One is from St. John’s, the other is from Niagara. Both go beyond the classroom to show how a Vincentian education is about more than just preparation for a job. One story is about how business principles can help people out of poverty. The other broadens their vision of the collaboration for building peace and harmony.
Discovering the Vincentian Mission through micro-financing
For many students (and others) microfiance is a new concept. As is the Vincentian Mission. At SJU students are not only discovering two new concepts but they are also discovering the connection between them.
GLOBE, a program founded by respected St. John’s professor, Linda Sama, teaches students to start thinking about business as a positive vehicle for social change.The program was founded by Linda M. Sama, Ph.D. She wanted to strengthen the impact that business principles and Vincentian values have on her students’ lives. She chose a hands-on approach.
“After 20 years, I felt the need to stop merely writing about social issues and do something about them…I wanted to get students to start thinking about business as a positive vehicle for social change– that would have a greater impact than just writing an article in an ethics journal.”
She seems to succeed admirably. In the semester-long class, students get the opportunity to manage a project that provides microloans, small sums of money lent at a low interest rate to a new business, to entrepreneurs living in poverty around the world. GLOBE students learn about microfinance and social entrepreneurship, and perform hands-on work in task-based teams that brings what they learn and receive in the classroom to life.
The loans are sourced through donations; members of GLOBE are assisted by the Daughters of Charity, whose mission includes identifying those in their communities who want loans to start new small businesses, expand existing ones. Those seeking funds to either make repairs to infrastructure that houses a business, or to purchase transportation to their place of work are also eligible.
Borrowers understand that by paying back the money, they are helping their communities and learn about the obligations that come with a loan so that later on, as they go on to a more established microlending institution for a loan, they know what to expect.
A rare global event focused on understanding
As religious intolerance continues to grow across the globe, 10 Niagara University students took advantage of an opportunity to experience the realities involved with, and to gain further understanding of, current efforts and issues in interreligious relations at the Parliament of the World’s Religions (PoWR).
For only the 7th time in 135 years, this year’s parliament brought together more than 8,300 people from 81 countries and more than 200 unique religious, spiritual and ethical traditions. It focused on how to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.
“Attending the parliament gave these students a broader perspective and understanding of the Roman Catholic view of the beliefs held by others,” said the Rev. Joseph Hubbert, C.M., who teaches the course. “In keeping with Niagara University’s Vincentian mission, the trip also provided evidence of the ways the parliament seeks to take action in concern for the poor and suffering of the world.”