After Ghana Summit, Northeastern University trustee Winslow Sargeant says experiential learning is key to building partnerships on African continent

Winslow Sargeant speaking at Global Leadership Summit
Winslow Sargeant, a 1986 Northeastern graduate and a member of the Board of Trustees, says the university is positioned to work with African partners to provide expertise in education, urban planning and engineering. “The Ghanaians clearly understood the whole notion of experiential learning,” he says. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Ghana has unlimited potential for development, and Northeastern can contribute to that growth by building alliances with Ghanaian institutions and providing global expertise.

That was one of many conclusions Winslow Sargeant made after attending the university’s successful Global Leadership Summit in Accra. Close to 300 people, including top Ghanaian civic and business leaders, convened at Kempinski Gold Coast Hotel from March 9-11. 

“The Ghanaians clearly understood the whole notion of experiential learning,” says Sargeant, a 1986 Northeastern graduate and member of the university’s Board of Trustees.

The intergenerational audience at the summit included alumni, students, parents, faculty and friends from around the world for a program that spanned topics ranging from business to sustainability to culture to entrepreneurship.

Elsie Add Awadzi speaking at Global Leadership Summit
Elsie Addo Awadzi, second deputy governor of the Bank of Ghana, speaks about her journey of passion and purpose to serve Ghana as she opens the second day of the Northeastern 2023 Global Leadership Summit at the Kempinski Hotel in Accra, Ghana. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

In addition to his role as a Northeastern trustee, Sargeant is board chair of the International Council for Small Business and senior adviser for globalization and head of capital markets at Genaesis. He believes Northeastern is positioned to work with African partners to provide expertise in education, urban planning and engineering.

“They clearly saw the value of theory and practice together, because they want to make sure that their workforce is ready to run,” he says.

Sargeant was impressed by the hospitality of the Ghanaian people, the development opportunities the country offers, and stability of the government. He was also amazed at how well young Ghanaian attendees prepared for the summit, researching Northeastern programs and campus locations around the world.

It’s those ambitious young people who will propel the nation forward, Sargeant says.

“If the country could find a way to help its young population become educated and acquire the necessary skills, that would be a great investment that could provide a very bright future,” he says.

Applications from Ghana to Northeastern increased 91% this year. Meanwhile, interest from other African countries also spiked. Nigeria applications were up 204% and Ethiopia 47%. That’s not a surprise to Sargeant. After all, Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world in terms of population.

“We’ve already had students who’ve come from Ghana and have done very well at Northeastern, gone back and they’re global leaders now,” he says.

Sargeant says the feedback he’s received from summit attendees has been overwhelmingly positive. They were most impressed by the wide range of industries and topics represented in the discussions and the world-class caliber of the speakers.

The topics discussed included education in Ghana and the U.S., finance, entrepreneurship, leadership, civic engagement, the fourth industrial revolution in Africa, and creativity, art, music and culture in the era of artificial intelligence and other disruptive technologies.

Sargeant especially enjoyed learning about the career journey of Elsie Addo Awadzi, the second deputy governor of the Bank of Ghana, who is only the second woman to hold the position. Describing her multiple career pivots and thirst for education, Addo Awadzi encouraged young people to push through doubt and persevere.

“She had spent a lot of time in the United States and then she was called back to Ghana to serve and to give back to the land of her birth,” Sargeant says. “But what she described was a far-reaching outlook on what the [Ghanaian] society needs in terms of infrastructure, planning and making sure that there’s an educated workforce.”

Sargeant also enjoyed meeting Northeastern Young Global Leaders, a select group of alumni charged with fostering Northeastern’s connections around the globe.

“Their attitudes, their vision has been very infectious,” he says.

Outside of Accra, summit participants visited two large commercial forts—Cape Coast Castle and Elmina Castle—on the Gulf of Guinea that had been used by European traders during the transatlantic slave trade. 

Sargeant was overcome with emotion by the conditions human beings were kept in from several days to months—small dark dungeons, without access to water or sanitation. Those who survived were loaded onto ships.

“It must have been a harrowing experience to go through,” he says.

Sargeant helped lay wreaths in honor of the victims at both locations. He was joined by Vanessa Johnson, associate professor in the Department of Applied Psychology at Northeastern; Richard O’Bryant, director of John D. O’Bryant African American Institute; and Régine Jean-Charles, director of Africana studies.

“That was a solemn moment,” Sargeant says. 

Alena Kuzub is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AlenaKuzub.