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Loose change

The microfinancing initiative represents a shifting paradigm in economic development

Microfinancing seems to be one of today's biggest buzzwords. Microfinance, according to Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, is the "supply of loans, savings, and other basic financial services to the poor." Microfinance is significant in that it usually involves the provision of small amounts of money that are too small for banks to loan. Microfinancing has become a major success for both the people who supply the loans and the people who receive them. The World Bank "estimates that there are now over 7,000 microfinance institutions, serving some 16 million poor people in developing countries. The total cash turnover of MFIs world-wide is estimated at $2.5 billion and the potential for new growth is outstanding." With the popularity and success of microfinancing, it is commendable that University students are taking the time and effort to keep education for this issue relevant.

University students are hosting a conference that features Rehman Sobahan, the founder and chairman of the Dhaka-based Center for policy dialogue. He is also the chairman of Grameen and oversees microloans to impoverished Bangladeshi people. Student Entrepreneurs for Economic Development, Global Development Organization and Engineering Students Without Borders organized the "Perspectives in Development: Covering the Multi Faceted World of International Development" conference, which speaks of the University's character. Their existence alone speaks volumes about our changing world and the University's ability to adapt to these changes.

College campuses are generally places for revolutionary ideas. This conference is no exception. The conference allows for people to congregate to discuss, develop and improve ideas. College campuses can be a sort of Facebook for the academic mind. It is a place where one can create relationships and network with other intellectuals to come up with better ideas for change. This idea holds true for the University. One of the aspects the University is lauded for is the availability for teachers and office hours. Furthermore, our students support the kind of revolutionary ideas that microfinancing represents.

Along with the recent addition of the Global Development major, this conference is another example of the University being a leader for other universities to follow. Interest in developing nations is crucial in today's society. We now live in a world where no country's action is completely without repercussions on others. When economies plummet, a ripple effect occurs where the world begins to become effected by a nations downfall. We have seen this example first hand with the current economy and how the world has been affected.

What is most inspiring about the efforts of these organizations is that they are inspired to make a difference. Yix Ng, one of the founding members of Student Entrepreneurs for Economic Development, stated, "What really motivated me to start SEED was something I heard Doris Buffett say when she came to visit McIntire. Basically her message was 'If you haven't made a difference in this world, your life wasn't worth living.' We think we can make a difference - and we want to make sure that SEED continues to thrive." University students that organize themselves to leave a positive message for the world are inspiring, and hold to the true form of what an education is about.

Ashley Ford's column appears on Tuesdays. She can be reached at