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U.N., UB and SUNY Partners Expand Microfinance Education

UB School of Management to help deliver distance-learning course internationally

By Jacqueline Ghosen

Release Date: March 17, 2008

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo School of Management, the University at Albany's Center for International Development, the Levin Institute and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) have signed an agreement to expand a microfinance training program that explores why and how microfinance operations grow to provide financial services to low-income people on a sustainable basis.

Microfinance is focused on providing basic financial services to the poor.  Financial services needed by the poor include small loans, consumer credit, savings, pensions, insurance and money transfer services.

The Microfinance Distance Learning course, which was developed by UNCDF for Web, distance learning and classroom delivery, brings together advice and best practices from successful microfinance practitioners and institutions around the world, from Latin America to Africa to Asia and the Arab States.

With the signing of the agreement, the State University of New York, through the University at Buffalo School of Management, the Center for International Development of the Rockefeller College, University at Albany and the Levin Institute, will further develop and deliver the course to a broad audience.

"The Microfinance Distance Learning program represents a significant innovation for organizations engaged in the critical work of creating opportunities for building entrepreneurship and small business in emerging economies," said UB School of Management Dean John M. Thomas, Ph.D.

"It is also a unique opportunity for the UB School of Management to apply our expertise in management education to this important goal," he added. "We look forward to working with our SUNY partners and the U.N. Capital Development Fund to make this project a long term, sustainable success."

Henriette Keijzers, interim executive secretary at UNCDF, said the partnership with SUNY offered another boost to building more inclusive financial sectors.

"Our UNCDF microfinance colleagues invested a lot of time, energy and resources into developing this program," she said. "The intention was to promote knowledge of microfinance to as broad an audience as possible, which is now happening through partnerships like this one with SUNY."

The Levin Institute, the Center for International Development and the UB School of Management will further develop strategic partnerships to expand the implementation of the training program in the U.S. and internationally.

Possible partnerships may include NGOs, governments and development agencies, with the goal of offering training programs on microfinance using the UNCDF materials. Symposiums on microfinance for academics and businesspeople are also being planned.

"The opportunity for SUNY and the Levin Institute to work with the United Nations in helping to inform a new cohort of business leaders, policymakers, and entrepreneurs about the world of microfinance represents an exciting educational opportunity for us," said Denis Simon, Ph.D., provost of the Levin Institute. "By assisting in the diffusion of knowledge about microfinance, we hope to spark new pockets of growth and development in countries that will benefit greatly from being able to access these new channels of capital."

Jeffrey D. Straussman, Ph.D, dean of the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, said the agreement with UNCDF offers an unprecedented opportunity for SUNY to impact the academic and business worlds in the area of microfinance. "And the collaboration of the different SUNY organizations is an excellent model to maximize SUNY's outreach - locally and globally," he said.

Established in 1966 by the U.N. General Assembly with a unique mandate to invest in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), the United Nations Capital Development Fund is affiliated with U.N. Development Program and contributes to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals at the local level through a unique combination of investment capital (grants, credits and guarantees), capacity building support and technical advisory services within its two practice areas: (i) Inclusive Financial Sectors and (ii) Decentralization and Local Development. UNCDF currently has active programs valued at approximately $125 million in 39 LDCs. More information is available at www.uncdf.org.

The Wall Street Journal ranks the UB School of Management No. 9 in the nation among schools with strong regional recruiting bases. In addition, BusinessWeek ranks the school as one of the country's top 5 business schools for the fastest return on MBA investment, and Forbes cites it as one of the best business schools in the U.S. for the return on investment it provides MBA graduates. For more information about the UB School of Management, visit mgt.buffalo.edu.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system that is its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.