Social Entrepreneurship Program Provides Life Lessons Abroad
Contributor: Mike Cahill, Accounting Graduate Student
The Social Entrepreneurship Program at NIU is the perfect fit for any business student with aspirations to help make the world a better place. The mission of the Program is to show students how they can apply their business skillset to solve the world's problems. Participating in the Social Entrepreneurship Program was one of the best choices I made as an undergraduate in the College of Business because it really helped broaden my horizons. Learning from real world examples is what I like most about the classes in the Program.
This past November, I enrolled in MGMT 411 - Microfinance as part of the Social Entrepreneurship Program. The class was unique in that it was a small group, (only about 10 students) and very discussion-based. We were assigned case studies to develop our knowledge of the topic, and at the end of the semester we participated in a 4-day microfinance study abroad trip to Punta Mita, Mexico.
The trip to Mexico, led by NIU College of Business Instructor Dennis Barsema, was a tremendous experience. We met over a dozen micro entrepreneurs who were clients of a local Microfinance Institution (MFI) in Punta Mita. An MFI provides loans and other financial services to the poor, or people who would not otherwise have access to such services. The loans enable micro entrepreneurs to start businesses in their villages, and the earnings from these businesses allow the entrepreneur to earn a sustainable wage. The experiences interacting with the MFI clients allowed the class to see first-hand the powerful impact that access to capital can have on improving the lives of the poor.
The trip really brought the class to life. It was inspirational to hear the unique stories of each of the micro entrepreneurs. Every so often I stop to think about the micro entrepreneurs that I met, and about all of the hardships that they face on an everyday basis. It is extremely humbling and makes me thankful for all of the opportunities I am blessed with as an American. I now think more critically about global issues and have a new sense of social responsibility.
One of my fellow classmates summed it up best by saying, "We (Americans) have so much and give so little, where they have so little and give so much." In the future, I hope to use what I have learned in my Social Entrepreneurship classes to help make the world a better place.