Some 8,000 miles away from the University of Denver campus, Ugandans are receiving the training they need to enter the workforce and improve their quality of life. The initiative — known as the Hospitality In-Service Training Program — is a partnership featuring DU, the Global Livingston Institute (GLI) and Staffable.
Founded by Denverite Jamie Van Leeuwen, GLI is a community-based research institute that works to develop strategic partnerships in East Africa and the United States with a focus on education and social impact. Staffable, a for-profit organization under the GLI umbrella, is a social impact start-up company designed to put Ugandans to work and improve their quality of life.
“This is a pilot intended to scale-up the vocational training efforts of an innovative, social impact collective between Colorado and Uganda; it’s a work in progress,” said Van Leeuwen, who also serves as CEO. “The impact that this project is having on the area is significant, and through this partnership we have placed over 200 Ugandans into the workforce.”
The partnership between GLI and DU began in 2009 when 18 students from DU’s Pioneer Leadership Program took an immersion trip to Uganda, funded by the Morgridge Family Foundation. Since then, more than 50 students and 600 scholars and leaders from around the globe have participated in the immersion trips that take place each year.
In 2015, GLI began a partnership with DU’s Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management. David Corsun, associate professor in the Knoebel School, worked with Scot Rowe (BS ’16) to develop training materials specific to the project in Uganda. These materials were developed and adjusted from first-and second-year course content to train entry-level Ugandan employees. Corsun said the school also is interested in delivering executive education programs in the future, which would enhance managers’ skills and knowledge in key areas.
“The Fritz Knoebel School’s partnership with GLI and Staffable is unique and provides the students who intern with these organizations extraordinary learning opportunities. They are given the chance to make contributions that might otherwise take several years in industry, stretch beyond their comfort zones and grow personally, and become more culturally intelligent,” Corsun said. “Their ability to successfully manage a diverse workforce is significantly enhanced.”
Rowe was the first DU hospitality intern to travel to Uganda and is currently shaping GLI’s plan on how to measure the social impact of the collaboration. While in Uganda, he spent six months working as an intern for Staffable and worked closely with one of its clients, WildPlaces, which operates four upscale lodges throughout Uganda. GLI is also working on a training program with Pizza Hut, and Lauren Riesling, a student in the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, is currently in Uganda working with GLI to measure social impact.
As part of his internship, Rowe evaluated WildPlaces’ lodge operating procedures, conducted training needs assessments with lodge employees, created training modules and evaluation tools for various departments, and assisted with tasks related to human resources.
“There are various types of challenges you've never thought about when you start working in a less developed country,” Rowe said. “The most rewarding part of the job was being able to pass along knowledge and see the genuine interest and professional growth in the trainees.”
GLI is currently working with nine academic partners in addition to DU. The nonprofit’s goals include training students to be global leaders, engaging in social good and training global leaders to "listen and think ... before they act." Moving forward, Van Leeuwen said, interns will focus on being mentors and coaches to future hospitality employees.