New program will overcome challenging business climate, while drawing from Afghanistan’s emerging private sector.

This fall, Herat University, Afghanistan’s second largest university, will launch a new MBA program, under the mentorship of the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver (DU) in Colorado. The program’s development is supported by a grant from the United States Agency for International Development.

As part of the partnership, DU faculty will mentor Herat faculty to teach in both online and face-to-face environments, to design an MBA curriculum that will increase the leadership capacity and employability of Afghan citizens. Once the program is up and running, Herat faculty will deliver all face-to-face teaching, with some video lectures provided by Daniels faculty.

The program’s coordinators plan to create cases and projects suited to the local context, says Brent Chrite, dean of Daniels College. “The primary difficulty,” he says, “is that there’s not a culture of financial transparency and disclosure, so we expect companies to be reluctant to provide access to the information required for a meaningful case analysis.” To create these cases, the school will work with leaders in Afghanistan’s emerging private sector and government ministries, many of whom are eager to engage with academia, Chrite says.

Chrite has helped develop similar programs for other Afghan institutions previously in his career, including Kabul University and Balkh University. However, at that time, the U.S. State Department was still allowing travel to the country. Today, all travel to Afghanistan from the U.S. is restricted because of safety concerns. For that reason, in January faculty from both institutions traveled to Mumbai, India, for a face-to-face meeting.

“Afghanistan is one of the most difficult places on the planet, with profound structural, political, economic, and cultural challenges that must be addressed,” Chrite says. “We believe in the power of the private sector as an essential catalyst for capacity building in other organizations, and business schools have unique capabilities in this arena.”

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