Haverford Adds Microfinance Position, Curriculum
Over the past few years there has been increasing interest on campus in the growing field of microfinance, which offers financial services to low-income individuals or those who do not have access to typical banking services as a way for them to lift themselves out of poverty. It combines one of Haverford's most popular majors, economics, with a social justice emphasis that is intrinsic to the College's mission.
So, starting in the 2011/12 academic year, Haverford is expanding options for its students to study microfinance, both in and outside of the classroom. To that end, Shannon Mudd, who was, last year, a visiting professor of economics, has been hired to direct and lead this new project. Under his aegis and inspired by his research, two courses in microfinance will be added to the economics curriculumâ€”a general, broad-based 200-level course that teaches basic finance and microfinance principles, and a junior seminar course focused on current topics in microfinance research.
In this capacity, Professor Mudd will also be responsible for advising senior thesis research in microfinance. Professor Mudd will also be the faculty advisor to the existing student Microfinance Investment Club, and help inject it with core principles of microfinance investment and new enthusiasm.
“I am delighted to be continuing my relationship with Haverford,” says Mudd.“I have taught in many places, and I have never come across students so fully engaged in furthering their own educationâ€¦ Haverford's Quaker traditions help it not only to maintain a consistent focus on our world as it is, but also to be active in seeking ways to make it better. This combination of great students and a strong culture create a fertile space to explore the two thrusts of my new [responsibility]: microfinance and sustainable investing.”
“We are thrilled with the opportunity to build new curriculum in this important area,” says Provost Linda Bell, also the John B. Hurford Professor of Economics. The other components of this new microfinance program will include an on-campus symposium, scheduled for the 2012/13 academic year, which will culminate in a special microfinance conference volume, and a visitor lecture series, that will bring microfinance practitioners, recipients, academics, investors and activists to campus to discuss various microfinance topics both in economics classes and in seminars for the general community.
“There will be opportunity for students to talk with people with broad sets of interests and skills who have found ways to work with microfinance,” says Mudd, who will be tasked with coordinating the visitors program and planning the symposium.“And there will be opportunities to leave campus, to participate in conferences, visit [microfinance-] supporting organizations in the US and, ideally, go out in the field. All will help students create their own opportunities for internships, research, work after graduation or campus projects.”
All of these exciting new opportunities are due to the efforts of another Haverford community member, Andy Pleatman '66, who helped secure foundation funding. It was Pleatman's own deep commitment to socially responsible business that inspired him to look for ways to expand prospects on campus for students interested in the field of microfinance.
“I have tried to live my life with a social conscience,” says Pleatman, who lives in Hong Kong.“Peace (I am a conscientious objector), global citizenship (I have lived abroad for 35 years) and social business (I am a representative for a socially involved foundation) are very fundamental to me.”
“Andy's efforts gave us the opportunity to introduce core elements of a robust microfinance curriculum into the economics program, and he challenged us to think about this in both curricular and co-curricular terms, providing resources for courses, speakers, and additional programs designed to bring awareness of the world of microfinance to Haverford,” says Bell.“It's an amazing gift and we are exceedingly grateful.”