|University of St. Thomas Professor Inspires Students to Help Eradicate Global Poverty|
When Dr. Rogelio Garcia-Contreras teaches his classes, he can see the frustration in his students’ eyes.
His message is urgent. The University of St. Thomas assistant professor in the International Studies Department teaches about the weakest voices on the planet – those living on $2 or less a day.
The most frustrated students want to do something – and Garcia-Contreras can channel their desire into helping people through the UST Center for International Studies MicroCredit Program. Through the program, the student board members and student volunteers review loan requests – from $25 to $150 – received from aspiring entrepreneurs around the globe. In its second year, the program has distributed 72 loans in 22 countries.
Through www.Kiva.com, a San Francisco web-based nonprofit that spotlights the needs of small entrepreneurs around the world, the students select loan candidates, primarily women, who have the responsibility for the entire household.
Dr. Mohammed Yunus, the Bangladesh economist who became the 2006 Nobel Peace laureate for pioneering the world’s first microcredit bank, helped launch the Center’s first loan while visiting Houston in January 2007: $100 to help a woman from Peru purchase a mixer to enlarge her inventory of baked goods to sell. She recently made her first repayment to UST.
Garcia-Contreras says work is under way for the Center’s next project in the Mayan community of Petac, Mexico, where students are developing a business plan for organic honey production to benefit local potential entrepreneurs.
In class, Garcia-Contreras not only relates stories of the world’s poorest people, but also reminds students that they are the globe’s most privileged minority – those acquiring a university education – and reminds them that “privilege means responsibility.”
Garcia-Contreras joined the Center for International Studies faculty in the fall 2006. He was born in Mexico City and obtained his bachelor’s degree at the National University of Mexico. From 1995 through 1997, he earned post-graduate degrees at El Colegio de Mexico and the Economics University of Prague and in 2005 he obtained his PhD in International Studies from the Graduate School of International Studies (GSIS) at the University of Denver.
The University of St. Thomas pioneered international studies in Texas as the first university to establish a Center for International Studies. The interdisciplinary approach allows students to study and understand world behavior in terms of political, economic and cultural forces and prepares students for careers in international business, law, politics and public service.
To learn more about the MicroCredit Program at UST, visit the Web site at www.stthom.edu/mircocredit.
Contact Dr. Rogelio Garcia-Contreras at 713-525-3538.or firstname.lastname@example.org