This summer, Michael Klemens ’12 and Yue “Luna” Yuan ’12 got a taste of what it takes to create their own business through LearnServe Egypt, an exchange program that promotes entrepreneurship, innovation, and cross-cultural understanding in American and Egyptian college students. Over the course of the six-week summer program, students formed teams and drafted business plans for hypothetical ventures that would a positive social and economic contribution to the development of Egypt in the new post-revolution era.
Chris Caine ’78, president and CEO of Mercator XXI, LLC, was a driving force behind this leadership and entrepreneurship program. Mercator, a professional services firm that helps clients engage the global economy, created the program in partnership with the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Education and The American University in Cairo Business School.
Klemens (Newark, Del.), a double major in economics and government & law, and Yuan (Wuhan, China), a dual major in mechanical engineering and policy studies, traveled to Cairo, where they were based for the first two weeks. They were then joined by their Egyptian counterparts in the U.S. for the remainder of the program.
“The program consisted of six American students and six Egyptian students,” says Klemens. “Working with this group was a valuable experience because it allowed me to not only gain an understanding of how to start a business, but also to learn how to interact in a very global business world.”
Their firm, Ratum Technologies, would bring solar water heaters manufactured in China into Egypt. The business’ goal was to be socially responsible (benefiting the Egyptian people as opposed to being purely profit based) while maintaining the status of a successful forprofit business.
“When forming a business you have to look at both the economics and the market conditions while also observing the regulations, tax structure, and possibilities that the government provides,” says Klemens. “This program allowed me to exercise my knowledge in both econ (economics) and government, allowing for a wonderful experience for my personal and academic growth.”
Over the summer, the students had the opportunity to learn from Caine, who spoke to program participants about the global market place as they tried to figure out the scope of each group’s business.
“Chris’ main role in the program was to assist us with his experience as a successful entrepreneur while also helping us develop as individuals both personally and professionally,” says Klemens.
Caine enjoyed mentoring the students and believes the experience is very valuable for them because they will be entering the workforce soon.
“Programs like LearnServe Egypt can give Lafayette students focused and applied business skills in cross-cultural behavior, entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership,” he says.
Yuan’s majors brought an interdisciplinary approach to the project. It’s something she wants to pursue as a career as she plans to earn a master’s degree in technology and policy.
“As an engineer, I’m interested in solving problems. It’s important to not just be a learner, but a doer who can apply the knowledge,” she says. “But I realize that technology alone can’t solve some of the most critical problems in the world. Technology needs humanity to go hand in hand.”
After graduating, Klemens hopes to work for a think tank or a governmental agency focused on Middle Eastern policy.
“I have always had a passion for the Middle East and want to work in a field that allows me to interact with the region along with researching and creating policy,” he says.