|Honduran children were a big inspiration for Helga Sierra's Global Hope MBA project.|
Growing up in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Helga Sierra had the opportunity to participate in art and sports from a young age, but even then, she could see that so many of the children around her were not given that opportunity.
“Public education is available for all, but it is still difficult for many to finish their education, much less have access to arts and sports lessons,” said Sierra. But those were the activities that she most cherishes from her own childhood, so she’s hoping to give Honduran children of the future those opportunities as well through Lipscomb University’s Global Hope MBA program.
As part of its increasing global reach, Lipscomb University’s College of Business created the Global Hope MBA degree program, providing full-tuition scholarships each year to selected international students who pledge to return home and use their MBA to make a difference in their home country.
Lipscomb’s Global Hope MBA is the only program of its type in the world, according to College of Business Dean Turney Stevens.
And that makes the first three Global Hope MBA students – Helga Sierra of Honduras, Sue Razafimanjato of Madagascar and Kevin Karingithi of Kenya – particularly excited to be earning their degree at Lipscomb and making plans for their social enterprise ventures.
“Unlike other MBA programs that focus on just the business aspect, this program focuses on training a new generation of Christian business leaders and social entrepreneurs,” said Karingithi , who hopes to establish an arts-and-crafts venture to draw tourists in Nairobi, Kenya, and thus provide income for the poor and unemployed.
“I knew from the first conversation that this was something different and something I needed to pursue,” said Sierra, who came to Lipscomb after graduating from Abilene Christian University with a bachelor’s in management.
Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, Sierra knew she wanted eventually to start her own venture. After being exposed to national social entrepreneurial ventures such as TOMS shoes during college, she was hoping someday to be able to follow that path and began looking into nonprofit management programs at the master’s level. But after discovering the Global Hope MBA program online, Sierra realized that “someday” could be right now.
“Coming here was definitely from the Lord,” she said.
So now she plans to start a business in Honduras selling stationary such as cards and journals. That company would fund a nonprofit program to provide art lessons, a free meal and other enrichment activities for Honduran children after-school. The program is modeled on a breakfast program for which she volunteered at her home congregation in Tegucigalpa.
She hopes to partner with her childhood art teacher to coordinate the program and draw on her art students as volunteer staff.
“It is so exciting to try and have an impact,” she said.
In the MBA program, Sierra said she is excited to learn more about the regulation and tax structure for nonprofit organizations, which is currently unknown to her. She’s hoping to go ahead and get a business plan written in one of her first classes this semester.
Razafimanjato also hopes to benefit children in her home country, but she plans to establish a nonprofit to build libraries and enhance their reading skills.
Razafimanjato has been a beneficiary of nonprofit benevolence herself, as she was one of 26 Malagasy students selected by the government to attend Lipscomb University for a free bachelor’s degree. Her four years of undergraduate education at Lipscomb were funded by the Malagasy government, the university and private donors in America.
Upon returning home for a visit after her 2012 graduation, Razafimanjato was inspired by the conversations she had with Malagasy teens who expressed the need for more locations to be able to study. Such free-access sites are rare in Madagascar, she said.
Then she worked at an after-school program in America that cemented the former environmental sustainability major’s conviction that she really wanted to work with kids.
“All these years since I came here, I have always wanted to start something – a company or a nonprofit, but it became clear when I got this scholarship, that it was like a calling for me to go into the nonprofit business. I just followed that calling,” she said.
Karingithi of Kenya is expected to join the program in Nashville in October. He learned about the Global Hope MBA from his church pastor and said he is excited to use the skills he will learn in America to impact his own community.
“This program will open many opportunities both academically and career-wise. I would really like to do a doctorate after completing my master’s. The MBA program will also give me the needed skills and knowledge in administration and management that are required to work at a decision-making level in any reputable organization or even in starting my own business,” he said.
His first foray in entrepreneurship will be to establish an arts-and-crafts retail venture, designed to feed off of and enhance tourism in Nairobi. First he plans to ask skilled artisans to train the unemployed at his local church. These newly trained artisans will then start their own retails ventures and train a new group of unemployed in these valuable skills.
“This project will show Kenyans how to transform readily available resources into finished products that can be sold locally and exported internationally to bring about positive development to basic units of the community,” he said.
While the artisans are creating and selling wares, Karingithi will work on marketing their products and organizing volunteers from his church to encourage and mentor them.
“I believe every individual has an ability or can be taught a skill that he or she can use to change and improve their life,” Karingithi said. “This project strives to empower the poor and unemployed by giving them skills in sewing and jewelry-making. This in turn will build their financial capacity and open doors to start microfinance programs, which will lead to the overall development of the community and thus be a start to ending extreme poverty.”
Karingithi, a community resource management graduate from Kenyatta University in Nairobi, believes the venture will benefit from and fit nicely with Kenya’s Vision 2030, a development plan that seeks to create a globally competitive and prosperous nation by 2030. One of the economic pillars of the plan is to promote the development of niche products that will increase revenue in the tourism sector.
The first three Global Hope MBA candidates are expected to complete their coursework in Nashville within 12-18 months and to then spend six months in their home countries working on their social improvement projects. They will then return to Lipscomb to present their results and to graduate. They are also required to complete a nonprofit management internship in Nashville.
Each Global Hope MBA scholarship is worth $40,000 in current tuition and approximately $25,000 in estimated related expenses during the 18 months of study.
Lipscomb University decided to launch this program, funded by the university and private donors, as a “way to give back,” Stevens said.
“We have been tremendously blessed at Lipscomb, not only with our recent success but also over the years through the generosity of so many donors who have shared their own business success by making this university possible,” he said. “We want to recreate that model in villages and towns all over the globe and hence the name ‘Global Hope,’ because we believe this is the real secret of how communities thrive.”