St. Bonaventure University will host 20 students from Haiti over three weeks this fall for cultural and educational exchange.
Volunteers from the campus and community are being sought to serve as drivers, campus hosts, tour guides and translators. Donors are also being sought to pay for a meal on campus or at a local restaurant, or for local church groups or community organizations to host a potluck supper.
Jim Mahar, associate professor of finance and founder of the student relief group BonaResponds, is coordinating the program, called “Bona’s and Beyond: Haiti.”
People interested in helping can contact Mahar at BonaResponds@gmail.com or by calling him at 585-376-0231.
“This will be the kickoff of ‘Bona’s and Beyond,’” Mahar said. “The first step will be a series of classes and seminars when the Haitians are here.”
The classes will include a range of business disciplines, as well as environmental science, computer science, political science and leadership as well as seminars on composting toilets, solar power, and other topics that will have an immediate impact in Haiti.
This is more than just a one-way classroom experience, he said. Haitian students will also be presenting seminars about their own work, from their experiences working in orphanages and schools to their efforts in reforestation and gardening.
“We really want to stress it is a cultural exchange. This is not just us teaching them, it is a two-way cultural exchange that fits perfectly with our Franciscan heritage and mission of respect,” said Dr. Carol Fischer, dean of the School of Business.
“It is a learning exchange that will also take place outside of the classroom. Haitian participants will go to local businesses and farms, tourist sites, and museums,” she said. “‘Bona’s and Beyond’ will also be making presentations at local schools and to community groups.”
St. Bonaventure student groups are active in many countries.
“BonaResponds works in Liberia and Haiti, Embrace it Africa works in Uganda, and ENACTUS has a long-running business and education program in the Bahamas,” said Dr. Todd Palmer, associate professor of management and adviser for ENACTUS. “What we want to do is to use these ties to bring our model of two-way learning and cultural exchange to more people.”
After the program this semester with Haitian students, Mahar said, “We will be launching an online, not-for-credit learning program to help educate people while also making friends and associates from around the globe.”
“This will be a great way for Bonaventure students to develop a better understanding of the issues facing people in developing nations and also to drive home that Olean is not in the middle of nowhere, but it is the center of everywhere,” he said.
The classes will be taught on a volunteer basis by professors, students, and experts from the Bonaventure community. The classes will be in English and available online for free with a November start date expected.
Haitian students participating are responsible for the costs of travel to and from Western New York, but funding from the Pacioli Scholars program, SBU School of Business and BonaResponds will finance the program when they’re here.
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, we believe in the goodness of every person and in the ability of every person to do extraordinary things. St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them. Named the #3 best college value in the North by U.S. News and World Report, we are establishing pathways to internships, graduate schools and careers in the context of our renowned liberal arts tradition. Our students are becoming extraordinary.
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