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MEL Student Applies Coursework to Building Future Leaders in Egypt
Life in Cairo is a far cry from the laid-back lifestyle she experienced as a child on the beaches of Carlsbad, California, but CLU student Carrie Johnson says she is where she belongs, doing work she feels called to do. Sure, it’s chaotic living in a city of 20 million people. The constant noise clashes with the mental brain chatter that drones continually in her mind. Then there are the security concerns: two revolutions and multiple incidents. Threats against Americans. Worries over whether to take her daughter, Amy, to school or stay home. Carrie is Deputy Director of the Institute of International Education’s Middle East and North Africa Region Office and Director of the USAID-funded LOTUS Scholarship Program in Egypt. It’s her job to administer U.S.-funded scholarships that have been awarded to 250 underserved Egyptian university students with the objective of empowering them to make a difference in their communities through leadership and community service. It’s work that reflects her own life-changing intercultural experiences as a foreign exchange student to Tunisia in 1985-86, and as a host sister. Egypt has experienced significant changes since the 2011 revolution, Carrie said. “Many students now have more confidence in their ability to impact change. Community service is becoming a part of their way of life.” Her students are learning leadership by developing and implementing service learning projects: They work hard to promote literacy in formal and informal settings in impoverished urban areas and small villages. They meet with youth and parents to encourage keeping girls in school. They develop innovative approaches to making a difference in their communities. So, when it came time for Carrie to consider a graduate school to enhance the leadership skills she imparts on her team and to her students, Claremont Lincoln’s Master’s in Ethical Leadership program stood out. “It wasn’t your traditional corporate or organizational leadership program,” Carrie said. “The MEL program is more human, focused on personal development, society and service.” Joining CLU was about much more than the degree: She said she felt she was joining a family of like-minded individuals set out to make a difference in the world. Already, her coursework has given her the rare opportunity focus on herself – to see herself as others see her and to learn techniques that help her change how she reacts to things so she can be a better leader. “Every course has been an ‘ah-ha’ moment for me,” Carrie said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had this kind of intellectual challenge.” As a single mom with a busy job, flexibility was also important. The diversity of Claremont Lincoln’s students – representing global perspectives on culture, faith, and a gamut of professions – was another plus. “It’s something that I could only experience online,” she said. “For me, that was really important. The discussion forums are ideal. They allow students to interact regardless of where they live or what hours they keep. I’m also more inclined to share things online that I wouldn’t in a classroom setting.” Carrie said she’s already applying what she’s learning to her work. She recently participated in competencies and personality style training led by senior management coming from Washington, D.C. and was very encouraged to see the synergies with some of what she had studied in MEL courses. She felt that she was able to bring interesting perspectives to the discussions. All this has Carrie optimistic about the future. “By educating the people of Egypt, we are helping to make the country more prosperous,” she said. “We’re making a difference, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. There are a lot of very bright and talented Egyptian students who could really excel and contribution to the development of their local communities and the country if given opportunities. “Right now we offer 250 scholarships,” she said. “Just think if we had 25,000 or 250,000!