Santa Clara University

Santa Clara Magazine

A capital idea

Business undergrads travel to El Salvador to see impact of student-organized microloan

By Anne Federwisch

Kyle Ozawa with boy

Kyle Ozawa with Manuel, one of the boys in the village of Santa Maria de la Esperanza
Photo: Kyle Ozawa

It’s one thing for business students to learn about globalization in the classroom. It’s quite another for them to go out and see it for themselves. In March, a group of business majors from Santa Clara University spent their coveted spring break week in El Salvador learning about the country’s economic circumstances on the school’s first immersion trip designed especially for business majors.

The undergrads are granting a zero-interest microloan to a cooperative in El Salvador that harvests organic fruit and vegetables. The loan will be used for the construction of a handmade irrigation system. While visiting, the students stayed with community members and learned how the loan is affecting the cooperative’s produce business.

They wanted to see firsthand how “finance can make a difference in the way people live their lives,” said senior Kyle Ozawa, a marketing major and one of the founders of the trip.

Ozawa and classmate Sam Baker took the initiative to organize the business-focused trip after noticing that they were among the few business majors on other immersion trips. They felt that their classmates were missing out on an opportunity. Instead of merely associating cold, hard statistics with issues of poverty, free trade, and globalization, they could connect them with the people they met on their journeys.

“You actually associate human faces with these numbers. At least for me personally, that really changed the way that I view the world,” Ozawa said. The trip was led by John Toppel, executive in residence at Santa Clara’s Leavey School of Business and former executive at Hewlett-Packard. Thirteen students participated in the program, which took students to El Salvador from March 22 to 29.

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