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5 abroad Entrepreneurs St. Mary’s students travel to India to teach business development in Bangalore’s slums Story and photos by Jennifer R. Lloyd A 4 s the cluster of St. Mary’s University students disembarked the plane in southern India, they were struck first by the differences: the bare feet of the Marianist brother who greeted them at the airport in the middle of the night, the wild traffic maneuvers already underway long before dawn, the heady scent of jasmine, spices, distant smoke and the sour tinge of refuse. But, in the days to come, the students discovered it wasn’t the contrasts that would affect their lives most. It was the striking similarities that span humanity — a welcoming smile, an offer of food, a shared focus on education, a desire to succeed in career and life. These potent parallels forged a bond between 10 St. Mary’s students — led by Greehey School of Business faculty and the school’s chaplain, the Rev. Jim Tobin, S.M. — and the underprivileged youths to whom they mentored and taught business skills in the frenetic metropolis of Bengaluru, commonly called Bangalore. With the assistance of the Marianist brothers in India and the efforts of other organizations there, the St. Mary’s students provided business workshops to about 70 high school dropouts between the ages of 18 and 30. The group also visited play schools, essentially a preschool for children living in the dilapidated, multicolored buildings of the city’s slums. The St. Mary’s students, each members of the entrepreneurship-focused student organization Enactus, had big plans to make a difference but discovered they really “went in blind” to what they would find, said Celeste Padron (B.B.A. ’16), who graduated in May. Padron and fellow student José Parrilla said they gained a newfound appreciation not only for their lives back home, but also for their educational advantages as part of a Marianist university. “I’ve always thought of myself as appreciative of what I have, but in reality … it showed room for improvement,” said Padron, who recalled being offered food by a woman cooking in a pot outdoors. “What really struck me was the hospitality offered, no matter how little money somebody has.” Marketing major Guillermo Avelar, originally from El Salvador, said the trip “helped reinforce that we’re also committed to the bigger community — outside St. Mary’s, even outside the United States — and we’re also connecting with the Marianist values.” Propelling this growth in the students’ frame of mind was the intended objective for trip organizers Tobin and Finance Professor Prasad Padmanabhan, Ph.D. “No matter what you have or what you don’t have, where you live or what’s going on, we’re all in this family of human beings together,” said Tobin, who had traveled to India several times and planted the idea for the immersion experience with Tanuja Singh, D.B.A., Dean of the Greehey School of Business. “My hope is that this experience will, in some way and somehow, impact their lives and their careers … and give a sense of what’s really important.” Singh said not only did students use “their knowledge and skills to teach, train and mentor underprivileged youth in Bangalore,” but they also “learned a lot from these young people — about their resilience, adaptability and a desire continued on page 18 Summer 2016 G OL D & B LU E | 15