By investing in entrepreneurship education, young people will gain the expertise and new ideas to allow them to become agents of change.

In an effort to increase the understanding of entrepreneurship and business education in the Arab world, the Coca-Cola Co. and the U.S. State Department are sponsoring 100 college students from across the Middle East and North Africa to study in a unique program at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.

Students will come in mid-June to IU Bloomington from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Morocco and Tunisia to learn about developing business plans, social entrepreneurship, nonprofit management and other topics.

After nearly four weeks at IU, they will compete in a team business plan competition, developing ideas for enterprises they can pursue upon their return home. After leaving Bloomington, they also will visit Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, Ga.

The curriculum for the Global Business Institute-Middle East North Africa has been tailored to meet the needs of the 61 men and 39 women in the program. All are currently enrolled college students in fields such as computer science, engineering, medicine and business and are between the ages of 18 and 24. All of them have ideas for starting businesses, which is how they were selected. More than 5,300 students applied for the program.

“Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business is pleased to collaborate with the Coca-Cola Company and the State Department to bring these students from the Middle East and North Africa to Bloomington during the summer of 2012,” said Dan Smith, dean of the Kelley School. “

As the premier entrepreneurship education institution, the Kelley School understands how critical entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial mindset are to creating a flourishing economy.

“Small and medium-sized businesses are the motor for local economies around the world, and these future enterprises in North Africa and the Middle East will be built by the young university students who are inspired to become their own CEOs,” Smith added.

The GBI-MENA program is another effort by the Kelley School’s Institute for International Business, which has been involved in social entrepreneurship projects in Malaysia, Barbados, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates and supports the internationalization of a plethora of academic programs.

“The Coca-Cola Company understands that for its business to be successful over the long term, the communities in which it operates need to be sustainable — sustainable economically, sustainable environmentally and with strong community support systems,” said Curt Ferguson, president of Coca-Cola Middle East and North Africa.

“The Coca-Cola Company seeks to empower the next generation of entrepreneurs from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, so that they can create the local companies and NGOs which will make tomorrow better in their own communities,” Ferguson added.

“The State Department is pleased to join hands with the Coca-Cola Company and Indiana University to develop a unique program to provide entrepreneurship education to college students from across the region during the summer of 2012,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman.

“By investing in entrepreneurship education, we hope that these young people will gain the expertise and new ideas to allow them to become agents of change and action when they return home to become tomorrow’s leaders and business executives.”

Another collaborator in the program is Partners for a New Beginning, an alliance of public-private partnerships that is committed to deepening engagement between the United States and local communities in the Arab world on issues of education, exchange, economic opportunity and science. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is Partners for a New Beginning’s chair.

While most faculty teaching in the program are from the Kelley School, it also will include those from IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the Maurer School of Law.

They will include Jeffery McMullen, an assistant professor of entrepreneurship who designed one of the first courses on social entrepreneurship in the country; Donald F. Kuratko, executive director of the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation; Feisal Istrabadi, university scholar in international law and diplomacy and director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East; and Sameeksha Desai, an assistant professor in SPEA and associate director of the Institute for Development Strategies.

In addition to the classroom education, students will work most evenings with faculty coaches, who will help them develop the feasibility studies for their business ideas. They also will visit several major Indiana-based companies and business incubators, as well as cultural and recreational sites that provide them with a better understanding of the U.S.

“There is great potential in this program for building some significant, long-term relationships,” said LaVonn Schlegel, the Institute for International Business’ managing director. “These students are going back into their home countries with new ideas and new energies. Our plans are to find ways to keep these relationships and networks going beyond the end of their time together at IU.

“My hope is that beginning with this first cohort, and all that follow, we will be creating long-lasting ties, and thus understanding, between these students and the people they come into contact with through GBI-MENA.”

Partners in the program expect that it will become an ongoing initiative each summer.