When the Young Entrepreneurs and their mentors held a farewell reception May 6 at the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts on the UW-Green Bay campus, for many it was good-bye for now, but not forever.
In September 2009, UW-Green Bay was selected to receive a two-year grant totaling $273,876 from the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Each year, 10 “Young Entrepreneurs” — five each from Israel and Jordan — will come to the area for a month of workshops, site visits, job shadowing and cultural activities in the Green Bay area.
The month-long visit of that first contingent has ended, and judging by the hugs and laughter and tears of joy that were shared among participants last week, it was a success.
“The Young Entrepreneurs project, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is a wonderful example of public diplomacy,” said Derryl Block, interim dean of the college of professional and graduate studies. “Key to the success of the program has been the connection with business mentors in the area. A project like this builds public diplomacy through relationships — relationships involving the individual participants, the businesses in the community, the University (faculty, students, and staff), and the countries involved.”
A training team consisting of UW-Green Bay staff and faculty, and many of the area mentors, will spend about one week in each country this summer doing follow-on work with the ten women and dozens of others who applied for the program initially. The training will be in cooperation with program partners and other organizations in Jordan and Israel.
A long-term goal is to create mutually beneficial, self-sustaining linkages among professional communities in the United States, Israel and Jordan.
The Young Entrepreneur participants from Israel and Jordan shared experiences and ideas with faculty, students, and staff at UW-Green Bay, as well as with business people and community members in NE Wisconsin. The Young Entrepreneurs participated in structured learning experiences about entrepreneurship, innovation, and planning for the next phase of their own business ventures.
Program partners in Jordan include the American Chamber of Commerce in Amman and the King Abdullah Fund for Development. In Israel, the Israel-American Chamber of Commerce and Industry along with the Bengis Center for Entrepreneurship at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Co-sponsors also include the BIRD Foundation (Binational Industrial Research and Development) of the United States and Israel, and TRIDE (Tri-lateral Industrial Development), an alliance promoting investment, research and development bringing together U.S., Israeli and Jordanian interests.
“The Young Entrepreneur participants were enthusiastic, gracious, and brilliant,” Block said. “It’s been a pleasure and an honor to be involved in the project thus far. We are all looking forward to the next phase of the project, when UW-Green Bay faculty and the business mentors involved in the project travel to visit the Young Entrepreneurs in Israel and Jordan. Besides aspects of public diplomacy, this project is a wonderful example of how UW-Green Bay connects with the community through an international project.”