Peter Rodriguez / Darden 

What best endures from transformational experiences are the relationships formed among friends and colleagues. Through trial and growth and the sharing of ourselves the times that bring change do so through the voices and faces of those around us. Colleges and universities commonly structure educational experiences so as to build these relation- ships among students, but, for many reasons, strong relationships among students and faculty are now rather rare. Rich relationships between students and their professors were once the norm and were certainly a pillar of Mr. Jefferson’s views on education at the University of Virginia.  Regrettably, the incentives for professors to build learning relation- ships have grown weak amid other pressures.  Thankfully, generous and genuine believers in the value of student-faculty educational relationships have provided resources to continue in the traditions of the Academical Village at the Darden School.

In recognition of the objectives and ambitions of the Mead-Colley funds I propose to engage students of the Darden School in the aid of entrepreneurs in low-income, developing nations. Our continuing project may be thought of as a cross between ‘micro-venture capital’ and consulting.  Darden students and I will literally lend our skills in countries such as Nicaragua in an effort to better the business models and bring smart finance to entrepreneurs.  As part of this process, we will engage deeply in the economic lives of entrepreneurs in developing nations as they work to bring ethical commerce and reduce poverty through the investments of new firms. This year 16 Darden students allocated nearly 2000 hours towards the betterment of business ideas and financial needs of entrepreneurs in Nicaragua. With the assistance of the Mead-Colley award, I will continue the delivery of Darden’s intellectual resources to entrepreneurs in low-income nations while traveling with and engaging students in many one-on-one and group discussions of the role of business in the process of economic development.  No other activity could be closer to my aims as an educator and a professional economist.