For Immediate Release — Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Mary E. McCrank

Media Relations Officer

(585) 245-5516

Group from SUNY Geneseo heading to El Sauce, Nicaragua, to work on economic development project

GENESEO, N.Y. — A group of students from the State University of New York at Geneseo will head to El Sauce, Nicaragua, this week to continue their efforts to improve the economy, education and health care of the rural Central American community.

El Sauce, a municipality in the Leon district, is one of the poorest regions in that part of the world, with a 60 to 70 percent unemployment rate and where many children don't achieve a basic level of education because their families can't afford shoes, clothes and school supplies, said Nader Asgary, associate professor of economics and director of the college's Center for International Business.

Going on the April 21-28 trip are Geneseo business students Kellan Morgan, of Waterville, N.Y.; Peggy Yip, of Forest Hills, N.Y.; Viet Ha Do, who was born in Viet Nam and lives in Warsaw, Poland; and Christopher Hart, of Spencerport, N.Y.

The students will be joined by Asgary; Geneseo resident Tim McMahon, who is retired from the Catholic Charities of Livingston County; and Avon resident Dr. Arnold Matlin, a pediatrician who was instrumental in Rochester's adoption of El Sauce as a Sister City. The Sister City partnership—official in Nicaragua, but unofficial in Rochester—has helped the people of El Sauce in a variety of ways. Matlin also is married to SUNY Geneseo Distinguished Teaching Professor of Psychology Margaret Matlin.

They will study the feasibility of an economic development plan that the students have been working on throughout the academic year. They will need to test the idea and determine it if can be implemented, said Asgary.

It will be a multi-year project, and Geneseo is making plans to send additional students to El Sauce in the summer for two weeks. Altogether, 10 Geneseo students are working on the economic development project either through directed studies or an international business course taught by Asgary.

Last fall, El Sauce's mayor and another administrator visited SUNY Geneseo to meet with Asgary, Jones School of Business Dean Mary Ellen Zuckerman, Matlin, McMahon and some of the students.

El Sauce, which has a population of about 30,000, needs help with its agriculture, tourism, entrepreneurialship, and banking and finance, said Asgary. He said it is an amazing experience for Geneseo students.

"There is no question it will be extremely beneficial to our students in regard to real-world experience," said Asgary. "Can we achieve something for the city? I would love to be optimistic. It's a long-term project. It's not easy. I'm optimistic."

Hart, 22, a senior who is majoring in business administration and legal studies, is researching ways El Sauce can increase its tourism and also examined its agriculture, entrepreneurship, and banking and finance.

"I got involved in this project because I wanted to make a difference. This is a real world project that we're actually following through with, and that makes it much more rewarding and exciting," said Hart. "I think traveling to El Sauce, Nicaragua, will be an amazing experience, and I really hope our efforts can change the El Sauce economy for the better over time.

"This has furthered my education because I have put so much time and research into this project, and traveling to Nicaragua will most likely be an eye-opening experience that will help me to learn the everyday happenings in other cultures," said Hart.

Morgan, 22, a senior economics major, is focusing on reforming education in El Sauce, specifically reforming and/or implementing a preschool program because the region lacks services for children younger than six. This creates a burden on the parents because they can't work to make an income if they must watch the children, she said. During the visit, she will examine school curriculum, teacher recruitment, vocational training, and health and incentive programs. She will talk with administrators, government officials, parents and business leaders.

Morgan said Asgary approached her last fall about getting involved because he knew her career goal is to work in economic development.

"For that reason it means a lot to me, plus it is more worthwhile than taking an academic class because it involves helping people who really need it. If we can make a little difference in this community then we did more than most people.

"This certainly will help further my education because this project has real world implications, and there are more people at stake than myself," said Morgan. "There is more pressure than in a classroom because the quality of our work determines other people's lives, which is something that you can't really learn in a classroom."

"The benefits that we hope to make in education are going to be difficult to measure because they will take time. The people (students) we are looking to affect will not be fully educated and able to make a difference in their community for a long time to come. We hope to make El Sauce able to help itself and become less dependent on foreign assistance or its own government. Economic development through education will allow that, but results are not going to be measurable for us to see."

Ha Do, 21, a junior business administration and international relations major, is focusing on intermunicipal cooperation in the local level, improving relations between municipals and the capital, and increasing trade in the international level.

"I have gained more experience about developing countries and struggles they have to face. The research has made me more aware on what it takes to improve economic and business conditions of Latin America and other developing countries," said Ha Do. "I have deepened my knowledge on international blocs as well as importance of politics in the international trade.

"I hope to develop solutions that can advance Nicaragua's current situation and benefit everyone. It is impossible to change the heritage that a country has within one semester, but I hope we all could initiate a friendly bond between El Sauce and SUNY Geneseo. Students have many interesting ideas and with combined efforts, I believe we can make important changes."

Yip, 22, a senior business administration major and computer information systems minor, is examining opportunities to conduct technical/vocational training in El Sauce.

"This project will help me explore and understand the differences in communities around the world. Although I will be graduating after this semester, I hope to take what I learn with me for the rest of my life," said Yip. "I also hope to pass on the knowledge that I will gain to the generations continuing this research in the future.

"For the people in El Sauce, I hope to positively impact their lives by improving their education system. I hope that they will take our ideas into consideration and implement them to help benefit their needs," said Yip. "Hopefully, the living conditions will improve and the standard of living will increase in the future."

The trip is supported in part by a grant from the Rochester International Development Corporation.