Dorothy Siaw-Asamoah: Using Heart Work to Inspire Minds

Dorothy, a professor in the School of Management, has created a one-of-a-kind study abroad experience that is being launched this winter. Learn how she used global seed funding to spark ideas and make connections that helped her develop her trip to Ghana.

Studying abroad is often a transformational part of a student’s experience at UB and beyond—inspiring minds, sparking innovation and even changing lives. A professor in the School of Management has taken these ideals and developed a one-of-a-kind study abroad experience.

Dorothy Siaw-Asamoah’s winter trip to Ghana owes its start to lunch with a colleague. Mara Huber, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Research and Experiential Learning and Director of the ELN, knew that Dorothy was from Ghana and that she often took her family there for medical mission trips, so she asked Dorothy, “How about I sow a seed and we go and explore?” What followed was an exploratory trip to Ghana and months and months of planning for the inaugural trip this winter.

This exploratory trip was integral to the development of the study abroad experience because it allowed Dorothy and her colleagues to see the potential for new opportunities and to make connections with local partners. One of these connections ended up shaping a whole topic for the trip. “Because I go often, it was easier for me to make those connections. A colleague noticed there was a lot of plastic everywhere. And every time I come home, I see it, I get mad, I scream and yell, and I leave. Nothing’s done.” But then one of her friends put her in touch with a man who has made this exact problem his mission and provides jobs for people gathering garbage. Ghana is a young democracy and waste management isn’t exactly at the top of the to-do list. “However, this man has seen that vision and he is driving it. That’s why waste management became one of the topics [for the trip].”

The 2018 winter trip is focusing on three themes related to social innovation and entrepreneurial leadership: economic development, healthcare and education. There is also an inter-professional flavor to this experience with participants from the School of Management, the Jacobs School of Medicine, the schools of nursing, pharmacy, and education, the UB Libraries, and the School of Management’s Center for Leadership & Organizational Effectiveness. The MD students will spend four days providing health care in a very rural area while the MBA students and undergraduates split into two groups to teach computer skills and public speaking in a rural school or engage with local businesses in the fields of waste management, farming and microfinance. This project portion of the trip will be flanked by an introduction to Ghana’s culture in the beginning and an exploration of the history on Cape Coast toward the end.

For Dorothy, this trip is a humbling way for her to bring both of her countries together, and she has several hopes for the students who journey with her on this trip. “For people to see that we are all human beings, that’s the most important thing. Second, my hope is that as we travel together, we will learn and grow together, and that peoples’ minds and hearts will change. The experience they get will not be anything that they can leave behind, but they will take it with them for the rest of their lives. They will come back and look for ways to effect change in their own communities so that we can become more evolved in our outlook, not out of blindness, but because we actually experienced something different and yet profound.”

Though planning a trip like this is not for everyone, Dorothy has a few encouraging words of wisdom. “You just have to have the heart. It’s a lot of heart work, rather than hard work. When it’s heart work, the difference is impactful and worth every time investment. It ceases being mere hard work.”

 

Written by Amanda Hellwig '19