Minerva’s Outreach team functions differently from any other university around the world. As a newer institution, Minerva was able to rethink the college awareness and application process to better match prospective students’ needs and address the systemic bias that is frequent in admissions. This rethought approach focused on how to find talented and driven students from around the world, inform them of Minerva’s transformative educational offerings, and support them throughout the admissions process. Leading this dynamic and global team is Fatou K. Badiane-Toure, Minerva’s Global Director of Outreach.
Based in Dakar, Senegal, Fatou joined Minerva in the summer of 2013 after completing her graduate studies in Columbia University’s International Education Masters program. She describes her first impression of Minerva as “surreal”. She knew from her past experience as the Associate Director of Admissions at the African Leadership Academy that there was so much talent and ambition in the current generation. What the world needed were educational programs to bring students together and teach them how to effectively address the challenges they were so passionate about.
“I thought ‘It was about time!’” Fatou shares. “While I was in graduate school, I spent a lot of time thinking about what an improved learning experience needed to look like if we needed to support a generation of changemakers.”
So when she learned about Minerva’s intention to improve every aspect of the university experience, Fatou was excited to help search for the first class of students. She joined the then newly-formed Outreach team, where she oversaw outreach activities in Africa.
While it would have been easier to connect with the “best” or most reputable schools in metropolitan, primarily-Western cities, Minerva set out to equitize the admissions playing field by hiring Outreach team members across global regions. Joined by colleagues in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, Fatou began to search for the first generation of Minerva students.
Anyone who has been to a college fair or spoken to a high school student will know that the university application process can be complicated and intense. On the other side, finding bright and motivated students to apply to your school, especially a one-of-a-kind, brand new program, is an equally challenging endeavor. Fatou traveled across Africa from summer through spring to meet with school counselors, host information sessions, and speak with partners — all to build student awareness of Minerva.
And Minerva is not simple to describe nor is it the right program for everyone. But for the student who wants to immerse themselves in new cultures, push themself to learn in a radically different way than ever before, and invest in their self-growth, Minerva is their perfect fit. For Fatou, meeting and interacting with these students, who once they hear about Minerva there is no other option, is her driving motivation.
On a trip to Nairobi in the fall of 2014, Fatou received an applicant recommendation from a colleague who worked at a secondary school. The student was a young, ed-tech entrepreneur who had been denied a visa to attend a coding school program in the United States. Fatou quickly reached out to the student, Martha, who agreed to meet the following day. By the end of the meeting, after hearing about Minerva’s innovative and practical education model, Martha was convinced that Minerva was the place she needed to be for her university studies and applied in the first application cycle. She was accepted in December to join the Inaugural Class of 2019, and when Fatou returned to Nairobi in April, Martha handed Fatou $500 cash to pay her enrollment deposit.
Martha’s story is one of many impactful student memories in Fatou’s career. Helping young adults find the resources they need to access their full potential is why Fatou is dedicated to Minerva’s outreach efforts. “I am a believer in the need for equal access to information about educational opportunities…What still keeps me going is knowing that there are students who deserve to be at Minerva and that they might not know that Minerva exists.”
Nearly eight years later, with two graduated classes, six hundred current students, and several completed passports, Fatou has seen the amazing results of those early outreach efforts come to fruition. From introducing the idea of Minerva in early conversations four and five years ago to celebrating with students with multiple job offers at graduation, Fatou could not be more excited for the students she helped apply to see their hopes and plans realized. She now oversees the entire global Outreach team, providing guidance, support, and motivation to her caring and equally dedicated team members across nine time zones to help future students find Minerva. And while Minerva’s recognizability has grown significantly, the outreach model has stayed true to its original mission: to create an intentional, thoughtful, and ethical admissions process to support bright and motivated students all around the world.