Ashesi says goodbye to three key staff members
March 28, 2013, 7:21 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This month, Ashesi said goodbye to three members of our staff. Development Director, Matthew Taggart, Computer Science professor, Dr. Astrid Larssen, and Emerita Professor and Dean of Academic Affairs, Nana Araba Apt, have retired from their posts at Ashesi. Matt and Nana were key members of Ashesi’s founding team, and helped lead the university as it transitioned from small rented buildings to a world-class permanent campus. Dr. Larssen joined Ashesi in 2007, and has become a great mentor and advisor to many of Ashesi’s students and alumni.

Reflecting on Ashesi’s early years, Dr. Awuah said, “People remark about the success of Ashesi when they visit us and see our campus, but what is often missed is the sweat, the sacrifice, and the grit of the team

that worked to build this institution, and the community that is working to preserve this legacy for future generations.”

Professor Apt, Mr. Taggart, and Dr. Larssen, thank you for your work and dedication to Ashesi over the years. You will be deeply missed!

Send your best wishes to Matt, Nana and Astrid by posting a comment on our blog!


2012 Annual Trip participant reflects on her adventure to Ghana
February 28, 2013, 5:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Each year donors and advocates join Ashesi on a memorable journey to Ghana. Ashesi had the pleasure of hosting long-time Ashesi supporter, Laurie Litwack, on our 2012 Annual Trip. Laurie is a career and wellness coach from Seattle who first heard about Ashesi when Patrick left Microsoft to pursue his vision. She has watched as his dream came to fruition over the last decade. See what Laurie had to say about her experiences on the Annual Trip.

What inspired you to go on Ashesi’s annual trip to Ghana?

Visiting Ashesi is an adventure with a purpose. You are seeing something new and great being created in Africa, which is exciting!

Laurie Litwack & Patrick AwuahWhat was your impression of campus—its culture, students, leadership?

Campus feels like an oasis. It is a place away. It stands in contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city, where there are lots of people, commerce, sounds and colors. Ashesi is a sort of educational oasis—it still feels African and Ghanaian, but there is a calmness. You sense that you are being welcomed to a place of learning and integrity. Visiting campus is a powerful experience.

Last year, trip participants took part in the Giving Voice to Values ethics seminar with students and faculty. What did you think of this workshop?

Giving Voice to Values gives an effective impression of the school. The issues raised were transformative, inspiring and spoke to real values and how we put them into a context—we have to live them in the world. Students brought back real experiences which forced us to clarify where does our reality lie and ask how do our values engage in the world. I loved interacting with students and faculty in personal and one on one meetings—I found this very meaningful.

If you could let a future trip participant know anything about the trip, what would you let them know?

Visiting Ghana is a fun, inspiring adventure, a chance to step into culture through the guiding hands of Ashesi and see the profound impact of students as they go into the world with the skills and integrity they are developing. You really see the vitality and diversity of the country.

Please take a look at our trip brochure and trip itinerary for more details on our 2013 Annual Trip!

10 ways Haas has made its mark on Ashesi
November 9, 2012, 6:07 pm
Filed under: 10th Anniversary

“When people ask me about the inspiration behind Ashesi, I often talk about my undergraduate education and the tremendous impact of my exposure to a world-class liberal arts institution.  That is the why of Ashesi.  The how of Ashesi, how the school came to be a reality – at the heart of that story is the Haas School of Business.”

~ Patrick Awuah, Haas MBA Class of ‘99

Patrick Awuah, co-founder and president of Ashesi University in Ghana, left Microsoft in 1999 to return home to Ghana and start a new kind of university in Africa.  His first step was Haas Business School to develop the skills he needed to build a world-class university from scratch.  At Haas he found much more than an education:  his Ashesi co-founder, Nina Marini; a co-hort of students that challenged and inspired him; and a rigorous academic institution with a passion for nurturing international entrepreneurs with audacious goals.

