“It has always been my greater mission to get into places where, on paper, I don’t belong, and then bring other people with me.”
Daisy Magnus-Aryitey (’20 MEITE) entered the UNC School of Education’s Master of Arts in Educational Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship (MEITE) program with a goal to help to dismantle systematic racism within education and technology. Now a graduate of the program, the Moise A. Khayrallah Fellow has published a research paper, spoken at conferences, and secured a job that helps make that goal a reality.
Before coming to Carolina, Magnus-Aryitey earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Rutgers University, and after seven years as a stay-at-home mom, she decided to pursue a new career path. She enrolled in a class at Code the Dream, a nonprofit that teaches students from diverse backgrounds the technical skills needed to launch a career in coding, and within a year, she was working as a full-time software developer at Duke University. Not long after, she returned to Code the Dream as its director of programs.
“Code the Dream was the first time that I was in a class with all people of color,” said Magnus-Aryitey. “And trying to navigate into the workforce as a fully-formed adult and as a Black woman gave me a lot of understanding around equitable practices.”
“We need as many people thinking innovatively as possible.”
Inspired by seeing her children grow and develop and by her time at Code the Dream, Magnus-Aryitey enrolled in the MEITE program. The program, which provided her flexibility and the tools to create innovative solutions to problems of inequality, has enabled her to pioneer a new career on her own terms.
“People think that innovation is just magical thinking, a fever dream, or a great idea that springs out of nowhere, but the MEITE program is actionable,” she said. “It deviates from that idea of innovation stemming from the brain of only wealthy or very-educated people — helping us see that innovation exists everywhere and we need only tap into it in order to better our society.”
While in the program, Magnus-Aryitey discovered Ice House, an entrepreneurship education program developed by The Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative (ELI), a global organization that works to instill an entrepreneurial mindset. The program is based on the story of a sharecropper in 1950s Mississippi who goes on to own the town’s only ice house, demonstrating how the everyday person becomes an entrepreneur.
“Ice House develops the entrepreneurial mindset in every community and age group with the knowledge that in order for us to tackle these really difficult problems that we are facing as a generation, we need as many people thinking innovatively as possible,” she said.
Currently, Magnus-Aryitey is the program director for the Ice House Entrepreneurship Initiative at NC Idea, a private foundation leading efforts to dismantle systemic racism around entrepreneurship. Their goal is to make North Carolina the number one place in the country for Black entrepreneurs by providing competitive grants and programs that help individuals at all stages of business development.
“I am constantly reflecting on my coursework from the MEITE program.”
The Ice House Entrepreneurship program opened Magnus-Aryitey’s eyes to all the ways that she had been thinking entrepreneurially in her own life, specifically her journey of immigrating to the U.S. from Ghana when she was four years old.
“As a child, I was always having to learn how to navigate a system that wasn’t made for me,” she said. “That took a lot of entrepreneurial-minded thinking. Reflecting on that sparked the idea that if I can be an entrepreneur, who are the other people that can do this and just don’t know it yet?”
With this question at the forefront of her mind, Magnus-Aryitey worked with two fellow MEITE classmates, Joel Wrights and Taylor Brown, to create a product called Future Bosses, a mobile app that aims to create entrepreneurial self-efficacy within middle school girls of color.
“Our goal was to empower these children by giving them access to entrepreneurs that looked like them and were from their own community with the hope to inspire them to see entrepreneurship as a viable career goal,” she said.
For Magnus-Aryitey, the MEITE program was the right one for the right time, providing knowledge and tools that enable her to bring an entrepreneurial mindset to Black communities in North Carolina.
“While working, I am constantly reflecting on my coursework from the MEITE program,” Magnus-Aryitey said. “It really is a degree of the times, which has prepared me to continue to work in spaces that assure everyone has access to the tools they need to succeed in the era we are in.”