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According to Western Illinois University Professor John Gruidl, who works at the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western, both he and Linda Lee Blaine (who also works at the IIRA) taught a course on social entrepreneurship to an international class of students from Mexico and Canada. From left to right: Alexandru Finidori, Mathieu Lafontaine, Benoit Bizier, Renée Laferriére, Hamza Aouni, Maxine Vincent, Colin Castonguay, Gomez Tagle, Diego Rodrigo, Julie Caron, John Gruidl and Linda Lee Blaine. Photo courtesy of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs.
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IIRA Faculty Taught Social Entrepreneurship, Enterprise at Summer Session in Mexico

September 25, 2012


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MACOMB, IL -- When people think of Mexico, they often think of white sands, expansive ocean and idle hours. Yet two Western Illinois University employees had a different purpose in mind when they taught a summer course at the Universidad Panamericana (UP) in Guadalajara. According to WIU Professor John Gruidl, who works at the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA) at Western, both he and Linda Lee Blaine (who also works at the IIRA) taught a course on social entrepreneurship to an international class of students from Mexico and Canada.

Students from six universities were invited to participate in the international summer session, which included intensive training in Spanish and many business-related topics, such as international negotiations, cultural considerations when conducting business in Mexico and global marketing strategies. Gruidl and Blaine, both practitioners in community development, were tasked with introducing social entrepreneurship and social enterprise to 10 students from Canada and Mexico. The course also included a field trip to Basurama, a recycling enterprise within Guadalajara, as well as visits from several U.S. entrepreneurs via Skype.

"Social entrepreneurship requires a type of innovation that also helps to solve social issues," Blaine explained. "Advancements in this field include such enterprises as drip-irrigation systems, LED lights and other products that are easily and inexpensively produced, while also positively impacting health and economic circumstances for underprivileged communities. Entrepreneurial ventures identifying these communities as viable markets for their products are well positioned to address a social issue with an innovative solution."

Gruidl noted he and Blaine were invited to teach as part of an international consortium of which WIU and UP are both members. The consortium is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC) and the Secretary of Public Education in Mexico (SEP). Other participating schools include Western Kentucky University, Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon (Mexico); Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario (Canada); and Universite de Moncton in Moncton, New Brunswick (Canada).

According to Gruidl, he was excited to have the opportunity to visit Mexico in a teaching capacity. He noted, for many, crossing the border causes concerns for safety.

"So often when you hear about Mexico these days, it is only in the context of drug wars and violence. Yet we at the IIRA have worked cooperatively on multiple projects with Mexico through the past few years, and have met only people who are anxious to improve the quality of life for their country. It is exciting to feel that we can contribute to the positive outcomes and advancements being made there," he said.

Funded through a grant received by the WIU College of Business and Technology, the FIPSE project continues at WIU for one more year, during which opportunities exist for students interested in studying at one of the five consortium universities partnering with Western, Gruidl added.

For more information about how to receive a substantial stipend offsetting the tuition costs of attending member universities, interested students should contact Gruidl at JJ-Gruidl@wiu.edu.

Learn more about the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs via its website at www.iira.org.

Posted By: WIU News (U-Relations@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations