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Clinton Global Initiative Features UST MicroCredit

They’ve seen the pictures before — images of microfinance beneficiaries and projects around the world — but as four University of St. Thomas MicroCredit Program Student Board members watched a slideshow of those familiar photos before an audience at the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U), suddenly, the summation of three years of hard work came into view.

“Here at UST, we are all so focused on the details to make each project move forward that we don’t see the bigger picture,” said Hiba Haroon, “When we were being featured at CGI U, we saw all that we have accomplished. It was neat to take a step back and see ourselves from the audience perspective.”

Haroon, Joseph Konkel, Thomas Barnes and Michael Black represented the UST MicroCredit Program (MCP) at the Clinton Global Initiative at the University of Miami from April 16-18. Each year, CGI U hosts a meeting of nearly 1,500 students, national youth organizations and university officials to discuss solutions to pressing global issues.

In their second year to attend CGI U, University of St. Thomas MicroCredit was named a “featured commitment.” A video highlighting UST MCP was shown at the poverty alleviation workshops. Of nearly 1,000 commitments, only about 20 were featured. The students were presented a certificate by actress Heather Graham.

The UST Micro Credit Program is a student-operated academic program that provides impoverished individuals around the world with starting loans to launch income-generating businesses. The interest-free loans provided by the program help these entrepreneurs become self-reliant while promoting principles of freedom, fairness, and democracy and integrate the Catholic values of the University of St. Thomas.

  • In only three years, The MicroCredit Program (MCP) has dispatched loans to more than 550 beneficiaries around the world.
  • Loans are completely funded through donations and fundraising events organized by UST students.
  • MCP is actively making a difference through projects in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, Pakistan and Chile. Future projects are planned in Turkey.

This year, students at CGIU made approximately 1,000 new Commitments to Action, and universities and national youth organizations made 60 new commitments. A Commitment to Action is a concrete, measurable plan to make the world a better place. The commitments made by universities and organizations will be worth approximately $42 million when fully funded, and will improve the lives of more than 290,000 people.

"Clinton Global Initiative University members have shown that a few people can make a tremendous difference in the world," President Bill Clinton said. "Whether they are distributing microloans, building community gardens, or teaching children about nutrition, the students here are dedicated to expanding opportunity for others. I hope that, when they return home, they will inspire others to follow their examples."

The UST MCP students commented that being featured at the poverty alleviation workshop raised a considerable amount of interest among their peers.

“After seeing our program presentation, people would come straight to us to learn from our know-how and expertise in microfinance in the developing world,” said Konkel, who serves as UST MCP president.

Haroon said they encountered people who were interested in pursuing future collaborations with UST MCP. On several occasions, Haroon recalled larger universities with more established programs being impressed with how much UST has accomplished in only three years.

“What struck me about CGIU was there were a lot of people who did projects like our projects, but nothing at the scale of what we do,” Barnes said.

Haroon said UST students, who have studied international studies in depth, seemed to have an advantage over other groups who were still struggling with concepts which UST students learn in class.

“I really came to appreciate the knowledge we already have from studying international studies at UST,” Haroon said. “So many other people were asking us questions about getting started in microfinance and cultural barriers that we took for granted because we already knew it from class.”

Learn more about the MicroCredit Program.