Bauer Microfinance Students Invited to Clinton Global Initiative University

Published on March 14, 2012

Clinton Group Impressed by Poverty-alleviation Projects
Coming Out of Bauer College’s Microfinance Program

Professor Saleha Khumawala, center, is working with students in the college’s MicroFinance Initiative, including president Joseph Konkel (far left), on projects benefitting Houston and global organizations. The students will visit Washington, D.C., in a few weeks for the Clinton Global Initiative University.

For the last few months, Joseph Konkel has been working with his fellow students, developing a project that will help Navajo people empower themselves on their own terms.

Konkel and the students from the University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business “Principles of Microfinance” course are trying to work with Navajo organizations to create opportunities for the people defined in a Navajo context. By conducting research in Shiprock, NM, and Whitrock, NM, to define entrepreneurship in the Navajo Nation, unemployment in the Navajo Nation and Navajo consumer behavior, the MicroFinance Initiative and Navajo organizations hope to see entrepreneurial efforts transformed into activities that generate not only monetary capital but also social and spiritual capital.

Now, Bauer’s microfinance students have made a big impression on the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U). Konkel and teammates Markee Johnson, Grace Moceri and Daniel Pinto have been invited to share their work at the fifth CGI U, a three-day conference running from March 30 to April 1, 2012, at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. (Besides the Navajo Nation initiative, the Bauer team will also share its plans for poverty-alleviation projects in Peru, Houston and the Yucatan Peninsula.)

Hosted by former President Bill Clinton and modeled after his Clinton Global Initiative, CGI U brings together some of the world’s most innovative social problem solvers. Celebrity speakers such as  “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart and Chelsea Clinton will join non-profit leaders and entrepreneurs from around the globe at the event.

Dr. Saleha Khumawala, the Bauer Professor of Accounting who leads the college’s Microfinance Program, credits Konkel with securing the coveted CGI U invitation. Konkel is president of Bauer’s MicroFinance Initiative (MFi), an organization for graduate students. Khumawala is the MFi faculty adviser.

“The CGI U basically engages the next generation of leaders,” Khumawala says. “These students are our future leaders. They are already committed. That’s why I am so proud of them.”

Explaining his passion for microfinance, Konkel says: “I have a very strong calling toward social-justice issues. I believe that one of the biggest causes of social injustice is extreme poverty, and a lot of extreme poverty in the world is actually a shockingly solvable problem. It’s just that there hasn’t been that will or drive from the right sectors to make that change happen.”

That’s where Bauer’s Microfinance Program comes in — with financial help and guidance that can set the underserved on a path to self-reliance. The microfinance projects, outlined in what CGI U calls “Commitments to Action,” made the Bauer students a perfect fit for the 2012 conference, which will explore five focus areas: Education; Environment & Climate Change; Peace & Human Rights; Poverty Alleviation; and Public Health.

But the Bauer delegates won’t simply be attending the event. They have also been accorded Exchange status, which means they will have a booth for sharing information about UH Bauer and MFi.

“When you are part of the Exchange,” Khumawala says, “you actually get floor space. Your projects get table space. … This really helps promote and brand the University of Houston Bauer College and our Microfinance Program in front of 1,200 students from across the country.”

In addition to the Navajo Nation initiative, the Bauer students want to create opportunities for salsa entrepreneurs in the Yucatan empowered by Fundacion Ayuda Para Ayudar, led by Madre Aurora in collaboration with the University of St. Thomas SEP, which Konkel led in 2009 and 2010. Their Peru Initiative aims to provide a portable, solar-powered cooking method — called the HotPot — to people living in extreme poverty. Indoor pollution from traditional cooking methods is blamed for 47,000 deaths each year in the South American nation.

Closer to home,  Bauer’s Microfinance Program is partnering with ACCION Texas, Inc., the Heartspring Methodist Foundation and Mission Milby Community Development Corporation. to provide financial literacy training to refugees and people with lower incomes in Southeast Houston and surrounding communities. UH students will also mentor community kids and encourage them to complete high school.

Such projects let Bauer students in the “Principles of Microfinance” course put their financial education to real-world use.  “What’s really great about a microfinance project,” Konkel says, “is that everything we learn in the classroom — supply chain, marketing, even managerial analysis — we can apply real world to small-scale projects and sort of get our feet wet in the business world.”

Konkel, a Bellaire native, decided to work in microfinance while attending the University of St. Thomas.  He has attended CGIU twice before — in 2009 and 2010. “My goal is for Bauer microfinance to become a featured commitment next year,” he said, “which I was able to accomplish at St. Thomas. … Once we become a featured commitment, then CGIU will actually produce a short documentary on the MicroFinance Initiative and the different projects we are involved with. And they will present us to the conference.”

He would also love to get a “one-on-one” with President Bill Clinton. “Hopefully I’m building enough connections that one day I’ll be able to do that,” Konkel says.  By then, maybe he can give President Clinton a bottle of salsa from the Yucatan.

By Wendell Brock

Posted Under: Bauer Gives Back, Recognition, Student Success

31 replies to “Bauer Microfinance Students Invited to Clinton Global Initiative University

  1. Richard H

    Congratulations on very deserved recognition. You’re doing good and also raising the profile of the UH Bauer MBA program. Way to go!

  2. Amanda Ton

    ‘Be the change that you want to see.’

    This statement is simple statement supports what a grand initiative this is.

    Khumawala is well quoted: “The CGI U basically engages the next generation of leaders,” Khumawala says. “These students are our future leaders. They are already committed. That’s why I am so proud of them.”

    These student and those guiding them are the change they want to see in the world.

    Thank you for your existence at Bauer College.

