General News

CMU students travel to Latin American to research microfinance

Students from CMU’s Redekop School of Business (RSB) have just returned home from the first RSB study tour to Latin America.

From April 29 to May 13, six students and a supervising professor traveled to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic to explore how microfinance—providing small loans and financial services to the economically poor—is being used to fight poverty.

“It’s exciting to see the students experience first-hand how their business skills can be used overseas in non-traditional ways,” says Jeff Huebner, Associate Professor of International Business who led the tour.

RSB business students Lauren Cassie and Joni Sawatzky with a MiCredito loan client

Before leaving Winnipeg, the students spent four months studying microfinance and writing research consulting reports for two partner organizations operating in Latin America, MEDA/MiCredito and HOPE International.

 They presented their research to the staff of these organizations, visited microenterprise clients and loan group meetings, and learned about the challenges and opportunities of doing business and development abroad.

“Textbooks just don’t convey stories as well as standing face-to-face with actual people in the story,” says Lauren Cassie, a fourth-year business major from Lorette, Manitoba.

For Cassie, a highlight of the study tour was making the connection between her classroom learning and the outside world.

“Visiting with individual clients and hearing how they had been personally impacted by the microfinance loans was awesome.”

Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) is one of the organizations RSB has partnered with, through their affiliate MiCredito in Nicaragua.

“We’re delighted to see some of today’s best and brightest young people get a firsthand exposure to a microfinance institution in action,” says Bob Kroeker, MEDA regional director of resource development.

“This gives us a chance to introduce a new generation to the impact of creating business solutions to poverty.”

RSB offers study tours annually that are open to students, CMU alumni and supporters. Next year’s study tour will be to Europe in May 2014, with the theme of Business in the European Union.

Janessa Klassen, Jeff Huebner, MiCredito loan client with his family, Rony Doerksen, and Ethan Heidebrecht in Nicaragua