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From Amsterdam Avenue in NYC to Kigali, Rwanda: Syms Dean Noam Wasserman Shares His Business Expertise

Screenshot from Dean Wasserman's session with students

Earlier this year, Dr. Noam Wasserman, dean of the Sy Syms School of Business, had a unique opportunity to extend one of the four pillars of YU, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, to a college in Africa.

Davis College in Rwanda reached out to Dr. Wasserman through the Make It Real Foundation (MIRF), whose CEO, Isaac Wolman, is a good friend of YU. MIRF is also a client of this summer’s YU Consulting Force, employing two interns who are helping them develop a career mentorship program for refugees.

Members of the faculty at Davis asked Dr. Wasserman if he could advise them about curriculum design and if he would do a model “Founder’s Dilemmas” session with some business students. His response was a resounding, “Of course!”

The first session took place in February with their entrepreneurship faculty and tapped materials that Dean Wasserman used to teach to other professors when he was at Harvard Business School and teaches now to the faculty at Sy Syms: How to design a curriculum, how to teach it using the most effective methods, and how to develop your career as a professor. The topics included:

  • The three core building blocks of an entrepreneurship curriculum.
  • The best student-centered teaching methods to convey each of those building blocks (including tapping into the Talmud for insights from Rabbi Chanina’s student-centric teaching approach).
  • How the faculty should think about their own career development, blending together their research and teaching into a powerful reinforcing system.

About a month later, Dean Wasserman led a session with some of Davis College’s entrepreneurship students based on his highly acclaimed book, The Founder’s Dilemmas, which advises founders on how to anticipate and avoid the pitfalls that can sink a startup. At this session, they explored the following:

  • The biggest reason for failure among high-potential startups.
  • Preparing Yourself to Found (also the topic of the first episode of the new podcast he is co-hosting with Charlie Harary).
  • The most important early dilemmas faced by founding teams—the 3Rs of Relationship dilemmas, Roles and Decision-Making dilemmas, and Rewards dilemmas.

In the Q&A period afterward, the students’ seriousness and curiosity about founding came through in their questions about their current co-founder decisions as well as how to build a strong pre-founding foundation for their upcoming careers.

“It was an honor and pleasure to work with the students and faculty at Davis College,” said Dr. Wasserman. “While they initially reached out to me to discuss the dilemmas new startups face, I learned a lot from their questions and observations as well. I’m also proud to be a part of this wonderful university that is always eager to help and share its knowledge with the people who can most benefit from it, even if they are continents and oceans away from New York City.”