“Money shouldn't be a barrier in the pursuit of what you love,” said Zachary Rodriguez, a St. Bonaventure student in the MBA program. “I think the Buzzy Fund recognizes that and offers the means for students to experience their career interests, whatever they may be.”
Rodriguez, who also works as a graduate assistant in the journalism department, spent the early weeks of 2016 in a village in Uganda, continuing work for the charity Embrace It Africa.
To help fund his 16-day trip to study microfinance in the country, Rodriguez applied for and received money from St. Bonaventure’s newly founded Buzzy Fund, which subsidizes some or all of the expenses for professional and career-building growth opportunities for students who lack financial resources.
Along with trips like Rodriguez’s, money from the Buzzy Fund can be used for graduate study entrance examinations such as the GMAT and the LSAT and educational seminars or conferences.
Robert Daugherty, ’77, who currently serves as chair of the university’s Board of Trustees, created the fund in 2014 to honor his friend and former fellow trustee Bernard “Buzzy” Stoecklein, who lives by the motto, “If it is to be, it is up to me.”
Rodriguez said he learned of the fund from a university Notice Board message last spring, and he knew some financial help would allow him to continue the work of the charity.
“[The charity] works to develop and implement sustainable projects that address issues of poverty, public health and access to education throughout the district,” Rodriguez said. “I have been going to Uganda for the past eight years, as part of my work with Embrace It Africa.”
Rodriguez founded Embrace It Africa, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on encouraging community growth for the Rakai district in southern Uganda, in 2008 when he was an undergraduate student.
The fund requires a faculty member to sponsor a student’s project to give it validity, so Rodriguez talked with Dr. Pauline Hoffmann, dean of the Russell J. Jandoli School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Hoffmann thought Rodriguez’s research ideas — which will go into two papers he will co-author — were interesting and wrote a letter on his behalf, recommending him to receive some grant money, she said.
“I told him that I thought the trip would be a great idea,” said Hoffmann, who added Rodriguez could not have taken the trip without the financial assistance. “I’ve known Zach since the first Embrace It Africa trip to Uganda in 2008. I was able to accompany the students. Zach and I have been friends and colleagues ever since and have kept in touch. He is one of our graduate assistants in the Jandoli School, so I see him regularly now.”
Students who lack financial resources can receive between $500 and $2,500 for their projects, depending on the nature of the work and the amount for which they applied. Rodriguez applied for and received $1,600, enough for the roundtrip airfare to Uganda and three nights in a hotel, he said. He added he thought the process was simple, and he was given the money quickly.
While on the trip, Rodriguez, who is interested in pursuing a doctorate in economics, conducted research to evaluate the effectiveness of microfinance in the area and the continuing activities of Embrace It Africa.
“In order to measure the effects of microfinance on pro-social behaviors, the research uses what’s called a ‘Public Goods game’ in public economics,” Rodriguez said, explaining a study he conducted using a bucket and 500 shillings with individuals in a school. “The research will evaluate Embrace It Africa microfinance activities and the impact on client behaviors. The benefit of the research is that it can show the effectiveness of our microfinance activities and also identify areas of weakness and potential for success within our program.”
“I think anytime we have alumni willing to support students, we are incredibly lucky,” said Hoffmann, who added she would recommend more students for the Buzzy Fund in the future.
The application to apply for an award can be found at MySBU under Academics in the Academic Resources area. For more information, interested students should contact Dr. Carol Fischer at (716) 375-2092 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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