Start Center - Strategic Analysis, Research & Training Center
START Center



This spring, three Global Innovation Fellows graduated from the Strategic Analysis, Research & Training (START) Center’s training program, all of whom also completed their MBA from the Foster School of Business this June.


Below, learn more about our impressive graduates and the work they completed while engaged with START.



Before Rachel began working with the START Center, she worked in advocacy and fundraising at the Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington, D.C., and as a consultant and project manager at Vera Solutions, building technology solutions for nonprofits. Rachel became a Global Innovation Fellow in her second year as an MBA Candidate at the Foster School of Business.


Rachel worked on two projects, described below, during her one-year engagement with START, providing her respective teams with strategic support through a business lens.


  • Senegal Fact Base project – the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s (BMGF) Africa Team is developing an advocacy strategy that enables them to operate without an office or presence. As Senegal represents an important country for the foundation, the START team was tasked with identifying key stakeholders and focus areas within Senegal to engage. Using the Plan for an Emerging Senegal (PES), the overarching policy framework laying out Senegal’s target projects and goals until 2035, the START team identified six focus areas (WASH, Family Planning, Gender Equality, Malaria, UHC, and Agriculture) to further investigate.
  • Children’s HeartLink Program Development for Scaling project– the team explored CHL’s current model and processes. Through a series of stakeholder interviews with CHL staff, volunteers, and partners, START identified barriers and facilitators that both challenge and support current operations and the potential to scale.

Rachel’s knowledge of business fundamentals was a valuable resource for her cross-discipline project teams. Utilizing Rachel’s business lens strengthened her project teams’ methodologies and deliverables. Rachel graduated with her MBA degree in June and joined PwC’s management consulting line of service as a Senior Associate in the technology sector.



Before joining the START Center, Darya worked as a project officer at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). Darya was a Global Innovation Fellow for two years at the START Center while she was an MBA Candidate at the Foster School of Business.


Darya worked on five projects during her two-year engagement with START, providing her respective teams with her perspective from her extensive experience in project management within the life sciences and public health arenas. Below are highlights from two of the projects on which Darya worked:


  • Chatbots for Diagnostic and Laboratory Services project – Darya and her team conducted a landscape analysis of chatbots for health with a focus on their usage and applicability in sub-Saharan Africa. Chatbots are artificial intelligence systems that users interact with via texts and voice interfaces. The START team made recommendations around what should be considered when investing in chatbots for use in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Access to Essential Medicines Business Cases project – PATH’s Access to Essential Medicines Initiative prioritizes medicines on WHO’s Model List of Essential Medicines. PATH engaged the START team to research three country-specific business cases focused on ORS/Zinc and simvastatin in Kenya and misoprostol in Ghana. Respectively, these essential medicines treat diarrheal disease, high cholesterol, and postpartum hemorrhage, three prevalent causes of death globally. The research shed light on facilitators and barriers to the implementation of scale-up for each medicine in the specified location.

Darya graduated with her MBA degree in June and is exploring opportunities in consulting, project management or, business development for a start-up company.




Afa started his career as a quality and manufacturing engineer at Leland International, a furniture manufacturing company based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He went on to join the Office for Nigerian Content Development, a governmental organization focused on writing and regulating policies and regulations to spur the Information & Communication Technology sector within Nigeria. He joined the START Center as a Global Innovation Fellow in his second year as an MBA Candidate at the Foster School of Business.


Afa worked on four projects during his one-year engagement with START, providing his respective teams with strategic support through a business lens. Learn more about two of these projects below:

  • Africa Networks project – Afa’s team conducted desk research on four categories identified by the client: leadership, sector-specific, professional and consumer. The goal of the project was to provide recommendations for networks that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Africa Team could leverage in sub-Saharan Africa where the Foundation has limited presence. The START team synthesized search findings in an excel file listing sixty-three relevant networks across the four categories prioritized by the client. The document was organized by high, medium, and low level of importance and provided snapshot information on each network, including mission, membership, evidence of impact, and geographic reach.
  • Family Planning Training in Crisis Settings project – the team reviewed published and grey literature and consulted field experts in family planning, emergency response, and mobile health to evaluate the current landscape of training for family planning in crisis settings. The team then identified opportunities for growth and improvement.

While working with START, Afa learned about various topics in global health while flexing his strong team building skills. After graduating in June with his MBA degree, Afa will be joining the Wholesale Business Operations team at T-Mobile as a Partner Account Manager.


These three graduates will continue to engage with START’s extensive alumni network, established in 2011. START often invites alumni to share their experiences after graduating from the training program at all-team meetings and, additionally, taps into the alumni network for content expertise on projects. The alumni network is comprised of highly skilled START graduate professionals employed in global health, business, and consulting across disciplines.