“I was thrilled to use my MBA skillset to help an organization that impacts so many families with so few resources,” said Nick Monzo, an MBA student from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, after participating in a service project designed to bring joy to hospitalized children and their families in Costa Rica.
Monzo and his 28 classmates traveled to Central America as part of a required global economics course in Duquesne’s MBA Sustainability, a program ranked first in the United States and eighth in the world for integrating social, environmental and financial responsibility. On May 16, the students served as pro bono consultants to HospiSonrisas, a not-for-profit group affiliated with the National Children’s Hospital in San Jose, and presented a strategic plan to “Make Laughter an Epidemic” by launching a foundation to generate funding to entertain sick children and grant wishes to those with life-threatening illnesses.
“Never have I been more humbled by selflessness and compassion as I was by HospiSonrisas,” said Rebecca Bykoski, after watching volunteer clowns ease anxiety in the oncology and outpatient areas of the children’s hospital. “I’m so very grateful to leave a legacy that will bring joy to suffering children and their families throughout Costa Rica.”
“To find people who want to help to change the world and believe in someone’s dreams is incredible,” added Daniela Vides Cordoba, founder and president of HospiSonrisas.
Faculty trip leader was Diane Ramos, who also teaches the live consulting courses that anchor the MBA and engage students in solving complex real world problems. Accompanying her were Pavel Yakovlev, Ph.D., associate professor of economics, and William O’Rourke, J.D., executive director of the Beard Institute at Duquesne University. “Our students delivered a viable plan for overall operation of a foundation — including governance, marketing, fund-raising and administration — while living our university’s service mission in Costa Rica,” said Ramos.
The Costa Rican segment of the study trip included interface with a range of multinational, not-for-profit, governmental and academic leaders and a behind-the-scenes investigation of the burgeoning eco-tourism and medical tourism industries. Students also traveled to Guatemala where they worked on a potable water field project and learned about Peace Corps initiatives with John Patrick Gibbons, an alumnus of the program and former Peace Corp Fellow at Duquesne, who works on impact investing in Central American in his current role as a finance officer at USAID.