Creating Social Value Blog / Social Innovation

From Kosovo to Babson: Accidentally, Then On Purpose

By Monika Rodiqi, Undergraduate student at Babson College and Undergraduate Scholar at The Lewis Institute.

If you had asked me two years ago where I’d be now, I am afraid to say I wouldn’t even know what the name Babson represented. At the time, I had just returned home to Prishtina, Kosovo, after a year-long exchange program in the United States. I wouldn’t be away for long though, as I was counting down the days until my week long trip to Boston.

I was going to participate in the 2014 Women2Women International Leadership Program, a conference for young women from around the world, which happens every year in Boston. At the time, interested more in diplomacy and international relations, I was looking forward to meeting young women leaders from diverse places and attending the lectures and workshops aimed more towards those fields.

It was to my surprise, however, that when time came, my favorite workshop ended up being one about business. In Kosovo, business does not always have the best connotation. Since the country still suffers from corruption and organized crime (though, in our defense, we are only an eight-year-old country), doing business can entail having to be involved in such activities. Thus, when I had thought of a career for myself, it had been in helping Kosovo’s image through a job in diplomatic missions. However, I walked into this workshop open-minded and ready to learn.

You might have guessed it, this workshop about business was in fact at Babson. This was my first time visiting and hearing about Babson. It was pouring rain–something I dislike no matter what season it is–yet, I was enthralled by the campus. Running up the big stairs of Knight, I realized I could see myself here. “Too bad it’s only a business school,” I thought to myself.

What was planned for the first part of the day was the Entrepreneurial Thought & Action® workshop what we might remember as the puzzle and quilt exercise from the first day of FME. This was led by none other than The Lewis Institute’s Cheryl Kiser and Emily Weiner. These two amazing women did more than just get my attention, they got me excited and ready – ready for action. I had been more of an analyst all my life, over-analyzing and weighing all the possible choices before doing anything. At Babson, through Cheryl and Emily, I learned to Act, Learn, Build.

Act-Learn-Build seems so simple, but it is something that in my experience, Kosovo as a young country has forgotten to do. While a lot of people are dissatisfied with the political, economic and social conditions, the typical response is to simply complain. This is one of the most passive forms of acting, yielding almost no learning, and, unfortunately for all of us, leads to stagnant building.

The Babson ET&A® workshop helped change my perspective of what business is like and the power of what business can do. Emphasizing the good we can do through social innovation and entrepreneurship, Cheryl and Emily showed me that Babson cares about creating social and economic value simultaneously, not sequentially. This wasn’t your run-of-the-mill business school. Instead, the innovation it fostered created the optimal environment for changemakers. Long story short, I was sold on Babson.

Two years later, I am a rising sophomore at Babson as a part of the Global Scholars Program, Executive Vice President of our Student Government, and one of the newest Undergraduate Scholars at The Lewis Institute. Being at Babson has been so transformative and nourishing, making Entrepreneurial Thought & Action® much of an instinct for me. Over winter break, I bridged the gap between studying entrepreneurship and my love for diplomacy by launching a digital diplomacy initiative named #KosovoDiaries, meant to promote daily life in Kosovo amongst my international friends. #KosovoDiaries features real, raw images that portray the lives of Kosovar youth in the simplest form, from pictures I took while walking to meet my friends, to pictures of snowy mountaintops other young people took on hikes or skiing trips.

Wanting to experience Babson in the summer again (though preferably with less rainy days), I stayed for Summer Session 1, taking classes and working for Cheryl and Emily. The Lewis Institute is such a great place to find mentorship, training, and, of course, get involved. Not only has working here exposed me to plentiful role models, but also it has been the catalyst for one of my closest friendships on campus.

As I was leaving campus at the end of Summer Session 1, I realized it was the first time I’d be leaving for more than a month. The room I had been living in since last August, almost a full year, was not my room anymore. Empty and locked, it now awaited the next person, just like I await sophomore year. In the midst of this nostalgia, a smile appeared on my face. I remembered how moving in, I had still felt some uncertainty about how I would do at Babson. At the late close of my first year, I had the answer to that.

I am happy. I am home.