A Young Global Scholar explores entrepreneurship at Yale
Phyllis Mugadza ’21 B.S. says she wasn’t entirely familiar with the U.S. college experience when attending high school in Zimbabwe, but when she learned about the Yale Young African Scholars (YYAS) program, she applied and was accepted. “It was the first time I heard about the liberal arts,” Mugadza says. “It began my journey into American education.”
What started as an introduction to college-level courses by Yale professors in her home country led to matriculation at Yale — bringing her closer, each step of the way, to her dream of becoming an entrepreneur.
Following her experience with the YYAS, Mugadza applied for the Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS) program, an intensive, competitive summer enrichment program for promising high school students from over 125 countries. It was her first time traveling to the United States, and she says: “I fell in love with Yale, and the program. It was very diverse — there were people there from all over the world. They were very active in their communities, and they were very accomplished.” She chose a track in innovation and entrepreneurship, and over the course of the two-week program learned the language of entrepreneurship and was able to simulate building and running a startup.
YYGS is a pre-college program that serves 2,400 students over the course of 12 sessions. “It’s one of the most globally diverse summer programs in the world,” says Zeva Manvi, associate director of admissions at YYGS. “The idea is to bring together a group of high school students from around the world to tackle global issues and challenges, introduce them to premier lectures, and see what happens.” Applications for this summer’s program are now open, with an early action deadline of Nov. 12.
Like many alumni of the program, Mugadza applied to Yale. An important part of YYGS is exposing students to the college admissions process in order to improve their chances of getting into any top tier university — including Yale, where she was ultimately accepted. Of Yale’s 5,964 current undergraduates, around 300 are alumni of YYGS. Many of them, Mugadza among them, will go on to be ambassadors and instructors for future YYGS students.
“I’m currently helping 12 students from Zimbabwe with the college application process,” Mugadza says. “I’m trying to help make the American educational experience translatable.”
She’s also continued to explore the Yale entrepreneurship ecosystem — signing up for intensives at the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale (Tsai CITY) and attending a conference at Yale School of Management called PeriodCon around “the business of menstruation,” which inspired her first startup idea. She’s currently developing a product that uses acupressure to relive menstrual cramps. Her mentor, Alyssa Siefert ’11 M.S., ’12 M.Phil., ’15 Ph.D., a clinical data analyst at Foresite Capital, previously served as the engineering director for the Yale Center for Biomedical Innovation and Technology. “I’m trying to make a universal product,” says Mugadza, who is participating in Tsai CITY’s Accelerator Program to develop her venture.
Yale, she says, has given her the resources to follow her passion wherever it may lead. “Everything is very accessible,” she says.