One can claim with relative confidence that Carnegie Mellon, with its reputation and influence, is a global university. However, beyond the occasional study abroad opportunity, student-led global initiatives on this campus are very hard to come by. Project: Nicaragua plans to fix that.
Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), one of the largest organizations in the Tepper School, organizes 12 or 13 service projects every year focused on entrepreneurship, sustainability, and empowerment. As we intend to establish a lasting connection with all the people whose lives we impact, Project: Nicaragua is SIFE’s biggest and most ambitious undertaking to date.
In October of last year, a team of 10 members designed, fundraised for, and embarked upon a life-changing nine-day service trip to Leon, Nicaragua. In those nine days, we built a house for a rural family, and also taught local entrepreneurs the financial literacy and general management skills many of us have learned during our tenure in the Tepper School. It was one of the most challenging and rewarding things I have ever done.
As a project leader, I realize that much more needs to be done to truly make Carnegie Mellon a global university. Initiatives like Project: Nicaragua are necessary on this campus for two main reasons.
First, the campus is in need of cross-disciplinary outreach projects, which promote a level of learning and retention that rivals any formal course. From project management to team synergy, this project, as would similar cross-disciplinary undertakings, reinforces the skills that students from all fields need to succeed after graduation.
Second, Project: Nicaragua is a prime example of the way in which Carnegie Mellon raises the bar for both itself and its peer institutions. Other Pittsburgh-based universities are already taking an interest in last year’s success.
By continuing to foster such global outreach initiatives, Carnegie Mellon’s administrators and faculty will help students take an active role in and do justice to their learning and experiences.
I hope that Project: Nicaragua inspires students of all fields to apply their skills to make a difference in the lives of people around the world. To others like me who are disheartened by a lack of global outreach, I can offer this advice: Your passion can be the very change that helps Carnegie Mellon earn its title as a global university — but you must take those first steps to make it happen.