Every morning, when Komla Koumi was young, he rose at 5 o’clock to help his mother stock the shelves of her small grocery store and prepare meals to serve in her cafeé. After school, he’d rush back to the restaurant and do anything that needed doing: he cooked, waited tables, manned the cash register, and washed dishes; at night, he helped his mother do the books.
“My mother told me I had a good mind for accounting and mathematics, and that I should go into business one day,” says Komla, who grew up in a village about 75 miles outside the capital city of Lome in Togo, West Africa.
Today Komla, a Fulbright scholar at IBS, is taking his mother’s advice. “I feel at home here at Brandeis,” he says. “The courses are wonderful. I learn from the cases, I learn from the lectures, and I learn from the classroom discussion. My professors and friends have opened my mind for new career possibilities.”
The geographic and professional diversity of the student body enriches the educational experience, he says. “In every class there are people from America, Africa, Asia and Europe who can explain the issues we are learning about because they have lived them. It has helped me better understand how the world works,” he says. “And when we’re doing group work, there is always someone in the room who is an expert in technology, economics, high finance, or policy.”
Komla, who earned his economics degree from University of Lome, himself has a professional background in nonprofit economic development. In Togo, he worked at Junior Achievement Worldwide, an organization dedicated to educating students about financial literacy, and the Peace Corps. At the Peace Corps, he designed a program to encourage volunteers to work more closely with small businesses by giving them a deeper understanding of the economic and business environment in Togo. It was an “intense and demanding job” but “also very inspiring,” he says.
When he graduates, he plans to return to his country and work as an enterprise development consultant for the National Youth Employment Program. The job, he says, will allow him to be an active member in entrepreneurial endeavors and serve as a link between his country and its international partners.