University of Pennsylvania students host country's largest undergraduate microfinance conference

There's nothing we at Kiva love more than kids and students getting involved with microfinance and making a difference early in their lives.

On a mission to help people help themselves, students at the University of Pennsylvania established their own organization dedicated to microfinance 7 years ago. Today, they are the largest undergraduate microfinance organization in the United States and the host of the first and largest undergraduate microfinance conference, which is coming up on March 30.

Saloni is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. She interned with Kiva in high school and has been closely involved with our educational programs since then. At school, she also serves as a board member for Penn Microfinance. She invites everyone to learn more about microfinance at their Annual Conference. So we wanted to ask her a few questions about what inspires her.

1. Why did all of you get involved with microfinance?

Saloni:We believe that microfinance is one of the most innovative solutions to poverty alleviation of our time. With that in mind, it uses time tested methods of banking but for a different purpose. We also found it very appealing that a microloan is a hand-up, not a hand-out, and empowers entrepreneurs everywhere.

2. Why do you think it's important for college students to know about microfinance?

As microfinance has truly become accessible (from both the lender and borrower perspective) in the past few years, we believe that college students can harness the intersection of technology, finance, and social impact by getting involved in microfinance. We ask ourselves, "Why be a banker for the rich when you can be a banker for the poor?"

3. How is Penn Microfinance making a difference both on campus and globally?

On campus, Penn Microfinance serves as an avenue for students to use their business acumen to make a positive difference. By educating the community about microfinance and its social impact, we empower the student body to help alleviate poverty. We also work with MFIs in countries such as Bangladesh and Brazil on year long projects that we help implement into the field during the summer. We accomplish our goals as an organization and as advocates of microfinance through our annual conference and our partnerships with MFIs around the world. 

4. What do you hope to accomplish at the 2013 Penn Microfinance Conference? 

The Penn Microfinance Conference is a gathering of talented students, professionals, and organizations that seek to discuss and learn about the present and future impact of microfinance in our globalized world. The goals of this conference are threefold: (1) educate students about sustainable social impact and giving back to the world through the field of business, (2) provide networking opportunities to create a strong community of motivated students and professionals, (3) inspire tomorrow’s world leaders to take an active stance in corporate responsibility and development. 

Whether you are a student, educator, an industry professional, or just interested in learning about microfinance, check out 7th annual Penn Microfinance Conference on Saturday, March 30, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Have questions about how to get involved with Kiva as a student? Send them our way at

About the author

Emily Wakefield

A native of southern California, Emily is a recent graduate from Santa Clara University where she studied Economics and Spanish Studies. The highlight of her college experience was the semester she spent abroad in Granada, Spain. She knew she wanted to pursue a career in economic development after reading Half the Sky. Emily will be joining the Marketing and Communications team as a Blog and Social Media Intern and is especially excited to find new and creative ways to spread Kiva’s work to more people. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, listening to country music, and re-watching Friends episodes for the millionth time.