A Kosovo connection

by Lindsay Lennon,

Willamette MBA alumni lend business expertise to reinvigorate a Kosovo high school.

Arben-KachanolliUpon returning to his native country of Kosovo after graduating from the Willamette University MBA program, Arben Kacanolli MBA’16 immediately used his education to enhance the education of others.

In July and August of 2016, Kacanolli (pictured) completed 200 volunteer hours with Prishtina High School as a marketing and finance consultant. His accomplishments included the development of a marketing strategy as well as a 2017 fiscal budget design, both of which the school sorely needed help with in the face of declining enrollments.

“Prishtina High School is one of the two American schools operating in Kosovo and before I joined it was going through difficulties,” says Kacanolli. “It had lost about 30 percent of its students, who had moved to other schools.”

Classmates work to turn ailing school around

Together with fellow alum Fitim Selimi MBA’16, Kacanolli launched a multifaceted marketing campaign “strengthening the school’s brand and increasing the number of new students to levels even higher than before,” he said. As far as his finance work, Kacanolli says his assistance with drafting the budget for the following fiscal year has contributed to the school’s improved financial health, though he mainly credits the school’s new management for its recent positive changes.

“The school is now performing well financially, and the future seems exciting,” says Kacanolli.

Kacanolli learned of Prishtina High School from his classmate Selimi, and as part of a scholarship granted by USAID and the Kosovan government, he is part of “a team of volunteers that [bring] skills and experience gained in the U.S. to areas where it is most needed.”

“We thought it would be interesting to join together and help the school in some areas that were considered critical for future success,” says Kacanolli.

Willamette MBA laid foundation for the work

“My experience at Willamette University was most helpful with integrating different fields in tackling multi-dimensional problems,” says Kacanolli. “Teamwork and lessons learned in PACE (Practical Application for Careers and Enterprises) and marketing classes, as well as the experiences I had in different classes for two years with Michael Dothan, helped a lot with planning and implementing strategies.”

kosovo-mapKacanolli says his volunteer job with Prishtina was his first endeavor upon returning to Kosovo from Willamette, and that the work helped to familiarize him with the environment and stakeholders of the country that will impact his professional future there. A small nation of about 1.8 million people, what makes Kosovo truly unique is its young population – the youngest in all of Europe, with 70 percent of residents under the age of 35, Kacanolli says.

“It has been a donor-driven country for many years, but for the last few years … professional service sectors have emerged and are increasing the employment, though at a slow rate,” says Kacanolli. As his focus at Willamette was finance and investment, opportunities in this field in Kosovo are “very limited, almost nonexistent.”

Currently, Kacanolli works for Management Developments Associates (MDA), a local consultancy where he is engaged in a development project called Enhancing Youth Employment (EYE). As a private sector development specialist, Kacanolli is coordinating a consortium between MDA and development organization Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation as part of the EYE project. He hopes to soon be engaged in the financial management side of the organization, as well.

Kacanolli is also studying for the Chartered Financial Analyst exam, and will be taking it this June in the U.S., he says.

Before arriving at Willamette to earn his MBA, Kacanolli studied management and economics in Kosovo at the University of Prishtina.

Lindsay Lennon is a freelance writer and content marketing specialist.