Pittsburgh to Trinidad: Journey Awaits

My name is Silvia Bononi and I am a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh’s College of Business Administration. At Pitt, I am pursuing a double major in Accounting and Marketing as well as a Certificate in Leadership and Ethics (CPLE). In addition to my coursework, I serve as the Vice President of Community Service for the club Women in Business where I enjoy planning and executing service events for our members. Although my involvement in WIB accounts for the majority of my extracurricular activities, I am also a brother in the professional business fraternity known as Alpha Kappa Psi where I serve on the rush committee. Lastly, I am an active member in the University of Pittsburgh Accounting Association. When I am not consumed with schoolwork or extracurricular responsibilities, I enjoy hiking, skiing, camping, or traveling. I am looking forward to spending my summer traveling Europe and taking part in the study abroad program referred to as GBI: London International Accounting Issues. Through this program, I will have the opportunity to participate in a six-week internship in an accounting related field as well as take a class that addresses relevant accounting topics. Upon the end of this program, I plan to continue traveling with my parents and brother and visit places such as Amsterdam, Paris, and Italy.

The Service-Learning project that I am taking part in involves seven other CPLE students and myself utilizing our current business proficiencies to make a constructive difference and build local capacity in Matelot, Trinidad and Tobago. This project gives us a preview into consulting work as well as what it is like to partner and work with an international non-profit organization, the DORCAS Women’s Group. The DORCAS Women’s group is a community-based organization that has long-term goals based in improving the people’s resources as well as aiding in the infrastructural expansion of Matelot, their community, and the surrounding environment. The organization involves itself in events, functions, and assumes projects that they believe will enrich the lives of the individuals residing in the community and the society in its entirety. The group lives by a motto stating “Teach, Turn, Travel”, and has the ultimate goal of being able to operate a successful ecotourism enterprise. In addition to DORCAS, we will also be working with Amizade, a Fair-Trade learning organization who functions as our in-country liaison between Pitt Business and the women’s group. Generally, Amizade is an organization that works intimately with communities all over the world with the hopes of overseeing sustainable and inspiring initiatives.

The project I am collaborating on is in year three out of a ten-year commitment to the DORCAS Women’s group. The initial two years of the project were dedicated to gathering all-encompassing initial research into Matelot’s ability to host a successful ecotourism operation. In addition, the previous groups provided the women with introductory proposals for ways to develop Matelot while keeping the long-term goals of the organization in mind. Our hope is that we can build upon the work of the previous two groups and continue to advance the project and get DORCAS closer to their overall goal of building community capacity and sprouting professional relationships outside of Matelot.

Specifically, our group will work to cultivate and implement training focused on customer service and culturally relevant professional behavior. As of now, we plan to do this by providing the women with two separate workshops focused on professional approaches/conduct and customer service. In addition, we intend to develop a SWOT analysis/environmental scan of the planned site visits which include a high school in Matelot, Nature Seekers, the Port of Spain bird sanctuary, KPMG, and the Hazel Brown/Network of NGOS for the Advancement of Women. By doing this, we hope that the group will become inspired and aware of the potential future partnerships that may exists within these organizations as well as the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that may accompany them. Based on our time spent in-country, we plan to develop a list of recommendations, specifically in reference to social media and finance, for future groups to utilize and build upon. Lastly, we hope that DORCAS themselves will recognize the room for growth that they have within their own organization and the ability that they have to build connections with pre established professional networks residing in their area. 

            I had many reasons for opting to take this course and deciding to participate in a Global Service-Learning project. For starters, I loved the work that I was exposed to in my first two CPLE courses, Managerial Ethics and Stakeholder Management and Ethical Leadership Fundamentals, especially the projects that were based in using our own business expertise to consult on real-world projects. That alone made me want to indulge myself in similar work, and this project seemed like a perfect fit. Furthermore, the aspect of being able to participate in international travel and seeing the impact of the work done in class intrigued me greatly. The opportunity to consult on a project that is mutually beneficial both for myself, the community of Matelot, and the faculty spearheading the endeavor was one I did not want to pass up.

            Upon completing this project, I hope that on a personal level I will gain insight and global awareness in regards to the limited resources that some geographical areas have, and an appreciation for the access I have to education, technology, and information. In addition, I hope to develop long lasting relationships with the women who are apart of DORCAS, despite the fact that our trip is only one week long. I intend to keep up with the development of the project and Matelot itself, and I would like to hear from the women about how their goals are progressing after each year. Professionally, I hope that I will develop interpersonal skills that aid in my ability to react and think on my feet in unfamiliar and new situations. I also intend to build upon my leadership, decision making, and communication skills so that I can shift my focus to how others perceive me and not how I perceive myself. On an academic level, I hope that as a result of this project I will continue to go above and beyond in my studies and opt to participate in projects that are elective, not required. Lastly, I would like for my critical thinking and problem-solving skills to expand in ways that are applicable to my future business classes. Overall, I hope that through this experience I will develop into a more well-rounded, educated, and engaged student.