Twenty two socially conscious MBA and undergraduate students and two professors in the School of Business are headed to Honduras on March 6 as part of a growing trend to support under-resourced businesses in developing countries and frontier markets. The purpose is to improve the welfare of citizens in impoverished countries by giving financial resources and sharing business practices in order to sustain their small agricultural businesses. To follow their daily activities, visit http://blogs.cofc.edu/microfinancebrigadesb/.
The group will join seven students from Yale University as part of the Global Brigades Micro-finance organization. Global Brigades provides the infrastructure and planning that enable students, faculty and professionals to participate in micro-finance learning trips.
Dr. Rhonda Mack, Dr. Rene Mueller, and Dr. Jocelyn Evans went to Honduras in early January to visit El Zuzular, the same remote, coffee-growing region in the Honduran Mountains where the students are headed next week. The purpose was to scope out the work of the Global Brigades and determine how our business students could actively engage in the work.
The School of Business began its micro-finance student club last semester which serves as a training ground for their trip to Honduras.
Dr. Jocelyn Evans, chair of the economics and finance department, and Dr. Jesus Sandoval-Hernandez, visiting professor in economics and international studies, an expert in Latin American studies and advisor for the trip, will join the students.
To build their awareness and understanding, students have read Portfolio of the Poor, a book that explains how impoverished people can live on less than $2 per day. The book combines academic research and real-world scenarios of how people living at such low wages can repay loans.
Over the past five months, students learned about the economic, social and cultural facets of Honduras and how banking practices in a developing country are different from the U.S. and other industrialized nations. Through a series of lectures, guest speakers and a local, hands-on, micro-lending project for a small business owner in North Charleston, students are ready to apply their business skills for villagers.
The goal is to help build or expand small coffee bean ventures by teaching different sales, pricing and distribution strategies to owners. The students are required to deliver a presentation in Spanish to the Honduran villagers at an education level that the locals will comprehend.
Dr. Sandoval-Hernandez has helped ensure that the students tailor their presentation, fliers, and loan applications to the cultural and business needs of the villagers.
A $750 fee is required of each student, of which $100 will be pooled with the other student fees. Collectively, the students will determine how to best fund the local businesses. A portion of the $2,900 collected will given to the local village “caja” or bank where each family or business owner can apply for a loan to grow coffee crops.
Enriched Academic Experience
The experiential learning trip blends the School of Business’s increased emphasis on global curriculum and the College’s liberal arts tradition. It offers a well-rounded educational opportunity to ultimately make more socially responsible business leaders.
Undergraduate business students will earn credit for an interdisciplinary course in humanities and emerging markets. Students will examine, analyze and relate the effectiveness of micro-lending agencies within the cultural context of Honduras.
“Finance students learn valuation and economic development in the classroom,” says Dr. Evans. “Our trip to Honduras will allow them to apply their knowledge in meaningful, tangible ways. It also builds their professional skills that position them for job opportunities after graduation, particularly with major financial institutions such as Citibank, Wells Fargo and the World Bank that fund projects and organizations on a global scale within their micro-lending divisions.”
This experiential learning opportunity is partially funded by a US Department of Education, Title VIB grant.
To learn more about Global Brigades, go to http://globalbrigades.org.
Preparing for the Trip