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Feasibility Study | The Foundation | "Ashesi" | The Ashesi Seal

Ashesi was founded by Patrick Awuah, a Ghanaian who has spent over 15 years living and working in the United States. Awuah left Ghana in 1985 to attend Swarthmore College on a full scholarship, after which he worked for Microsoft Corporation as an engineer and a program manager for eight years. Experiencing firsthand the dramatic impact that education can have on one's life, Awuah embarked on a mission in 1997 to provide greater educational opportunities in Ghana. He enrolled in business school at the University of California at Berkeley's Haas School of Business, both to evaluate the feasibility of his goal and to gain a broader range of managerial skills with which to found and manage a university.

Feasibility Study
During the summer of 1998, a team of four MBA students from UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business traveled to Ghana to conduct extensive market research and evaluate the feasibility of establishing a new university. With the explicit goal of gathering statistically significant data to provide a strong foundation for business decisions, the team administered over 3,300 surveys to students and parents; conducted interviews and focus groups with parents, teachers and business leaders; and gathered secondary information from local and international sources. The result was a comprehensive feasibility study analyzing the Ghanaian tertiary education landscape by addressing both the demand and supply sides of the question of feasibility. (See our feasibility study feature for more details.)

The Foundation
Ashesi University Foundation was founded in August 1999 and is spearheaded by a well-qualified board of trustees and management governance whose efforts are complemented by advisory boards located in the US and Ghana. The US advisory board is currently comprised of 25 academic advisors from some of the highest-ranking institutions in the United States: Swarthmore College, UC Berkeley and University of Washington. The Ghanaian advisory board comprises academics and business leaders in Ghana. Ashesi's advisors have provided active input and guidance in our curriculum design process, and will continue to advise Ashesi on issues related to curriculum development, faculty and staff recruiting, exchange programs, and doing business in Ghana. To ensure that a rigorous academic standard is maintained, members of Ashesi's business advisory councils at UC Berkeley, University of Washington and Swarthmore College have agreed to serve as external examiners.

If there is anything you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.

These words by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe are the inspiration behind the university's name, Ashesi, which means "beginning" in Akan, a native Ghanaian language. Ashesi's founder, Patrick Awuah, first read Goethe's words at a time when he was still questioning the wisdom of undertaking such an ambitious project. Encouraged by Goethe's words, he began by undertaking a feasibility study of his idea. Clarifying the risks and issues at hand helped Awuah shed his reservations until one day he realized that he had lost his hesitation and had become very committed to this project. He then realized, "This really is the beginning!" But the name Ashesi is not only about its founder's inspiration. It is also about providing a new beginning for every student who comes to Ashesi. And about building an institution that reinvents itself to fit the changing needs of society, one that grows by replicating itself throughout Ghana and Africa.

The Ashesi Seal

The Ashesi logo, a hand drawn symbol, borrows from the tradition of "Adinkra design", used by the Akan people of Ghana to embody their knowledge, their moral and ethical beliefs, and their history.

Ashesi's mark is a visual representation of Ashesi's mission. The lower part of the Ashesi mark is in the shape of a stool whose support structure consists of three pillars. These correspond to Ashesi's core values of scholarship, leadership and citizenship. Stools hold significant cultural meaning for the Akan people of Ghana. (Visit the Marshall University - Akan Cultural Symbols project site for more information about Akan art. Also see the Akan Wood Carvings page for information about the cultural significance of stools.) The circle above the stool depicts a morning sun and symbolized a new beginning. It is also the center of an eye, which symbolizes intellectual exploration and discovery. At a distance, the mark as a whole resembles a person standing under a roof, reflecting Ashesi's focus on the people in and around its community: students, teachers, parents and members of the broader society.

Ashesi's seal is imprinted with two additional characters in the rim of the seal. The crisscrossed symbol seen on the left side of the seal is called dagaz, which means day in the Runic alphabet, and is believed to have been developed by the peoples of Northern Europe in the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. It is a symbol of light, discovery and success. The circular symbol featured on the seal's right side is an Adinkra symbol from Ghana. It is called adinkrahene, which means highest, best, or king, and is a symbol of excellence.

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