Fulbright award helps Neal Barsch ’14 study new banking technologies for rural poor in Philippines

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Neal Barsch ‘14, of Englewood, Colo., has been awarded a Fulbright research grant to travel to the Philippines to study the use of mobile banking technologies for rural populations.

An economics major with a minor in music, Barsch will examine the feasibility of bringing mobile financial services, such as branchless banking, to the rural poor by using the existing infrastructure of the country’s ubiquitous Sari-Sari stores.

“Rural microsavings can have a large impact on poverty as it provides safe and easy access to funds, decreasing the risk of holding money at home. …” Barsch said. “It also helps families to save for children’s educations, build up savings for medical and other emergencies, and build collateral for loans to start businesses.”

Neal Barsch '14

Neal Barsch ’14

In 2013 Barsch worked for a month at the Grameen Foundation in the Philippines, which helped him to learn about economic development in the country, and to make important contacts at Ateneo de Manila University, laying the groundwork for his Fulbright project.

In addition to his own research, Barsch said he plans to engage with his host community through volunteering with an ecological conservation group called Project Aware.

After his Fulbright year, Barsch said he plans to pursue an MBA in social enterprise and to work toward a career focused on poverty alleviation.

“Neal came to me with a compelling idea and worked hard to design a strong and feasible research agenda,” said Kim Germain, Colgate’s assistant dean for fellowship advising and a close adviser to all Fulbright applicants. “It’s wonderful that the Fulbright program recognized his promise and will enable him to pursue his mobile banking research in the Philippines.”

Barsch is one of four Colgate seniors awarded a Fulbright grant for the 2014-2015 academic year.

The Fulbright program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.