HU student takes part in US business fellowship

Entrepreneurship program brings together 16 young people from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

Ayelet Cohen 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Ayelet Cohen)
Ayelet Cohen 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Ayelet Cohen)
Hebrew University student entrepreneur Ayelet Cohen is one of four Israeli delegates, including a Palestinian student, selected from the Middle East and North Africa to study at the Economic Empowerment through Entrepreneurship Fellowship Program, sponsored by the US State Department, at the University of Michigan.
Cohen, a marketing manager at the Jerusalem Entrepreneurship Center of Hebrew University’s student union, will spend the next four weeks studying alongside 15 other student delegates from the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.
“I applied to learn more about US economic and business models so I could work with different communities in Israel to help them develop their businesses,” said Cohen via phone from her dorm room in Michigan. “When I get back home, I really hope to implement everything I’ve learned.”
Cohen said she was inspired to work with the other student fellows.
“It’s really amazing to be here and a great opportunity because I never met people from these other countries and I hope we can have meaningful conversations and get to know each other,” she said.
“Their countries have had an amazing three years with the Arab Spring and I’m inspired to work with them and learn from them so future generations can live peacefully together.”
According to Barbara Peitsch, a spokeswoman for the program, the main goal of the fellowship is to expose entrepreneurs, small-business owners, private sector development specialists and business educators from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to the best practices in innovation and small-business growth in the US.
“Four participants from each country will increase their understanding of the links between entrepreneurial activity and free markets, as well as the importance of transparency and accountability in business and government through first-hand experience in American small businesses and entrepreneurship support organizations,” said Peitsch.
“The main objectives of the program are to provide participants the opportunity to gain knowledge of US practices and techniques in their field of expertise, explore governance principles and practices in both public and civil society institutions in the US, and gain a deeper understanding of US society, culture and people,” Peitsch continued.
The fellowship, which is divided into two month-long sessions in April and October, provides students with comprehensive strategies to promote youth entrepreneurship, primarily in hi-tech fields within the MENA region.
Fellows participate in professional development and team-building workshops about topics including branding and marketing products; business plan writing; promoting entrepreneurship in high schools and universities; the protection of intellectual property; and financing entrepreneurial ventures.
Participants will then be required to develop and present an action plan on how to apply their experiences to their own businesses and home countries. The fellowship will conclude with a week-long international entrepreneurship conference in Washington.
In the meantime, Cohen added that her hosts at the University of Michigan have been exemplary.
“The people at the University of Michigan are really amazing and interesting,” said Cohen. “We all have a lot to learn from them.”