Patrick left Haas with a business plan for Ashesi University and a mission to educate a new generation of ethical leaders and innovative thinkers with the skills and courage they needed to transform their continent.  The Haas community has supported Ashesi every step of the way.  And when the campus opened its doors in 2002, the impact of the Haas culture could be seen in every classroom.  In honor of our 10th Anniversary, Ashesi recognizes the 10 ways Haas has truly made its mark on Ashesi.

10 ways Haas has made its mark on Ashesi

  1. Can-do spirit:  When Patrick said he wanted to start a private university in Ghana, the Haas community was inspired by his dream and offered their support to turn Patrick’s idea into reality. Haas, and now Ashesi, are places where big dreams are accepted and supported.
  2. Belief that young people can solve problems.  Nina and Patrick were profoundly impacted by the way students run so many activities at Haas.  This empowerment of student leadership and deep belief in the power of young people to shape an institution (and the course of human history) is reflected in all aspects of Ashesi.
  3. Core principles of Ashesi’s design:  In Haas’ Entrepreneurship Workshop, Patrick was challenged to think through the business plan for Ashesi.  Colleagues and instructors required Patrick to get down to what was at the heart of his vision.  The business plan that guided Ashesi’s first ten years was built at Haas.
  4. Core elements of Ashesi’s management:  In Haas’ Organizational Behavior class, Patrick focused on how to manage the culture of an organization and align it effectively to work with the mission of the organization.  Every day Patrick draws from those lessons when managing Ashesi.
  5. Visionary leadership:  Haas alumni, faculty, and leadership represented one-third of Ashesi’s founding board.  That founding board helped to manage every aspect of the university’s founding:  curriculum development; hiring; writing of policies and procedures, and fundraising.  Their leadership has guided Ashesi from a dream to a thriving university of 540 students.
  6. The business curriculum:  The curriculum for Ashesi’s Business department was created in partnership with thirteen UC Berkeley faculty members who gave generously of their time and expertise.
  7. Financial support:  Since 2008, tuition from African families has covered the university’s operational costs including scholarships.  This business model allows donations to be highly leveraged and applied to capital and program growth and additional scholarships.  With gifts large and small Haas friends of Ashesi helped with startup funds, scholarships, and to establish our permanent campus in 2011.
  8. On-going advising support from IBD teams:  Nearly every year since that founding IBD team, a team of Haas students has worked to tackle tough problems at Ashesi, from the first marketing plans to our current succession plan.
  9. Combination of academic rigor and teamwork:  Throughout their Haas education, Patrick and Nina were challenged by diverse teams of intelligent students and brilliant professors.  This emphasis on teamwork is reflected in Ashesi’s curriculum.
  10. Teachers-for-life:  The faculty support didn’t end when Patrick and Nina graduated from Haas.  Haas faculty members have continued to support Ashesi through their tough questions and by visiting Ashesi to teach and give lectures on campus.

We are forever proud and grateful for the impact the Haas community has had on Ashesi.

Thank you for your vision, friendship, guidance and support!

My Visit to Ashesi
October 25, 2012, 4:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

By Eric Doku

Eric is an Ashesi donor supporting scholarships through the Ghanaian’s at Microsoft scholarship fund. He was born in Kumasi, Ghana and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and a Master’s degree in Electronics with an emphasis in Robotics from Budapest Technical University.  Eric has been with Microsoft for the past 9.5 years and works as a programmer/technical writer.

On Thursday, September 20th 2012 I arrived at the brand, spanking new Ashesi campus for a pre-arranged visit to take in the atmosphere and (if possible) meet with some of the students.

With Angelina in the amphitheater

I was met by Ebenezer Buckman and Matthew Taggart of Ashesi and, after some brief introductions, Matthew decided to show me around the campus.

Little did I know that Matthew was about to spend almost a whole hour, walking with me and sharing background info about the programs for the students, the services and some interesting tidbits about the newer lectures. Matthew related the energy and passion that had been recently injected into one of the courses by a lecturer named Ayokor Korsah, a graduate from Carnegie Mellon who is now teaching a robotics module at Ashesi!

