing countries to Illinois State University is designed to improve their management and administrative skills. But university staff and instructors say visitors attending Management Development International aren’t the only ones getting an education.
“They learn from each other and we learn from them, too,” said Momar Ndiaye, director of ISU’s Office of International Studies and Programs. “I think we all come out of this as winners.”
Klaus Schmidt, a professor in the ISU Department of Technology who has taught in the MDI program for several years, said he sometimes wonders whether he learns more than the students, many of whom are high-ranking officials in their governments, or with non-governmental organizations funded by agencies such as the World Bank, World Health Organization and the U.S. Aid for International Development.
With students from different countries and cultures, Schmidt said, “I learn to see things from a different perspective — to teach and to think more flexibly. … To me, it makes me a better teacher.”
Another instructor, Teresa Palmer, agreed, “It widens our horizons. … I learn as much as I teach.”
Although the program is active throughout the year, the busiest time is summer, when groups come to campus for concentrated course work on managing projects, finances and human resources. The courses are in two tracks: one for English speakers and one for French speakers.
In July, there were 37 participants and a similar-size group will arrive this month, said Abdourahmnane Thia, MDI coordinator.
Noting investments made by the United States and international agencies, Ndiaye said, “We need to prepare people so when program funding ends, there is someone to sustain the program.”
John Agyei Duodu was among 11 mining and natural resources officials from Ghana participating in July’s program. He said through a translator that “most of us are specialists in our field,” but the program shows them the importance of knowing about other professions and helps “broaden our outlook on the world.”
Mory Maidoka Ali, a member of the prime minister’s cabinet in Niger, agreed that exchanging information with people from other countries was particularly helpful because it was an opportunity to see different approaches in the same field.
Shukrie Rama, executive director of an environmental group in Kosovo, felt the same way, saying, “We have learned from the experiences of each other.”
Chika Nnamani, MDI program facilitator, also noted the impact on the community of having participants staying in local hotels for three weeks to a month, eating at restaurants and shopping. He said most come with one half-filled suitcase and leave with two full ones.