Improving the regional economy

Saint Mary’s, nestled among the quiet Moraga hills, is making a mark on the Bay Area by contributing economic knowledge and expertise through a series of events and a Jan Term project.

In November 2010, the San Francisco Graduate Business Alumni Chapter organized the first Global Economic Forum at the World Affairs Council of Northern California. A panel of experts in banking, economics and finance addressed the economic issues confronting a world recovering from a severe global economic crisis.

The event was part of what moderator Associate Dean Shyam Kamath refers to as Saint Mary’s “duty to provide intellectual, practical and social conversations, where we can talk about what really concerns us as human beings.”

Other opportunities for community conversations came during spring semester, when the school’s Center for the Regional Economy co-sponsored two campus panel discussions. One focused on the housing crisis. The other brought together business leaders to explore the changing face of Asian investment in California.

The purpose of these events was to “provide additional insight into what is going on currently in these two areas,” said Professor Tomas Gomez-Arias. “The Asian event in particular was trying to fill a significant knowledge gap. There is ignorance about what kind of investment comes to California.”

Focusing on a topic closer to home, Professor Mary Coe’s “Extreme Makeover for Moraga” Jan Term project put student ingenuity to work to improve the town in which they live. Coe divided the “Extreme Makeover” class into five teams that explored different categories of Moraga business and surveyed and brainstormed ideas that would generate more campus business: entertainment, Moraga Center retail, Rheem Center retail, Moraga Center food and Rheem Center food. Ideas ranged from:

  • Implementing frequent buyer awards
  • Mass text messaging about business specials and offerings
  • Moving an annual Saint Mary’s event off-campus to one of the shopping centers to generate awareness
  • Using college students as business promoters
  • Creating a Facebook site for a group of Moraga businesses with relationships to Saint Mary’s on which merchants can update specials.

“It started a conversation between the College and the businesses that never really existed before,” said economics major Matt LeBel, a sophomore at the time. “Working with this town gave me the perspective that the town, the Chamber of Commerce and the College are all interconnected. I love Moraga now.”