Dina Ranarifidy, Project Manager with an NGO in Madagascar, talks about her academic experience on a university campus

Dina RanarifidyDINA RANARIFIDY: I will say that Cornell is a very vibrant place to study, but also to live in, and all the events that you have in just one week it's very impressive. It was a great exposure for me also because culturally speaking we have the Cornell Cinemas, the Bailey Hall, so I had lots of opportunities to, to see concerts but also to see films. So I felt that it was very enriching as well on the cultural side.

About my academic experience as a Humphrey Fellow, I really wanted to take advantage of the excellence, the academic excellence that Cornell has to offer and that's why I have taken some courses and classes at Cornell, but also online.

So I would like to talk first about my experience last semester at Johnson School of Management. I took a course on leadership and it was a very unique experience for me, because it was truly the first time that I was exposed to the American education system. So first of all the course was very interactive, because we had guest speakers coming every week to share their experiences as a leader in a rapidly changing environment, but also they were leaders in a sustainable enterprise. So I felt valued as a Humphrey Fellow because I was asked many times to share my experience as a developing practitioner in my country. I had also the opportunity to write a critical paper on one of the talks given by a lady from UNEP. I felt very valued because my paper got published in the Johnson School of Management's website. I saw it as recognition of my work and experience.

I also had a very interesting experience for online courses and I've been taken since last October a course at e-Cornell on High Performance Leadership. So it's a great experience, very interactive even if it's online and one of the main benefits for me is that I could work at my own pace because we are, I mean we find ourselves rapidly overwhelmed with courses and classes and being able to complete the course within a two week period is very interesting for us. I also like this e-Cornell course because I viewed it as an opportunity to reflect on my leadership abilities, and to write down some projects and assess some real life situations. So I recently took a course on negotiations and it was a great opportunity for me actually to write down one negotiation issue that I had back home and the instructor told me that I could use for my upcoming negotiation. It was very fruitful and, it was a great opportunity overall for me to reflect on my leadership skills.

Francine: How do you communicate with the instructor?

DINA RANARIFIDY: We could be tempted to think that since it is an online course we don't interact much with the instructor but with the e-Cornell experience, it is totally different because I am able to connect and communicate with him whenever I want. The instructor makes himself very available for every student enrolled in the course. Moreover, whenever we submit an assignment, we always get written feedback from him which is very interesting for us. They provide us with very insightful comments, and also very accurate comments on our work regarding the course project. It is a very interactive experience, and I also learned a lot from the instructor because they were very knowledgeable. They are willing to share their experiences. So overall it was, for me, an amazing experience.

I also had the opportunity to attend one course, one workshop at the Industrial Labor Relations ILR School at Cornell University. The headquarters are in New York City, so I went there last week to attend one workshop on emotional intelligence. It was again a very different experience but yet very interesting. I had the opportunity to learn more about the use of emotional intelligence, and the importance of boosting it to be able to communicate in a more effective way with people in the workplace, but also in your personal life. So again, I was exposed to the academic excellence of Cornell. It was very good because the course leader was very inspiring. She was really keen on engaging people in the course, and she really created a very interactive, environment and people are very much eager to share their experiences, and in terms of networking it was also very interesting for me because most participants in the workshop were all executive people from the private sector so again it's a different pool of participants. It was different from what I was used to being exposed to here at Cornell. So it was very interesting. They were more serious senior people, so very experienced, but also very keen on sharing their experiences so it was very fruitful for me.

Francine: Thank you, Dina.