Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

Rev. Robert Dowd, CSC, University of Notre Dame

By Rev. Robert Dowd

When you combine private-sector expertise with top-notch education, future leaders enter the workforce with a foundation of unmatched strength and potential. As a leading Catholic research university, the University of Notre Dame works with a variety of partners, including corporations such as IBM, to support young people in their efforts to develop their leadership potential and the skills needed to contribute positively to the flourishing of their societies.

Recently, I have had the privilege of working on the Leadership Education and Development (or LEAD) program. This innovative pilot program brings together MBA students from East Africa with Notre Dame Faculty and students and business experts from IBM.  The program aims to help nurture the business leaders of the future through intense academic training and exposure to real-world business challenges. This program embodies Notre Dame’s commitment to developing the next generation of business leaders, technicians, scientists and social scientists and highlights the important role corporations can play in skill development.

As part of the program, six of East Africa’s top MBA students journeyed to South Bend to undertake a portion of their studies within our community. In a vibrant, successful intellectual interchange, they have taken classes alongside Notre Dame’s own MBA students and absorbed the real-life experiences of some of IBM’s most accomplished leaders.

A campus-wide collaboration, the LEAD program was kick started by the Ford Family Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, the Mendoza College of Business, and the Engineering, Science, Technology and Entrepreneurship Masters (ESTEEM) Program, and IBM.

(L to R) Father Bob Dowd; Dorcas Magoba (Uganda Martyrs University); Garry Kizito (Makerere University Business School, Kampala, Uganda); Annrita Njiru (Strathmore University, Nairobi, Kenya); Peter Ochuodho (Strathmore University); Phiona Musoke (Makerere University Business School); and Dorcas Otieno (Strathmore University).

The curriculum, taught jointly by our business school faculty and IBM executives, combines a strong academic foundation with international business perspective. Not only have these future leaders gained insight into conducting business across borders, but they also equipped themselves to return home with skills for careers of which they, Notre Dame, their home universities, and future employers can be proud.

Hailing from Uganda and Kenya, the six LEAD students represent the next generation of Africa’s leaders, a young and highly capable group. These young people want to be problem solvers and job creators. They want to build accountable and responsive institutions in the private and public sector. Through our private-sector partnership with IBM, we hope to help them reach their goals of bringing about positive change in their societies. 

What have they told us about the LEAD experience? Gaining access to the inner workings of a global enterprise was invaluable. Learning from IBM executives who have built solid businesses in growth markets, some in their own countries, they dove down into the nitty gritty of leadership, skills, technologies, processes and management.

As any executive can attest, just as important as business acumen is the ability to build a wide net of relationships, augmenting one’s career and opening undiscovered doors. Our LEAD program has helped both African and American students form solid friendships outside of the classroom, sure to be continued for years.

As a result of this program, our current business school students gleaned a much more realistic picture of business outside of the U.S. As many of our graduates head into international ventures, we’ll see this enrichment well into the future. In addition, all of our students, whether from Africa, the U.S., or elsewhere, have had the rare opportunity to communicate across continents and cultures.

“We’ve had almost too many dinner invitations!” one student told us. Whether cheering at a Notre Dame football game (during its undefeated season!), volunteering at a tailgate concession stand, or sharing Thanksgiving dinner, the cross-cultural connections on both sides will not be forgotten.

Stay tuned for what the future holds for these promising achievers as they return to their home countries and put their skills to work. We know their success in Africa will exceed even the profound impact they made on us.


Rev. Robert Dowd, CSC is a Notre Dame political scientist who researches religion, development, and political culture in Africa. He is also the director of the Ford Family Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity, part of Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies.

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Posted by: June Sobilo
January 14, 2013
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Annrita and Ochuodho,

Thank you both for your positive feedback. It’s great to hear such thoughtful remarks from students involved with the LEAD program. The commitment you all demonstrated to applying the tools and knowledge you’ve gleaned from the experience is the exact reason why IBM approached Notre Dame to implement and grow this program. Helping to nurture leaders in emerging and developing markets like East Africa, where there is a wealth of potential for innovation, is a priority for us here at IBM. I look forward to hearing about the work you both and the rest of your LEAD classmates do when you return home.

Best of luck and thanks!

Jim Corgel
General Manager, ISV and Developer Relations, IBM Corporation

Posted by: Jim Corgel
January 11, 2013
1:32 am

Very incitefull! This was indeed a noble opportunity for us! I enjoyed the international exposure, the diversity in America and the case teaching approach with real life experiences that corporations have gone through! I experienced and can now confirm that Americans are very social and ready to help, as Fr. Bob puts it, we had lots of offers to attend parties and numerous other social events. I also enjoyed listening to how IBM has evolved over time and being very stable in all its facets! Integrity (both personal and business) is a value that has been strengthened during my stay in the USA and I have resolved to promote it in my daily activities! The bonds that we have formed with Americans and Ugandan colleagues will live forever!

Posted by: Ochuodho Peter
January 10, 2013
3:51 am

This was a life changing experience and we are eternally indebted to Ford Family Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity, the Mendoza College of Business, ,the Engineering, Science, Technology and Entrepreneurship Masters (ESTEEM) Program, the whole Notre Dame community at large and IBM for this grand opportunity. It is encouraging to see a corporation as big as IBM and a renowned university as Notre Dame not only recognize the potential in us but also take it upon themselves to help us achieve our potential as future business leaders.We do not take it for granted and we will share and apply all the knowledge we gained while there, here at home.

Posted by: Annrita Njiru (LEAD participant)
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January 8, 2013
3:54 pm

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