WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – A group of more than a dozen students and faculty members from Wake Forest University and the Babcock Graduate School of Management spent the past week trying to make a difference in and around the capital of Nicaragua.
|AUDIO Students Team Up with Nicaraguan Entrepreneurs – 88.5 WFDD's LeShea Agnew discusses the group's most recent trip to Central America with MBA students Megan Glaser and Jayson Johnson, two of the leaders of the ongoing Nicaragua Project.|
The trip was the third in a year made by Babcock students, and was part of the school’s ongoing Nicaragua Project to help improve the impoverished area’s stagnant economy. The students hosted a small-business seminar for both business owners and would-be business owners, and they also worked directly with the students and teacher of a local vocational school.
The 14 students on the trip split into two groups. One group conducted a two-day business seminar for small- to medium-sized businesses in and around Managua and spent a day visiting several small–business owners in their stores: a carpenter, a belt maker, a seamstress and two shoemakers. “It was great for all of us to visit and see exactly the environment that the businesses were in,” said Jayson Johnson, who was a first-time visitor and seminar leader.
The other group worked with students of a blacksmithing vocational school who hope one day to have their own businesses. There was evidence on this trip that the Nicaragua Project is growing. “There was more demand for seats than we could satisfy,” said Cameron Carter, another first-timer who has been pegged as a future leader of the project. “We’re beginning to explore ways to expand our capacity.”
Megan Glaser, an MBA student with a concentration in consulting, was one of the Dec. 9-16 trip’s organizers as well as one of the project’s founding members. When she graduates in the spring, she and the project’s other student leaders will hand over the reins to four students who went on the most recent trip for the first time and plan to return during spring break 2008. “Every time we bring new people, they come up with new ideas,” she said.
Joining two members from the Master of Arts in Management program, four first-year MBAs and eight second-year MBAs were Babcock faculty members Sherry Moss, and Charles Iacovou and his wife, Paula Newell. Also participating in the trip were Babcock’s Board of Visitors Chairman Tom Dingledine (MBA ’78), and the University’s Associate Provost for International Affairs Kline Harrison and Associate Provost for Academic Initiatives Michele Gillespie.
“I have always considered that teaching people was a way of helping them indirectly,” said Moss, associate professor of organizational studies. “We definitely accomplished that in our seminar. We gave them tools, which if applied to their businesses, will help them to improve and provide a better life for their families. It will be up to them to apply what we gave them, hence the term ‘indirect.’ However, it appears that our seminar can also have a more direct and profound effect on individuals and can actually change their lives.”
The students visiting for the first time were especially affected by what they found at La Chureca, the Managua city dump, where children and their families live amid burning trash heaps and scavenge what they can to survive. The group gave the children new toys that had been donated for the trip.
“The most amazing thing is that they are happy,” Glaser said. “You don’t feel threatened. It’s quite an experience. If someone in the U.S. was to walk into a low socio-economic area, I don’t think they would feel safe.”
More than 30 individuals at Babcock are currently working on the project that was started in the fall of 2006 by several Babcock students who wanted to make a difference. The students’ first trip to Nicaragua to visit the Missionary Ventures International (MVI) Vocational School was in December 2006; the second trip was in the spring of this year.
The project not only supports the sustainability of businesses, it is a good example of it, according to Moss. “The students who originally started the project have put together a way of bringing in the new people and having them lead the next trip,” she added. “They have developed a model of sustainability.”
For more information about the Nicaragua Project, visit www.mba.wfu.edu/nicaragua.