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University President Peter Salovey announced two new scholarships for African students pursuing MBA degrees at the Yale School of Management, speaking at Strathmore University in Nairobi on March 15 during his recent weeklong trip to Africa.

Starting in the 2018–19 academic year, the Yale-Africa Impact Scholarships will go on the basis of merit to African students already admitted to SOM’s two-year full-time MBA program. Some candidates were awarded these scholarships as part of the SOM’s round two MBA admissions decisions released on Tuesday. The new scholarships will fund at least half and up to the full amount of tuition for the degree program for each of the awardees. The scholarships also require that recipients return to Africa for at least two years in a professional capacity, within two years of graduating from SOM.

“The African continent is experiencing so much growth and its dynamic economies require elevated leadership,” said Rebekah Melville, director of financial aid and an MBA admissions committee member at SOM. “Yale would like to recognize and make our education more affordable to candidates from these exciting and burgeoning economies.”

Melville — who worked with Acting SOM Dean Anjani Jain, SOM Dean of Admissions Bruce DelMonico and SOM Director of Community and Inclusion Tiffany Gooden on developing the award — said the initiative was born out of a desire to make a Yale MBA a realistic and affordable option for candidates who may have to deal with currency fluctuations or have modest pre-degree salaries.

According to Gooden, who will be involved in selecting the Impact Scholars along with other senior members of SOM’s admissions committee, the scholarships will help lessen loan indebtedness and change aspirants’ perceptions of the affordability of a top U.S.-based MBA program.

A key aspect of the new scholarship program is its emphasis on choosing awardees who are keen to contribute to business and socioeconomic development in Africa after graduation.

Requiring recipients to return to the continent for an extended period shows that SOM is serious about training future African leaders, Melville said. She added that the initiative was a long time coming and that Yale’s decision to launch the scholarships now was made in part because of the number of “strong” African masters’ degree candidates currently at the SOM who could immediately benefit from the program.

According to Gooden, whose SOM office focuses on developing strategies to increase enrollment from populations currently underrepresented in the school’s masters’ programs, Yale will also benefit from these scholarships since they are geared towards maximizing diversity at the school.

“These scholarships will help Yale SOM continue to attract the best and the brightest future leaders from the African continent,” Gooden said. “Our hope with these scholarships is to make our full-time MBA program more affordable and attractive to students who want to bring their leadership and management training back to the African continent after graduation.”

Melville said the scholarships would create “more relationships” for Yale across the continent. Salovey announced the scholarships during a visit to Africa commemorating the five-year anniversary of the Yale Africa Initiative, launched to build connections between Yale and the continent. At the moment, the SOM is affiliated with three business schools in Africa — the Lagos Business School in Nigeria, the Strathmore Business School in Kenya and the University of Ghana Business School in Ghana — through the Global Network for Advanced Management.

Michael Cappello, chair of the council on African Studies and co-director of the Yale Africa Initiative, said recruiting talented students from African countries is a key priority of the initiative and that the new scholarships will deepen Yale’s ties to the continent.

“Yale has always benefited immensely from the presence of international students and scholars, and through these scholarships, the School of Management is contributing to the growing and increasingly diverse African student community,” Cappello said. “This commitment will enrich the University and further deepen its collaborative relationships with partner institutions, not just in African countries but around the world.”

A number of Yale affiliates with ties to the continent said they appreciated the initiative.

Olusanya Omojola SOM ’17, who served as an officer of the Africa Business and Society Club during his time at SOM, said he is pleased that the Yale-Africa Impact Scholarships will bring opportunities to talented candidates and that SOM and Yale are committed to creating and sustaining strong relationships across the continent.

Chijioke Onyekwelu SOM ’18 said there is a dearth of middle-management talent in Africa and lauded the SOM’s efforts to encourage professionals to move back to the continent and contribute to the economy. According to Onyekwelu, the new scholarships are a “huge step in the right direction.”

Onyekwelu also noted that the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Harvard Business School launched similar scholarship or fellowship programs for African students in recent years and that Yale’s latest initiative would allow the SOM to compete with other top programs in recruiting the best candidates from the continent.

According to Melville and Gooden, the SOM plans to broaden its regional impact scholarships to other emerging regions currently underrepresented at the school and to develop more geographically based financial assistance vehicles.

Saumya Malhotra | saumya.malhotra@yale.edu