It’s a Friday afternoon, May 17. The UNLV campus is silent. Finals have ended. Professors and students have bid each other farewell. Many are off to summer jobs as the spring semester comes to an end. However, Room 318 in the Lee Business School still stirs.
“Current GDP?” my professor asks.
“An estimated $211 billion and $6,500 per capita in 2017,” an answer comes.
I'm standing in a conference room with eight other business students, all of us dressed in professional attire. We’re pitching our latest research findings to our entrepreneurship professor, Janet Runge. She continues her questions and each of us follow with a response.
“46% are from mineral products, racking sales of $45 billion in 2017.”
“5.5% annual growth rate; poverty levels are down to 20.7%”
“Great. Now… who got their typhoid shots?”
In three days, our class will meet once more — not in a classroom, but at the McCarran International Airport. Now a yearly tradition, third-year UNLV students minoring in the Global Entrepreneurship Experience Program are offered the chance to study in a foreign country for two weeks during the summer.
The Global Entrepreneurship Program, or GEE for short, is a four-year curriculum that teaches students of any discipline the necessary skills for establishing a business. Every semester offers a different, unique field of entrepreneurship and provides GEE students firsthand experiences of creating, developing, and scaling a startup organization. The students’ third year in the program focuses primarily on global entrepreneurship.
This year’s location? Peru.
“All right – let’s review this once more,” Runge, founder and director of GEE, says to the class. Squinting, she looks at us; she knows we’re ready to jump out of our business suits and into alpaca pants and ponchos.
She ticks through our itinerary: The first three days will be in the capital city of Lima, where we will visit the U.S. embassy and meet with local startup incubators in the city. Then we’ll travel to Arequipa and Lake Titicaca.
"We’ll spend time with the Uros tribe, whose inhabitants live on 'floating islands' that are artificially made entirely of reeds," she notes. "We’ll stop by at Taquile Island, whose residents depend on ancestral weaving and learn about their social entrepreneurial efforts to preserve their culture and community. We will then travel to Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and of course, Machu Picchu. We’ll finally return to Lima and depart on June 1 back to the United States. Sounds good?”
Oh boy, does it.
Of course our class, or “Cohort 8,” is extremely excited. Our cohort has spent the past year reaching out to private donors, creating Rebel Raisers, and seeking funding from the CSUN student government at UNLV. And it finally paid off – all seven of the students who are going, as well as the two accompanying GEE professors, will have their trip completely funded by private donors, local companies, and UNLV itself.
Runge will be accompanying and directing Cohort 8’s trip to Peru, along with GEE professor and business consultant Huston Pullen. Runge has directed the seven previous cohort trips in various countries and believes Peru is a great location to learn about economic progression and business development.
“Peru is good for a number of reasons," she said. "Since 2018, the Peruvian government has funded over $100 million in innovation and entrepreneurship programming. What GEE takes into account is social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurship plays a very big role in Peru, and they have paid particular attention from a governmental perspective, as well as a public policy perspective, in supporting social entrepreneurship, particularly amongst Peru’s indigenous population. I am excited to take my students on this journey.”
As we pack up our bags, buy our Spanish dictionaries, and check for those final typhoid shots, we plan to keep you updated on our travels in South America. Stay tuned — we plan to bring back the business and cultural knowledge of Peru, and a humble heart to share such an amazing experience — but for now, hasta luego!