Listen to the UVA Today Radio Show report on this story by Matt Kelly:
March 29, 2011 — Two University of Virginia students have been awarded a 2011 Davis Projects for Peace award for their program to create a business training curriculum in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Robin Kendall, 22, of Woodberry Forest, a fourth-year global development studies and finance double major, and Sarah Munford, 21, of Virginia Beach, a fourth-year global development studies and foreign affairs double major, will share the $10,000 prize.
Kendall and Munford have proposed developing a curriculum to teach rudimentary business skills in shantytowns to Brazilian youth living in poverty, in an effort to keep them from a life of violence and deprivation. The students will work with the Seeds of Hope orphanage, founded by Roberto Pena, a native of the São Paulo slums. Pena opened a trade school in 2010 to teach gardening, carpentry, English and business skills to 40 young adults too old for the orphanage. Kendall and Munford’s curriculum will offer basic English business vocabulary, computer training and career services.
"An English curriculum was already established for the trade school by two other former U.Va. students, but it does not cover business terminology,” Kendall and Munford wrote in their proposal. They plan to develop a curriculum for basic business English and skill training, emphasizing financial, accounting and managerial tools.
"We saw a need at the Seeds of Hope trade school that we believed could benefit from our unique training and experiences while at U.Va.," Kendall said.
Munford has ties to the orphanage, having spent four spring breaks working there. She also has served as the vice president of international organization for the Seeds of Hope student organization at U.Va. She is a Jefferson Scholar, an Echols Scholar, a member of the Honor Committee, president of Building Tomorrow and an executive board member of Seeds of Hope Brazil. She has also received a Jefferson Public Citizens Grant for a research project with Heifer International in the Gulu District of northern Uganda and a Community-Based Research Grant for work in South Africa.
Kendall has had field experience working in Bluefields, Nicaragua, where she used a Harrison Undergraduate Research Award to study the impact of microcredit on the enterprises of women. She also received two Jefferson Public Citizen awards to study the feasibility of social businesses in Bluefields and to help launch a composting business there. She received a Community-Based Undergraduate Research Grant to assess, with a graduate nursing student, how prepared Bluefields health care workers were to work within the local culture. She is a past president of the Kiva: Microfinancial Action student organization, past co-moderator of the Presbyterian Student Fellowship and a program director for tutoring at Madison House.
"I think Robin and I have a desire to help people and build relationships," Munford said. "For me this has been a learning experience and it has provided me with an opportunity to show what development and service can look like."
Kendall sees the Brazil plan as a culmination of her years at U.Va., combining what she has learned in the McIntire School of Commerce and about global development.
"I can see how I can use my business education to help with poverty," Kendall said. "I find micro-financing more exciting than the stock market."
Their professors believe the duo's education will be put to good use in this project.
"Robin and Sarah are wonderful students who have worked thoughtfully throughout their years at U.Va. to combine liberal arts knowledge and business skills," said Richard Handler, an anthropology professor in the College of Arts & Sciences and director of the Global Development Studies Program. "In the prize-winning project, they will once again be putting these two aspects of their education together to work for positive change in a Brazilian institution."
"Both Robin and Sarah are terrific individuals – perceptive to socio-cultural nuance, experienced in navigating other cultures and language environments, friendly and culturally sensitive," said Rae Lesser Blumberg, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Sociology in the College of Arts & Sciences. "Their proposed project is an excellent fit for the larger objectives of the Davis Projects for Peace."
Blumberg described both student as "first-rate scholars."
"The Davis program provides students with an extraordinary opportunity to envision and implement a meaningful project to promote peace somewhere in the world," said Lucy Russell, director of U.Va.'s Center for Undergraduate Excellence, which administers the Davis award at U.Va.. "Sarah and Robin have designed a project that promises to have a long-term positive impact. Both of them have taken full advantage of U.Va.'s undergraduate research opportunities and have been members of Jefferson Public Citizens teams; together with their coursework, this has prepared them beautifully for this project."
Kendall and Munford are both members of the inaugural class of global development studies majors in the College of Arts & Sciences. "The class of 21 students has come to know one another well over their two years together and, in various teams, have gone all over the world to carry out service projects," Handler said.
Munford's future plans include work in the non-profit sector in Boston, but she wants to stay closely tied to the field of development and eventually pursue a master's of business administration. Kendall will work for Teach for America in Hawaii after returning from Brazil.
The Davis United World College Scholars Program, which administers the Projects for Peace program, invited undergraduates at colleges and universities participating in the Davis Program to design and propose grassroots projects they can implement during a summer. The 100 "most promising and doable" proposals each received $10,000 in funding. This is the fourth year U.Va. students have received a Davis prize.
Davis Projects for Peace are funded by Kathryn W. Davis, a lifelong internationalist and philanthropist. Davis, who is 103 years old, is the mother of Shelby M.C. Davis, who funds the Davis UWC Scholars Program, which currently involves more than 90 American colleges and universities. Kathryn Davis has committed $1 million to fund numerous $10,000 projects for peace. She said that today's youth, who are tomorrow's leaders, should formulate and test their own ideas. Intentionally, no clear definition of a project for peace is offered so as not to limit the imagination and to encourage creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship focusing on conflict resolution, reconciliation, building understanding and breaking down barriers which cause conflict. The students define their own "project for peace."