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Global Leadership Students Visit Ecuador

September 5, 2019
Wendy Rowe
Masters of Global Leadership students standing in front of cheese factory in Ecuador

International Cultural Leadership Experience in Ecuador

Master of Arts in Global Leadership (MAGL) students will return to Ecuador on September 16th for a two-week international cultural leadership experience. They will visit the remote indigenous community of Salinas in the Central Andes Highlands to learn about the social-cooperative model that was implemented in the '70s with the arrival of an Italian priest and others. Over the past 30 years, Salinas thrived with the creation of a chocolate factory then a cheese factory that supports a network of local farmers and community members. Profits were reinvested in the community to create a local banking system and establish a stable water and power grid infrastructure system. Other micro industries emerged and a global brand established.

In addition, MAGL students will visit the community of Simitug, only 45 km away, which is struggling both economically and socially but is making recent progress in areas of eco-tourism and a women’s cooperative crafts industry.  

In July 2018, these two communities were the site of a research project launched by Dr. Wendy Rowe and MAGL graduate Gary Hayes (beginning the DSocSci program in February 2020) to explore factors underlying the successes of Salinas in contrast to Simitug and to identify local leadership capacities needed to support further community economic and social development, appropriate to the needs and character of each community. The research involved extensive observations and interviews with key community leaders on topics pertaining to new opportunities for economic growth, barriers of education and skill development, infrastructure limitations such as transportation to markets and reliable water systems. Leadership needs and a future vision was discussed in each community.

Students and faculty exploring Salinas, Ecuador

On September 20th, the research team will present a summary of key findings to community members in Salinas and Simiatug. Notable for both communities is the value of a unifying community vision that brings diverse members of the community and its surrounding villages together to define how they want to live as a community, economically and socially.  For these small communities, a collectivist purpose is viewed as needing to take precedence over individual social or economic interests in the community, otherwise, conflict and lack of cooperation undermines the effective use of the limited resources. Both communities were adamant that local leadership is important in establishing transparent communication and trust across all sectors of the community and in initiating strategic plans and action. Engaging youth in developing a community vision that is shared by elders is identified as critical to the future of both communities.

For more information about this project, contact Dr. Wendy Rowe at

To find out more about our programs and dates for upcoming information sessions, visit the School of Leadership Studies website

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