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The Madagascar Sustainability Initiative, previously run through University College, is the most recent addition to the Center for Experiential Learning’s portfolio of offerings.
We talked with recent Madagascar alumnus Joseph Park, BSBA ’19, about the course, how it aligned with his personal goals, and his takeaways from the experience.
What is the Madagascar Sustainability Initiative?
It is both an academic and immersive course. Students spend a semester learning about the economic, political, and sustainability issues facing the country. Then, four- to five-person teams develop projects to address the problematic deforestation rate in the country and improve the lives of the people in Madagascar. At the end of the semester, students travel to the Mahabo village to implement projects, live with the native Malagasies, and explore the culture through activities like visiting the free market and going on a lemur walk.
What does the day-to-day work look like in Madagascar?
The trip to Madagascar is three weeks. Two weeks are spent implementing projects in the village of Mahabo, while the other week is spent traveling and sightseeing in Madagascar.
Joseph’s group introduced a method of converting animal droppings into charcoal, creating an alternative to wood for fires and beginning a system of waste management for animal owners. This work is a foundation for larger future projects that have the potential to significantly reduce wood usage in the country.
Projects vary. For example, other groups distributed feminine hygiene products to women and girls or revived a community garden.
The cultural immersion piece is truly what makes this class unique. “Not only do you study the issues facing the country, but you also actually experience it for yourself and have the opportunity to change people’s lives,” Joseph said.
As a business student, Joseph says his goal is to use business for social impact, and the Madagascar class helped him to do …