The team of 10 students from the college’s undergraduate business, Master of Business and Master of Science in Accounting programs came together in late September to enter a competition hosted by the University System of Georgia. The competition was led by Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, who developed the concept of providing loans to people in need through a business model, now known as microcredit.
SPSU Associate Professor and MSA Program Coordinator Donald L. Ariail led the group, along with three other faculty advisers. Ariail said he found out about the competition in late September, giving the group less than three weeks to put together a plan and presentation before the conference on Oct. 17. The entire competition included 38 teams from the 35 schools in the university system, including some of the state’s largest universities such as the University of Georgia and Georgia State University. Those teams made up nearly 1,200 participants, and Yunus also acted as a judge in the competition, Ariail said.
Ariail said the team did not receive any course credit, and spent their own time working to make the team’s idea a success. Team members threw out several ideas for a new form of microcredit, but eventually decided on a model they called “Restoration Trust.”
“Restoration Trust is a microloan program aimed at abused women,” Ariail said. “Often times, in shelters, they don’t have the money they need to get an apartment or car, to get out of the cycle of abuse and violence. So they have to go back home to the abuser. This would allow small loans to be lent through the Restoration Trust group with reasonable terms with very low interest to these victims, most who don’t have any credit, and it would help them establish credit and give them funding for transportation, housing and education, to get their lives back on track.”
Ariail said Restoration Trust follows Yunus’ idea of running a business with a profit, but turning that profit back into the group to fund additional benefits for others who need help.
Ariail said the competition consisted of two rounds. During the first round, the teams were split into four groups and the top two teams from each group advanced to the finals round. Those eight teams then made their presentations again, and afterwards, the top awards were announced.
“We were really elated that our team made it through to the top eight, so it was very suspenseful and exciting when they were announcing the winners and every time we weren’t called, we were moved up another place. It was really a shock for all of us,” Ariail said.
“Our students did a wonderful job in the three short weeks they had to put together a business plan and presentation,” SPSU Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Zvi Szafran added. “I was proud to be there to see them win against some very strong competition.”
Ariail said the students are now trying to turn the business model they developed for the competition into a business plan, and while Yunus’ idea is to sell stock that would be no-dividend, so investors would only be receiving a return on their investments, the seed money for Restoration Trust will likely be through contributions.
Ariail said they hope to have the business running by the end of this semester, if not sooner, and are contemplating changing the name to Restoration Trust International because they would eventually like to expand the program outside of Georgia as well.
Team members included Bachelor of Science in Business Administration students Lauren Tyus and James (Ben) Fulghum; MSA students Sonal Doshi, Joelle Day and Arthur Vaughn; MBA students Christopher Estrada, Rebecca Stringer and Fred Arnold; Sana Yasmeen, a high school, dual-enrollment, honors biology student; and Tiane McKoy, a student in the Bachelor of Apparel and Textiles program. In addition to Ariail, the advisers included Dr. Sandra Vasa-Sideris, professor of management; Dr. Joyce McGriff, associate professor of marketing; and Gregory Quinet, assistant professor of management.
Ariail said SPSU’s MBA program is largest graduate degree on campus, while the MSA is fastest growing graduate degree in history of SPSU.
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