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Changing Lives, One YALILearns Session at a Time
September 20, 2019

Mihret and a colleagues at a YALILearns session
Mihret and colleagues at her agribusiness-themed YALILearns session

From a young age, Mihret Fikre was fascinated by the planets, transfixed by the enormity of the universe and her unique place in it.

“I wanted to be an astronomer,” Mihret says, reflecting on her childhood in Addis Ababa. “I liked the idea of spending my days learning about far-off galaxies.”

Mihret, who went on to study physics, decided in early 2019 to organize a YALILearns session on agribusiness in Ethiopia, emphasizing specifically the breadth of agricultural careers on offer in the country.

“You have to remember that agriculture is the backbone of the Ethiopian economy,” Mihret says. “And yet, when you talk to young people about the sector, their first thought is: ‘I don’t want to be a farmer.’”

Mihret and a colleagues at a YALILearns session
Mihret presenting at her agribusiness-themed YALILearns session

Mihret’s frustration with this narrow view of agribusiness came to a head when she met Nabil Kalifa, an engineer-turned-agripreneur and founder of Guaro Farms.

“Nabil wanted to be an entrepreneur in spite of his engineering background and made his dream a reality,” Mihret says. “He taught me that you don’t have to stay in your field of study. If you have the passion, you can do whatever you set your mind to.”

Mihret asked Nabil and another expert from the agribusiness sector to speak at her YALILearns session, a strategy she’d recommend to others planning similar workshops.

“Starting off the session with an expert sharing his or her background and interest in the topic can be powerful and sets the stage for a meaningful group discussion,” Mihret says.

In particular, Mihret advises session hosts to leave time for participants to ask questions following the presentations, in addition to planning small group discussions to better understand and reflect on the topic.

“It’s important to structure your session in a participatory way,” Mihret says. “Plan a lot of hands-on activities for attendees to feel involved and to get them thinking critically about the topic.”

Mihret and a colleagues at a YALILearns session
Participants at Mihret’s agribusiness-themed YALILearns session

Mihret also encourages hosts to immerse themselves in their session topic to not only speak confidently about the field but also to answer questions from session participants.

For Mihret, bringing together her peers to share her knowledge and that of others is more than just an exchange of ideas. It’s an opportunity to inspire the country’s next generation of leaders.

“You have to have an open mind,” Mihret says. “Remember that your one-hour event could change a participant’s life.”

“You’re opening up a new world to them,” Mihret adds. “With your session, you’re introducing them not only to a topic they were unfamiliar with but also to a whole set of careers to pursue.”

For Mihret, a successful session is an opportunity to educate others and to learn from them, all with a spirit of humility.

“To me, that’s what makes a great leader. It’s someone who isn’t afraid to surround herself with people smarter than her. She knows that there’s always more to learn.”

Interested in sharing your passion and expertise with others? Find out how you can plan your own session on our YALILearns page.