Ambitious African Students: Meet Dancan Onyango

by | Mar 10, 2021 | Mentorship

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8B Scholar Dancan Onyango is a recent graduate of Babson College’s Olin Graduate School of Business. Originally from Kenya and currently residing in Boston, Dancan has lived in Tanzania, Nigeria, and in a number of countries in Asia.

In 2016, Dancan took executive education courses through the Harvard Kennedy School, studying under facilitators from Babson College. He enjoyed this coursework and his experience so much that he decided to pursue a two-year MBA at Babson. He was offered a full-tuition scholarship, but faced financing gaps for living costs.

When he arrived at Babson in 2018, Dancan was the only African student in his MBA program. While challenging, he found that his background and travels offered him a unique perspective to share with his classmates. He advises other students in similar situations: “You may become the knowledge center for anything relating to Africa. Use it as an opportunity to educate your fellow students on the reality [of Africa], rather than the stereotypes and misinformation.” Dancan credits much of his networking success to conversations with his colleagues that began about Africa.

Lessons Learned Through Global Education

Dancan has a wealth of knowledge to offer from what he’s learned on his education journey.

His first piece of advice: do the research necessary to make informed decisions about your educational options. This goes beyond determining which subjects are of interest to you, and instead reframes your research to focus on your future goals. “Be specific and intentional about your career aspirations, then research universities that specialize in that,” Duncan advises. “Don’t limit yourself to only Ivy League universities. There are a lot of great universities, and many smaller ones may offer you more resources, scholarships, and have professors that are more accessible.”

His second insight is on the importance of making friends and networking. He explains, “These relationships will become really important when you’re looking for an internship, or once you graduate and are looking for a job.”

Critically, when it comes to financing studies, Dancan advises students to research early and delve into all of the available options. Even with a full tuition scholarship, cost of living can be prohibitive. The 8B Income Share Agreement (ISA) was a critical part of his ability to pursue his MBA—it took the burden of financial worry off his shoulders for his living costs, and allowed him to better focus on his studies.

Professional Tips for Job Seekers

While he acknowledges that many African students face a lack of access to career development and financing programs, Dancan urges students to take the initiative to seek out opportunities and information.

Dancan advises students to be assertive: “Don’t put yourself second or be afraid to apply when other students might be competing for the same job or internship. Each student has their own strengths to offer, and you should be confident in your uniqueness and reach for every opportunity that comes your way.”

Lastly, Dancan reminds students to keep an open mind about where each opportunity may lead. For him, the path to Babson was unexpected and has paved the way to a bright future.

Putting His Education Into Action

Dancan approached his time at Babson with the intention of leveraging both university and real-world experiences. In addition to his success in the classroom, he took on positions such as leading conferences, working for a small microfinance startup, and tutoring finance students. His time spent at Babson was so fulfilling that Dancan hopes to share his story and advocate the college’s many leadership opportunities to potential students.

The biggest advantage Dancan received from attending a global university was a robust network. His new connections provide him with the opportunity to build social capital and show what Africans with world-class education can do as professionals on both the African continent and in the world. He encourages his fellow African students to use their global network to spread awareness for the issues within their disciplines that most affect their home countries.

Dancan hopes to use his academic and professional experiences to contribute to his community. “The education has been good, but the network has been instrumental,” he recounts. “I’m pursuing the dreams I have for Kenya.”

8B is connecting African students with the information, financing, and mentorship they need to succeed. Learn more about Ladder, our mentor matching platform, and how you can benefit as a mentor or a mentee.

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