The American School in SwitzerlandThe American School in Switzerland
Rakhi Mehra on Social Enterprise and Discovering Purpose

Social entrepreneur Rakhi Mehra closed down the 2020–2021 TASIS Speaker Series with a virtual address to TASIS seniors on the evening of April 12. Entitled “Social Enterprise: Discovering Purpose in Life and Career,” Ms. Mehra’s inspiring presentation, which can be viewed in full above, outlined the journey that took her from a high school student in New Delhi who dreamed about swimming for India and becoming a fourth-generation chartered accountant to an Oxford- and Harvard-educated economist who has spent the past decade developing sustainable systems to improve the resilience of informal housing in developing countries.

After studying economics and business at University of Delhi, Oxford University, and Harvard Business School, Ms. Mehra was introduced to the work of 2006 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Professor Muhammad Yunus, whose pioneering Grameen Bank inspired her to dedicate her career to microfinance, a banking service provided to unemployed or low-income individuals or groups who otherwise would have no other access to financial services.

In 2009, Ms. Mehra co-founded mHS CITY LAB—a Delhi-based think tank and implementing organization that designs and pilots innovative scalable solutions to foster the development of resilient and inclusive cities—with her husband Marco Ferrario, an Italian architect she met in Bangladesh. Now living in Varese, Italy, with Marco and their two children, Ms. Mehra continues to run mHS CITY LAB remotely while also serving as a visiting professor at Franklin University and the Faculty Advisor for the Master’s Course on Responsible Leadership and Climate Action.

After discussing her personal journey, Ms. Mehra helped students understand the fundamental elements of social entrepreneurship, shared some of the lessons she’s learned after running an ambitious non-profit for more than ten years, and offered TASIS seniors four critical pieces of advice:

  • Challenge...yourself
  • Embrace...the unknown
  • Question...the status quo
  • And you will discover...your purpose

She then answered a handful of questions before thanking her audience for the opportunity to share her story and signing off for the evening.

TASIS Speaker Series Rakhi Mehra

Preceding Ms. Mehra in the 2020–2021 TASIS Speaker Series lineup were scholar Anna Kraczyna and author John Hooper, who spoke about the significance of Carlo Collodi's The Adventures of Pinocchio on October 14; local entrepreneurs Enrique Sanz and Mara Bertelli Sanz, who on November 16 discussed how they have spent the past decade working tirelessly to change Lugano's culture and ethos; and Mexican Supreme Court Justice Yasmín Esquivel Mossa, who delivered a virtual address entitled “Violence Against Women: A Global Vision” on the evening of February 17.

“In light of the many obstacles we’ve faced, I’m elated with how well this year’s Speaker Series went,” said English Department Chair Dr. Christopher Love, who has chaired the TASIS Speaker Series Committee since the fall of 2019. “I would like to thank all our speakers for sharing their inspiring stories with our students and all the faculty members, administrators, and students who worked tirelessly to ensure that this important TASIS tradition endured. I also would like to thank our senior class TASIS Speaker Series Committee members for all they did to make virtue of necessity this year. These students were wonderful.”

TASIS Speaker Series

The TASIS Speaker Series (TSS), formerly known as the Senior Humanities Program (SHP) and renamed in 2018 to more accurately reflect its present purpose, draws from five fundamental elements of the TASIS identity—truth, goodness, beauty, international understanding, and humanitarian action—to provide TASIS students with a signature educational experience.

The TSS Committee selects four speakers each year who embody the pillars of the program—with priority given to speakers who fulfill those virtues in some capacity. The Committee strives for a variety of voices, backgrounds, and professions represented in each year’s group but ultimately selects speakers on the basis of their ability to enhance the intellectual and moral experience of the outgoing seniors and the community as a whole.

Although the TSS focuses on students near the end of their TASIS careers, the program aspires to serve as an educative instrument for the entire division, creating opportunities for all High School students to interact with people and ideas of significance that are concerned with the world beyond the TASIS campus. Students enhance their intellectual experience through discussions, lectures, class visits, and film screenings centered on some combination of truth, goodness, beauty, international understanding, and humanitarian action. Above all else, the program conveys a clear message to students about what the School hopes for and expects from them after they leave TASIS.

The influential program was initially made possible by a CHF 100,000 donation from TASIS parents Michael and Jane Grindfors to The M. Crist Fleming Endowment for International Understanding and Leadership in 2008. It remains an integral part of a TASIS education thanks to ongoing support from the TASIS Board of Directors and the excellent behind-the-scenes work done by a dedicated group of students and faculty members.

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