Baobab 2018 Summit electrifies EdPlus team

EdPlus Multimedia Communications Developer, Joanne Tolkoff, says she was “electrified” by the sense of community responsibility displayed by the MasterCard Foundation Scholars at the 2018 Baobab Summit she attended recently in Kigali, Rwanda. Tolkoff and Baobab’s Curriculum and Learning Experiences Manager, Christy Foote-Dizdarevic, were there to engage the Scholars and to promote Baobab, the Scholars Community Platform. The platform, a social learning tool created by EdPlus and the Office of University Initiatives, facilitates collaboration, mentorship, skill development and transition to professional life. It is used by over 4,000 Mastercard Foundation Scholars at 27 institutions around the world and alumni.  

At the Summit, Tolkoff and Foote supervised a group of Baobab Scholar ambassadors who help the EdPlus team on the African continent by promoting Baobab at their universities. The ambassadors engaged other Scholar attendees with three challenges based on leadership skills highlighting utilities of the platform. The challenges included communication, critical thinking and creativity. 

Tolkoff’s favorite challenge was the one focused on creativity. The Scholars were presented with random words on large notecards and had to collaborate with each other to form sentences demonstrating transformative leadership.

“A new Africa in the 21st Century," Tolkoff said. “Our Baobab ambassadors ran the whole challenge. It was theirs, just like the platform. To see them take it and run with it was just magical.” 

While Tolkoff acted as video and still-image documentarian, Foote-Dizdarevic immersed herself in the cultures of the Scholars hailing from different African countries while she gathered content ideas to enhance the platform. She had spent considerable time working with the Baobab ambassadors remotely, but now says she speaks with them every day.

“I now further appreciate their value: they are a great resource,” Foote-Dizdarevic said. “The Baobab platform is working. It is their platform. They have taken ownership of it and it’s growing. Our content is coming together the right way.”

Both Tolkoff and Foote were thrilled to watch two of the spring 2018 EdPlus Baobab interns compete in a social venture pitching competition. Intern Marion Apio’s project focused on teaching girls how to make personal sanitary products so they could attend school. Intern Wuyeh Jobe’s project focused on inspiring youth to become more involved with agriculture and food security through technology. Both won $6,000 to fund their projects, the maximum grant available.