Nikita Mishin: From the Boardroom to the Classroom

How did Nikita Mishin go from the boardroom to the classroom?

Nikita Mishin’s Early Life and Influences

As a young boy growing up in a modest part of Moscow, Nikita Mishin witnessed firsthand the transformative power of extraordinary teachers in raising their students’ aspirations beyond their challenging circumstances. This experience kindled a lifelong passion for learning in Mishin and a determination to extend educational opportunities to those in need. Even as he forged a successful career in logistics, Mishin never relinquished his dream of educational philanthropy. He established an educational foundation in 2005 and opened a school in 2017. Having sold his stake in Globaltrans, the freight-rail company he co-founded, Mishin is now dedicated entirely to education.

The Importance of Education

Mishin recognized early on that education is essential not just for enlightenment but for securing meaningful employment. As a teenager, he earned pocket money by freelancing articles for local newspapers, blending his love of language with a budding entrepreneurial spirit.

Academic Pursuits During Perestroika

During the transformative perestroika era of the late 1980s, Mishin earned admission to the prestigious Moscow State University. There, he studied philosophy, listening to communist professors critique history’s great thinkers even as the university welcomed Western intellectuals like Jacques Derrida. It was an exhilarating time to be a young Russian intellectual.

Transition to Logistics and Entrepreneurship

Upon graduating, Mishin faced the practical need to support his new family amid the collapsing Soviet Union. Though his degree qualified him for a career in academia, he prioritized making a living. To that end, he took a job with a shipping company, managing stevedores, which led him into the logistics industry. The nascent Russian Federation, with its wealth of assets but lack of market expertise, offered ample opportunities for self-starters like Mishin and his college friends.

Seizing Opportunities in a Changing Economy

They saw inefficiencies in the old centralized system, such as steel mills being mandated to send their products to designated ports regardless of efficiency. Acting as intermediaries, Mishin and his friends facilitated the transport of goods by rail to more efficient ports for export.

Balancing Business and Philanthropy

Though business thrived, Mishin found little time for his philanthropic aspirations. “I physically had no time to develop my thoughts in educational philanthropy,” he said. “But I was never absolutely happy being just an entrepreneur. I wanted to do something else with my life.”

Founding Global Ports and Globaltrans

Mishin and his partners established logistics companies Global Ports and Globaltrans, investing in port facilities and rolling stock. Globaltrans had a $450 million IPO on the London Stock Exchange in 2008, followed by Global Ports’ $588 million IPO in 2011.

A Shift in Focus to Education

As his businesses matured and his wealth increased, Mishin finally had the breathing room to refocus on educationHe envisioned a new type of school in Moscow, one based on respect for students, accessible to all who are qualified, and committed to innovative teaching methods to achieve high academic standards. He enlisted a trusted friend from his school days and other top educators to realize this vision.

Building the New School

“We pulled together an A-Team,” Mishin said.

Creating such a school took time – from site selection to permitting and appointing a headmaster. Meanwhile, Mishin established the Dar Charity Foundation to manage his educational philanthropy, funding programs in Russia, Africa, Europe, and beyond. This foundation gained recognition in the philanthropic world.

Inauguration of New School

In 2017, New School was ready to open. Just before its inauguration, the headmaster invited Mishin to visit and handed him a paintbrush. To foster teamwork among the new faculty, they painted classrooms together. 

It was a great idea,” Mishin recalled, “and I still regularly see some of the people I painted with that day.”

High Demand and Accessibility

New School quickly met a high demand, receiving nearly 800 applications for 48 spots in its entry-level class in its second year. Demand remains high, with about 600 applicants each year. Fees are kept low, approximately half of what other Russian private schools charge, to attract a diverse student body on a needs-blind basis—Dar ensures that accepted students have their fees covered.

Expanding the Vision Internationally

The success of New School demonstrated the appeal of Mishin’s concept. When some faculty moved to Montenegro, they established a kindergarten based on the same principles, which quickly gained popularity.

Internationally, Dar’s ethos—that education fuels life—guides its mission to help students discover their paths, regardless of their circumstances. Dar is organizing travelling groups of teachers to conduct short-term math camps in Africa and other regions, to create an elite community atmosphere like the famous British private academies.

Innovative Teaching Methods

Mishin frequently attends New School classes online and has enjoyed seeing students become engaged in re-enacting various famous parties in some of the world’s most famous conflicts, such as the Persians vs. the Macedonians in the Battle of Granicus.

Future Aspirations

“There is a clear demand for educational alternatives that are highly engaging for the student body, with a welcome and compassionate atmosphere,” Mishin says. “We look forward to all the opportunities we have to grow this initiative and bring more students along on the journey.”

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