Academy in Ghana aims to develop world leaders

Carl Kwaku Dey MBA ’21 graduated this month with not only a degree from the MIT Executive MBA (EMBA) Program, but also with plans to open a school in Ghana serving children in kindergarten through eighth grade. He’ll do so with the support of nearly 40 of his EMBA classmates, who helped with fundraising, branding, marketing, and building a website for the school, in addition to many other things.

“This is the first time I can recall a student directly creating an educational institution from the ground up,” says Geoff Miskinis, Dey’s EMBA program advisor. “He sees the educational needs of the community firsthand, and has an innate personal sense of responsibility to help others.”

Giving back

Dey, who grew up in Ghana, lost his mother at age 4 and his father as a young adult. “My father always told me one thing: When you grow up and become successful, reach out and help others,” Dey says.

As a college student at the University of Texas in Arlington, and later as a senior manager at Office Depot, Dey organized multiple mission trips to Ghana. He also earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Arlington, and later a doctorate from Walden University. He continued with his philanthropic work and joined the board of Broken Crayon, a nonprofit for children in his home country. Through Broken Crayon, he met Andy Pechacek MBA ’12, who inspired him to enroll in the MIT EMBA Program, a 20-month MBA degree program for mid-career executives. Dey was able to attend in part thanks to Pechacek’s generosity.

Before he enrolled at MIT, Dey, who was also an MIT Legatum Fellow, was already dreaming about building a school with social impact, and had looked at land in Ghana. Once in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Dey embraced the entrepreneurial culture and moved ahead with his plans, inspiring many of his classmates to help him. The future school, known as the Dey Leadership Academy and named after Dey’s late father, Carlos Sylvanus Dey, will be centered on three pillars: leadership, innovation, and social responsibility.

Incorporating innovation and entrepreneurship into education

Ghana, one of the most politically stable countries in Africa, still struggles with an educational system that necessitates “foreigners coming in to build bridges for us,” Dey says.

With the new school, Dey envisions more innovation and entrepreneurship in his country. “A lot of students in Ghana go to university and just wait to be employed by somebody. Why don’t we turn that around?” Dey asks.

Dey bought land in Pokuase, Ghana, and is now raising money for the private, nonprofit school. He has inspired his peers, such as Marjorie Cass and Martin Leach, both fellow EMBA ’21 students. Cass, who is president at Matterlab and a former charter school network lead, has advised on curriculum for the new school. Leach, vice president of information technology at Alexion Pharmaceuticals, along with several other classmates, lent his digital skills to the endeavor, creating a social media strategy and managing the school’s website.
Dey says his classmates pitched in because they wanted to make an impact, and credited the EMBA cohort’s “spirit and attitude.” Dey also plans to name the school’s innovation center “The Andy and Nancy Pechacek Innovation Center” as a way to thank his mentor.