For Dartmouth Undergrads, an Intro to Leadership

Paganucci Fellows discover the power of experiential learning.

Since 2007, Tuck’s Paganucci Fellows Program has provided Dartmouth students with valuable lessons in leadership—and a hands-on appreciation of the power of experiential learning.

Surrounded by the snow-capped Andes in the Huancavelica region of Peru, William Hirschfeld D’14 and five Dartmouth undergraduates spent two weeks last summer consulting for a social entrepreneurship nonprofit working to empower local farmers. As part of their research, the students—participants in Tuck’s Paganucci Fellows Program—spent a day observing a dairy farmer making goat cheese. Using ancient artisanal methods, the farmer curdled the milk via an unweaned-goat’s stomach, removed the whey, and molded the drained cheese with handwoven baskets. While the cheese dried, the farmer’s wife treated the students to choclo con queso, an Andean culinary favorite.

“That visit gave us a real appreciation for the culture of the farmers whom our project was meant to help,” says Hirschfeld. “As we formulated our business plan, it made us realize how important it is for us as consultants to consider the cultural practices that these farmers have used for generations.”

Directed by Tuck’s Center for Leadership, the Paganucci Fellows Program offers Dartmouth undergraduates and recent graduates an intensive eight-week education in global experiential learning, personal leadership development, and social entrepreneurship. Named in honor of Paul Paganucci D’53, T’54—former investment banker, associate dean at Tuck, and chief financial officer and treasurer at Dartmouth—the idea for the program originated with Dean Paul Danos and has received continuous support from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation since 2006.

To prepare for their field work, this year’s Paganucci fellows—Hirschfeld; Juhi Kalra D’16; Shinri Kamei D’16; Thabo Matse D’14; Ha Nguyen D’15; and Gurkaran Singh D’15—participated in a curriculum comprising leadership, teamwork, and personal growth programs run by Richard McNulty, Paganucci faculty director and executive director of the Center for Leadership, Paganucci faculty adviser Courtney Hurley Pierson T’01, and Tuck administrator and adjunct faculty member Betsy Winslow.

“We’ve structured the program so that this leadership component—assessing personal strengths and weaknesses, increasing self-awareness and emotional intelligence—is a crucial part of their journey,” explains McNulty. “We give the students access to the same tools we use at Tuck so that they can get a sense of their leadership and teamwork style and learn what they can do to continue growing personally and professionally."

One of these experiences, a “Learning to Look” session at the Hood Museum of Art, is frequently a component of Tuck’s Executive Education programs. During the session, the Paganucci Fellows participated in a series of exercises facilitated by museum educators to help them hone their skills of observation, analysis, collaboration, and reflection—individually and as a cohesive team.

Previous Paganucci projects included creating an e-learning tool in Liberia and prototyping a financial-inclusion product in Ghana. This year’s project focused on helping Peruvian alpaca and dairy farmers take greater control of their livelihoods. Currently, the farmers sell their raw materials (alpaca fiber or milk) to intermediaries at low profit margins. According to ProSynergy, the nonprofit for whom the students consulted, farmers could boost their income by processing these raw materials into value-added products (yarn or cheese) and selling it directly to the nonprofit’s yachaywasis, or eco-technology farms, at a higher profit margin.

The problem, however, is that this requires the farmers to use complicated, costly technologies they have no experience with. Because many local farmers have limited formal education and little reason for marketplace loyalty, the fellows were charged with developing a business plan to make this opportunity as universally attractive and feasible as possible. After extensive research and interviews with community members, the students came up with a three-phase model.

First, they proposed that the yachaywasis should spend a year building stronger relationships with the farmers. In addition to selling them supplies, such as more nutritious goat and alpaca feed, the yachaywasis should then buy the farmers’ raw materials at a higher price than the intermediaries’. Once trust has been established, the fellows recommended that the yachaywasis then offer training workshops and rental opportunities for the farmers to familiarize themselves with the technology. Finally, when the farmers fully understand the process and equipment, they can purchase it for use themselves or by multifamily cooperatives.

“Thanks to the work done by the Paganucci fellows, our program is off to a great start to help improve the economic and social development of hundreds of local rural families,” says Carlos Guarnizo, executive chairman of ProSynergy. “Their creativity, leadership, and vision are an inspiration.”

During the program’s eight weeks, the fellows also met with Dartmouth College president Philip Hanlon D’77 and board members of the Sherman Fairchild Foundation and participated in a Tuck Executive Program lunch and class led by Professor Sydney Finkelstein, associate dean for executive education and interim faculty director of the Center for Leadership.

“During that lunch, I got the chance to speak with many CEOs, leaders, and experts, but what shocked me was that they weren’t talking to me as a student—they were talking to me as if I were the minister of energy and power in my native Swaziland,” Matse remembers. “It might sound simple, but it really got me thinking about what I can bring to the table. It was so inspiring how they engaged me.”

In fact, the students say that in addition to all they learned and to the lasting impact they left, they’ll carry this entire experience with them for the rest of their lives. “We’ve all learned so much from each other and about ourselves,” concludes Kalra. “Paganucci was the perfect platform for us to make a very real difference.”