Robotics?! After I finished wiping the unmistakable drool off the corners of my mouth, I asked Matthew about the impact that Mrs. Kosah’s course was having. And the answer was “…actually, it’s very impressive. We even had a robotics competition recently between teams of students!

Some Highlights

Walking around and seeing the students, made me realize the importance of what we’re doing for these young people! They’re exposed to so much technology and in such a nurturing environment that a part of me wished I was back in college – at Ashesi.

Matthew managed to arrange a quick 3-minute chat with Angelina just as she was running from one class to the next, and I later met with Regina for about 20 min at the end of her classes. These are the two young ladies that Ghanaians at Microsoft are sponsoring through University, and they showed such gratitude and appreciation that I was both humbled and a bit embarrassed.

With Regina after our 20-min chat

Regina also shared some news with me that totally blew me away and made me even more proud of the fact that I’m playing a role in this young woman’s life!

Regina and some students formed a team and set out to satisfy an academic and community service requirement by identifying a problem, and then coming up with a solution. They weren’t required to implement the solution. BUT this team was not satisfied with just coming up with a theoretical solution for an assignment.

Long story short, Regina and her team have now helped the Berekuso traders to form a Trader’s Association and they’ve coordinated with EB-Accion to provide micro-loans to the qualified traders!

Imagine that – because of our sponsorship for Angelina and Regina, there are some traders in Berekuso who now have the loans that they need for growing their business!!

Some micro-loan recipients

In Summary

–          When we sponsor students for University degrees, there’s no telling how far our help extends.

–          The selection process was definitely effective in identifying students who are so gifted, passionate and so driven that helping them financially is an absolute no-brainer.

–          The Ashesi teaching model is so integrated into the everyday world around these students that it’s easy for them to transition from lecture hall to the working world, as valuable contributors.

–          And, by the way, I just made my yearly contribution through the Microsoft Giving Campaign!

Robotics competition: pineapple-harvesting robots

High School Students Compete at Ashesi to Develop Pineapple-Harvesting Robots
August 15, 2012, 7:02 pm
Filed under: Higher Education

The MasterCard Foundation and Ashesi promote STEM education in Africa through Robotics Competition

Watch the video: ARX – Ashesi Robotics Experience

This weekend, Ashesi announced the winners of its inaugural robotics competition – the Ashesi Robotics Experience (ARX).   The annual competition, implemented in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation, aims to encourage greater interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) among African high school students.  The competition was designed by Dr. Ayorkor Korasah, a former faculty member of Carnegie Mellon University and co-founder of the Africa Robotics Network.

“Infrastructure continues to be an enormous challenge across Africa,” said Patrick Awuah, Founder and President of Ashesi University College.  “As a result, we believe it’s critical that future engineers are educated using practical, hands-on methodologies.  The students that participated in ARX are a shining example of the energy and enthusiasm for STEM learning here in Africa.”

The final competition challenged students to design prototype robots capable of harvesting pineapples, a popular crop farmed near the Ashesi campus.  The teams were divided into two groups – intermediate level, for those who had previous computer programming experience and novice, for those with no prior experience.  The four winning teams, comprised equally of young men and women, were culled from a field of 62 high school students from across Ghana.

Henrietta Gborgblorbu, a winner on the novice team from S.O.S Hermann Gmeiner High School said, “This week was totally beyond my expectations.  The program really challenged us to solve problems and use our critical thinking skills.  I didn’t expect to be so excited about robotics.  I want to start a robotics club at my high school.”

The MasterCard Foundation’s support of ARX reflects its focus on enabling young people in developing countries – particularly in Africa – to access quality and relevant education, and develop market-relevant skills to successfully transition into the workforce.  ARX is part of a nine-year, $13 million partnership between Ashesi and The MasterCard Foundation, which will enable 200 academically talented, yet financially disadvantaged students from Africa to complete their studies at Ashesi.

“ARX is developing a community of talented secondary school students who are excited about the possibilities of robotics in Africa,” said Reeta Roy, President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation.  “The competition encourages young people to develop skills needed to participate in the technology revolution taking place across the continent.”

