Leadership through Service: Rawls Business Leadership Program in South America
By: Trevor Bell
Participating in service-learning projects and becoming global business leaders are fundamental aspects of the Rawls Business Leadership Program. Select juniors and seniors within the RBLP, accompanied by Dr. Francisco Delgadillo and Michele Moskos, were allowed to develop these skills when they traveled to South America at the start of summer. During their two-week period in both Brazil and Chile, RBLP students toured local businesses, experienced the cultures of the two countries, interacted with locals, and learned how businesses operate differently than those in the United States.
One key activity that fully encompassed the meaning of being a Rawls Business Leader came when the students visited the Universidad del Bio-Bio in Chillán, Chile. The students worked with 10 Bio-Bio students to develop business plans that would help a local nonprofit organization, Techo, which specializes in helping impoverished communities in South America. Techo focuses on providing homes and shelter for underprivileged families, creating a greater sense of community, and generating job opportunities.
The RBLP and Bio-Bio students formed groups and were challenged to build a concept of a home for an underprivileged family in 20 minutes. Each team was given a certain amount of resources, which included two pieces of poster board, various folders, three wood sticks, glue, scissors, tape, and markers. There was only one requirement for this project: build something innovative, cost-effective, and large enough to accommodate the family's needs.
Upon completion of the concepts, each team presented their design and the potential benefits. The winning team - which was decided by the most efficient design - consisted of Regan Head, Brooke Downing, and two Bio-Bio students. The winning design was centered on renewable energy, weather stability, and accessibility to food.
After conceptualizing ideas for the organization, the students then visited a community that Techo had been working with for previous months. The students spoke with community members and were shown the problems they faced each day, and, ultimately, how Techo's work was positively affecting those issues. The RBLP students then presented their ideas to the community members, including the designs that were made earlier.
The RBLP students remarked how appreciative the community was for their efforts. Members of the community thanked them for their help and emphasized the importance for helping those in need. While this was only a small portion of the RBLP trip to South America, it showed the impact of their work and how service learning can be used to improve the world.
Hear what members of the RBLP thought of their experience with the Universidad del Bio-Bio and Techo
"Having the opportunity to work with Techo and the Bio-Bio students was an unbelievable and heart-warming experience. I remember taking a step back and just looking around the room watching all the students collaborate together to come up with a solution to help create a better living situation for the people. It was such a breathtaking moment because I realized that not only was I surrounded by exceptional business leaders but some of the most compassionate and driven people you could ask for. It was the true definition of diversity - it didn't matter what color you were, the language you spoke, your age, or your background. We all had the same goal in mind and no barriers were going to keep us from striving to accomplish it."
"There are multiple things that can be done to improve the conditions of this poverty-stricken community. In order to get these things done, the people need help in various ways: they need people from the outside to empower them; they need information in areas where knowledge lacks; and they need help to find any sort of income. With all of the resources we have at hand that they can only dream of, there is no reason why we should let anything stand in the way of helping those in need. Seeing them in their condition certainly motivated me."
"This opportunity that RBLP had was incredible. We met so many great friends, learned about their culture, and just overall had a great experience. Working together to help a cause and communicating with the Bio-Bio students was very interesting because they shared the same drive as we do. This experience made a great impact on everyone, including myself."
Dr. Francisco Delgadillo
"As part of this summer's RBLP abroad program, our students, together with students from the Universidad del Bio-Bio, participated in entrepreneurship, leadership and service workshops. Watching our students, together with their Chilean counterparts, interact with the people of the disadvantaged neighborhoods of Chillán, Chile, and help them with ideas on how to promote community development, awareness, and social action, was the most satisfying part of the RBLP abroad program."
This supports the efforts outlined in the Rawls College of Business Strategic Plan. Learn more about the LEADER 2020 Strategic Plan and follow our progress on Twitter at #RawlsLeads.