  3. Amanda Ton

    ‘Be the change that you want to see.’

    This statement is simple statement that supports the grand initiative the Microfinance Program is.

    Khumawala is well quoted: “The CGI U basically engages the next generation of leaders,” Khumawala says. “These students are our future leaders. They are already committed. That’s why I am so proud of them.”

    These students and those guiding them are the change they want to see in the world.

    Thank you for your example and existence at Bauer College.

  4. Hormuz

    You and your team are doing great things Joe. I still remember your goal of alleviating world poverty; this is a big step in that direction. Good luck! I’m rooting for you’ll.

  5. Kyle

    Glad to see Mr. Konkel continuing the great work he did at UST. By helping to empower individuals, these micro-finance programs start the process of allowing real change to occur within these struggling communities. Good luck at the conference!

  6. Brian

    Such important work! Good to see someone make something with an altruistic nature work so well within the confines of a capitalist system.

  7. Bertha Neal-Eley

    Very impressive work!! To have begun an initiative that was so impressive as to deem an invitation to be a part of President Clinton’s Global Initiative…makes me proud. I know the future is in good hands. Congratulations to you and your team, Joe.

  8. Marian Newman

    Congratulations, Dr. Khumawala, Joe, and the other MBA students involved in MFi and the Principles of Microfinance course on the first-time invitation to CGI U. This is wonderful recognition for the Bauer microfinance program and the projects our students have undertaken, which can make a big difference in impoverished people’s lives. Your group is giving us additional reasons to be proud of the Bauer MBA brand. Keep up the good work!

  9. Lewis

    Excellent work Joe! This is what the world needs, helping to make the world better place to live for everyone. Uncle Lewis

  10. Jeff Kiely

    We at the Northwest New Mexico Council of Governments headquartered in Gallup, NM, were honored to host the MFi team a couple of weeks ago as they made their field visit to Navajoland.
    I was impressed by the spirit, intelligence, openness, preparedness and proactivity of both the team leaders and the team members at large. I am happy they were able to make positive connections here and to gain new insights into contemporary Navajo cullture and economy. We definitely look forward to a sustained and positive contribution by MFi to our local entrepreneurs and to our economy in general.
    I’m grateful to my daughter, Bauer College MBA alumna Philana Kiely, for helping make this Houston-Navajoland connection. Through her work as Vice President of the National Association of Women MBAs (now taking on a name change to “MBA Women International”), Philana has launched in this area the “Shideezhi Project,” named after the Navajo phrase for “my little sister”, which pairs up women MBAs from across the country with Navajo high school girls in a mentoring relationship (and more recently, some MBA men and Navajo boys). My wife Helen and I have enjoyed hosting several groups of Shideezhi mentors in the last couple of years. As I told Philana the other day, my admiration of and support for UH’s Bauer College of Business has only been enhanced by this most recent experience with Dr. Khumawala and the MFi team. Go team!

  11. Bill

    This is such worthy work for the students at Bauer to be involved with . I especially like that it involves both international and domestic projects.

  12. Alicia Hicks

    I am so proud and inspired for your scholarship and service to the Houston and global community. Thank you for bringing such excellence to Bauer. Enjoy CGIU Washington, DC. Kudos!!!

  13. Daniel Pinto

    I am very happy to be a part of this organization and it is truly a privilidge to represent The University of Houston at CGIU. Go Coogs.

  14. Daniel Pinto

    I am very happy to be a part of UH MicroFinance and it is truly a privilege to represent The University of Houston at CGIU. Go Coogs.

  15. Jeff English

    Great job y’all! This is such an exciting success! I am looking forward to a follow up on the Salsa too. GO COOGS!!!

  16. Shirwin Yeung

    Congratulations, Dr. Saleha, Joe and UH MFi team!! An impressive achievement where UH MFI is recognized on a national level. This will generate and increase more public awareness of Micro Finance concept; a step closer to alleviate world poverty!

  17. Esther Clift

    Congratulations to you all. I am so proud of what the MicroFinance Initiative is achieving. Keep up the good work!

  18. Darlene Ko

    Congratulations to Dr. Khumawala, Joseph Konkel, and the entire MFi team on such an extraordinary accomplishment! Thank you all for setting an example of being a global leader and having the passion and courage to take action and make a difference in the world. Through all of your hard work and dedication to promote the wellbeing of others, you have certainly promoted the University of Houston – Bauer College of Business and developed brand recognition – one of honor in the spirit of service.

  19. Jennifer Lindvig

    Simply Outstanding! As a teacher of economics and government, I am so proud of your application of classroom material to real world needs. You and your team provide a stellar example for others on how to make a difference in the world. Congratulations!

  20. Madelaine

    What great inspiration and good will. May you all continue in this work with big hearts to serve others and step out to those in need.

  21. Joseph Konkel

    Just to update everyone, we had a very successful trip to CGI U and will be working even harder now to create lasting and sustainable development using our real world business experience.

  22. Asal Shokati

    Wow! Such a wonderful news! Go Dr. K , Joe K and team. I’m really proud of you all for such hard work and dedication.

  23. Andrew Cobos

    This article is great for the microfinance program! It is truly inspiring to see how a relatively new program can create such a large impact on students and the University community with caring and knowledgeable leaders at the wheel. I traveled to India to study microfinance as part of my Bauer experience. I will forever be grateful at how this first hand experience in India made a profound difference in my perception of lifting up people in need. I truly hope that the microfinance center at UH has the same impact on the Houston community as similar programs have in impacting communities in need in India. Dr Saleha, you are a tremendous asset to Bauer and your impact on the UH community is clearly identifiable.

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