Visit for more information about ARX, profiles of participating faculty, students and winning teams, and details of the 2012 programme. Pictures of this year’s competition can be accessed on Ashesi’s Facebook page at

Message to the Ashesi Community regarding President John Atta Mills’ death
July 27, 2012, 6:27 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

By Patrick G. Awuah, Jr.

25th July, 2012

We are all saddened by the news of President John Atta Mills’ death this afternoon.  President Mills was widely recognized as a man of deep faith, and a champion of human rights and peace.  He will be remembered fondly by all of us.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and his wife, First Lady Ernestina Naadu Mills.

ImageAs we mourn the sad event of this day, let us also pause to recognize and thank the leaders of Ghana’s democratic institutions – the Executive Branch, the Parliament, and the Supreme Court – for the remarkable work they are doing to shepherd Ghana through this transition.  It is a real testament to the leaders of Ghana that Vice President John Dramani Mahama was sworn in as president by the Chief Justice, at an emergency sitting of Parliament, just a few hours after President Mills’ passing.

Our new President was the guest of honour at our campus inauguration in 2011. I was personally struck by Mahama’s commitment to Ghana’s development and especially to the youth of this country, during my conversations with him at that event.  I was thrilled by his public embrace of Ashesi’s model of fostering critical thinking, ethical wisdom, and innovation.

I also offer my thanks to the leaders of opposition parties who have called for a spirit of unity at this difficult time.  This solemn and orderly transition demonstrates the growing strength of Ghana’s democracy.  I am convinced that Ghana’s response in the coming days and months will show the world and the international members of the Ashesi Community – foreign students, visiting faculty and donors – that Ghana is firmly on the path of stability and development.

On behalf of the Ashesi Community and on my own behalf, I wish our new President Mahama well in his new role at the helm of Ghana. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to him for the task he takes on today to guide the ship of the Ghanaian state.

From romanticizing Africa to promoting ethical leadership to change Africa
April 12, 2012, 3:35 pm
Filed under: 10th Anniversary

By Peter O. Koelle, Trustee at Ashesi University Foundation since May 2011

Growing up in Munich (Germany), Africa has always been fascinating for me: as a boy collecting exotic stamps from African countries; in high school reading African fairy tales researched by Leo Frobenius, a German ethnologist who, according to Senghor, “gave back to Africa her dignity and identity”, and at university, taking the chance to learn Swahili and reading books about Bantuphilosophy.  And travelling, of course, not only to Egypt, Morocco and South Africa, but also to countries like Mali and Sudan.

However, my professional life in international finance brought me far away from the romantic Africaphilia of my youth. After retirement I moved to Oxford in 2009 to do some academic “grazing” without the pressures of getting a job afterwards. But roaming around the enchanting English countryside and studying “interesting” things looked pretty soon like “leftover time to kill” to me. Maybe retirement is nothing but a bourgeois concept and board memberships are only for people who still want to feel important after they finished their career.

December 2010 Peter Woicke, whom I know since 1971 when we both were working for J.P. Morgan, and now the Chairman of Ashesi Foundation asked me to join the Board of Trustees. His argument was as follows: After his experience with the World Bank and as Chairman of Save the Children he was convinced that any development in Africa is dependent before all else on local ethical leadership.

I joined the Board without long deliberations.  Ashesi’s mission is pretty clear: to teach not only critical thinking, problem solving and concern for others, but entrepreneurial thinking and ethical leadership. This means initiative and risk taking but within a high moral value system. It also means putting character building and moral principles back into universities. It requires behavioural formation – and not just instruction, not “filling a bucket, but lighting a fire”. And it means a unity of life and not the schizophrenic situation that the life at work is guided by different ethical principles than private life. Globalization is leading slowly to global ethical standards and moral failures are not to be excused by ethical relativism.

The Ashesi education is not limited to the 4 years in a classroom in Ghana to get a good job afterwards. Before changing the world and changing Africa, Ashesi asks you to change yourself. What a great idea of Patrick Awuah to work to implement such an endeavour! Ashesi graduates will not have a profession – they will have a mission!