Posted on February 7, 2023 by Wendy Frost

Investment Society students in Costa Rica Nine finance majors from the Investment Society student organization in the Carlos Alvarez College of Business at UTSA learned firsthand about mircrolending by participating in an experiential learning experience in Costa Rica with Ron Sweet , MBA ’91, associate professor of practice in finance.

Student participants were Devin Driskell , Juan Carlos Gallegos , Alinna Garcia , Bryan Gonzalez , Oliver Iracheta , Antonio Martinez , Ana Sanchez , Alexa Velez and Bertha Von Chong .

“Spending a week in Costa Rica with the sole purpose of helping was such a unique and unforgettable experience,” said Sanchez, president of the UTSA Investment Society. “I’m really proud to be able to see the impact the UTSA Investment Society has on such a small and rural community.”

The 10-day trip in January was sponsored by Indigenous Community Development International (ICDI), a nonprofit that Sweet helped establish to provide community development opportunities for the poorest regions of Costa Rica through microlending. The organization loans money to community members to finance their entrepreneurial ventures for the betterment of the community. A microloan is a small loan offered at a low interest rate for people in economically-disadvantaged areas.

In addition to the yearly visits, members of the Investment Society manage ICDI’s investment portfolio and provide recommendations for stocks to buy or sell based on the investment research of members.

“This was the ninth trip overall for our students, but the first since 2020 due to the pandemic,” said Sweet. “It is a powerful experience for our students, and it allows them to enhance their business education in the field.”

Investment Society 2023 Costa Rican trip The students participated in numerous activities during their stay. They met with microloan recipients who have used the funding to establish sugarcane, banana and coffee farms; raise cattle; and create an artificial turf soccer field. Hearing their stories, the students are also able to provide them with business insights that they’ve learned in the classroom as well as through internship experiences.

Giving back to the community, they also hosted a three-day camp for local children teaching them vital entrepreneurship skills. Topics included basic concepts such as accounting, managing costs, operations, production and marketing.

“My favorite part of the trip was getting to teach the children the importance of finance within entrepreneurship,” said Sanchez. “The children were so eager to learn. I was proud that I got to share my knowledge with them.”

The students’ final activity was to host a carnival for the town featuring food, games and prizes.

“Seeing businesses functioning well in a very difficult climate was inspirational for our students,” said Sweet. “The trip was a valuable experience for the UTSA students and a tremendous blessing to the community in Costa Rica that they served.”

During their free time the group enjoyed exploring the mountainous region, hiking, swimming and playing soccer with the locals.

“The Costs Rica trip was full of learning experiences both culturally and in the business sense,” said Gallegos, managing director of the Investment Society. “This has definitely been one of the best parts of my college experience.”

— Wendy Frost