Spring Break in Trinidad

My name is Ellie Stroh and I am a sophomore here at Pitt! I was born in Portland, Oregon but I have lived most of my life in a small town in Vermont. Coming from a rural part of an already very small state has shaped me in many ways. My decision to come to Pitt for college was a big one, as I knew no one else here when I came, meaning I had to step very far out of my comfort zone. I think taking this large leap helped me grow in ways I never would have if I was to had gone to school somewhere closer to home. In my one and half years here at Pitt I have been able to build and grow a network of friends and professional contacts. Pittsburgh now feels like home to me. Outside of class I am a mentor and a 5k coordinator for Strong Women Strong Girls, this allows me to mentor once a week, giving back to the community as well as continue to interact with kids. I have spent the past 5 summers working at a summer camp in Vermont, and SWSG allows me to continue to work with kids in college. I am also involved in Alpha Kappa Psi, the professional business fraternity, in addition to being a brother I am the director of social activities. To do this job I use my organization skills as well my networking and people skills to organize events within the fraternity and with other professional organizations on campus. In my free time I work at Magee women’s hospital and I like to bake and hang out with my friends.

In addition to the CPLE I am majoring in Accounting and pursuing a certificate in business analytics. I am planning on getting 150 credits in 4 years and sitting for the CPA. My long term plan is to eventually go to law school and get my law degree.  Professionally, I am interning this summer at Highmark Health working in their audit and compliance department. I hope to eventually get an internship at a big 4 accounting firm.

I am working on the Trinidad service learning project, we are working with the DORCAS women’s group. The DORCAS women’s group is an organization based in Matelot, Trinidad. Their motto is “Teach, Turn, Travel”. The purpose of their group is to host events and undertake projects aimed at developing the community and improving the lives of the people who live there. At the end of the 10 year plan they hope to have a base built that will allow them to begin exploring ecotourism as a business venture. This year we are focusing on helping the DORCUS women to build local capacity by building their network in Trinidad. We are planning on doing this through multiple site visits. We will supplement these site visits with discussions about professionalism and customer service. These will be based around the importance of building a network, and what that looks like in Trinidad. Each site visit will also be accompanied by a SWOT analysis, wrapping the trip up with a SWOT analysis of the DORCAS women’s group themselves, focusing on opportunities and strengths. This final analysis will also serve as a valuable resource for CPLE students in years to come.


I decided to take this course because I love the projects we get to do in the CPLE. Working with a real client feels so much more important than my other business classes where we often are doing projects that are recycled every year and we have nothing to show for them after they are done. I knew if I took this course I would be able to not only participate in a project that involved a real client, the project would be part of something much longer than just a semester. I also love to travel and this trip seemed like a way to be immersed in a country as more than just a tourist.

Personally, I hope to gain relationships with the women in Trinidad and with my fellow CPLE students. Relationships with the women in Trinidad will be important when trying to connect with them about the topics we have planned. A strong personal relationship will help these more professional conversations feel more natural, which will be beneficial to everyone involved. I hope this will help me develop my people skills, as all the women will start as strangers. Making conversation with someone you don’t know that well is a life skill that will help me in networking situations as well as social situations.

Academically, this course has already helped me develop skill my other classes have not. For example, most group projects involve meeting a couple times before the project. For this project, we have decided to meet at least once a week outside of class, and even that hasn’t proven to be enough. This is helping me develop time management skills and understand the importance of meeting with a group face to face. There is more stake in this project than in a regular presentation or group paper as we have a real client we need to answer to. This course has also stretched and developed my writing skills in a way that many of my business courses in college have not done. Writing the scope of work has been difficult, but it has also taught me the importance of every single word in a document like this. This will help me academically as I move through the CPLE program

Professionally, I hope to develop my professional skills. Working on these skills in another country will push me in a new way that I have not practiced yet. I also think working with a real life client on a long term project such as this will help me in my internship this summer and in years to come. Meeting deadlines and communicating with a professional contact are invaluable skills for the line of work I am hoping to go into and this course and project will help me develop those skills in a way that I would not have been able to in another class.