BRAC University on 25 May, 2022 announced its partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka on the resumption of the U.S. Fulbright program in Bangladesh after six-years. The university also made public its collaboration in launching an “Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE)”, a Department of State global initiative to promote small and medium enterprises (SME), foster local women entrepreneurs, especially from underprivileged backgrounds, and overall promote gender equality and equity.
The announcements were made at an event titled “Celebrating Fulbright and Entrepreneurship Collaboration between BRAC University and US Embassy Dhaka” at the BRAC University auditorium. U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas, Dr. Sharon Hart, US Fulbright Specialist, Tamara Hasan Abed, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of BRAC University, Professor Vincent Chang, Vice-Chancellor of BRAC University, Dr Sang Lee, Dean of BRAC Business School (BBS), Professor Matin Saad Abdullah, Senior Technology Adviser of the Centre for Entrepreneurship Development (CED) of BRAC University, and Professor Mohammad Mujibul Haque Associate Dean of the BRAC Business School, spoke at the event.
The Fulbright program is one of United States’ flagship exchange programs that strengthens and expands people-to-people ties and educational linkages between the United States and Bangladesh. More than 4,000 State Department Exchange program alumni, including 650 Bangladeshis, travelled to the United States under the Fulbright exchange programs and more than 250 Americans have conducted research and/or taught in Bangladesh. The Women Empowerment Center of BRAC University’s BBS is hosting Dr. Sharon Hart, the first Fulbright Specialist. She will be staying for six weeks helping to develop a curriculum for women entrepreneurship and leadership training, design research questions on gender and women economic empowerment issues and build the capacity to conduct workshops for researchers and the BBS faculty members.
The AWE program gives enterprising women the knowledge, networks and access they need to launch and scale successful businesses. This is the first time a Bangladeshi university will be conducting such a program through which 50 women entrepreneurs will have access to mentorship opportunity with successful business owners as trainees to understand the practical challenges on the ground. This AWE project directly supports the U.S. National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality.
Dr Sang Lee said the joint efforts would have long-lasting snowballing effects to solidify commitments for quality education. He said Dr Sharon Hart had already started contributing through the establishment of the Women Empowerment Centre at the BBS. The centre would work on upskilling and reskilling women entrepreneurs and leaders in Bangladesh with support of corporate partners and evidence-based research on best practices, he added. He said the AWE program would be run at the CED.
Thanking the US Embassy Dhaka for its continuous collaboration with BRAC University, Professor Vincent Chang said the developments were a part of three components which BRAC University was focusing on -- international engagement and collaborations, student centred initiatives and research with impact. BRAC University has been connecting with networks of hundreds of universities worldwide and in exchange and cooperation with universities in the US, UK and soon Tokyo, which are all the first of its kind in Bangladesh, he said. The government feedback has been to find good international partners and BRAC University is the only
private university in a steering committee on the fourth industrial revolution of Bangladesh, said Professor Chang. “At international conferences, people always ask ‘What is your secret sauce?’. I say we do not have secret sauce. We simply did the right thing,” said the Vice-Chancellor. Professor Chang informed the university’s resilient response to Covid-19 and its growth even in this challenging time.
BRAC University champions excellence in higher education and recognizes the pivotal role the entrepreneurs play in creating not only a robust economy and adjust an inclusive society but collaborations among entrepreneurs of difference countries, deepen understanding among people and build ties among nations, said Tamara Hasan Abed. The inclusion of women entrepreneurs, especially small-enterprise owning women and grassroots women entrepreneurs, in the mainstream economy faces many challenges. World-class training programs create new hopes, bolstering their confidence and showing the way. To that end the AWE program will immensely benefit its target audience with BRAC University as the collaborating partner, she said.
Peter Haas said Bangladesh was going to become a middle-income country in a couple of years and the role of women in economic empowerment is very important. Therefore, it makes it all the more special to resume the Fulbright Program.
The program ended with Tamara Hasan Abed and Professor Vincent Chang presenting Peter Haas tokens of appreciation.