COA professor Jay Friedlander (second from the left) speaking at a sustainability panel in Colomb...COA professor Jay Friedlander (second from the left) speaking at a sustainability panel in Colombia. Friedlander spent a month teaching at two Colombian universities on a Fulbright Specialist Award.

COA Sharpe-McNally Chair of Green and Socially Responsible Business Jay Friedlander shared his expertise on sustainable business practices with students, faculty, and staff at two colleges during his time in Colombia. Friedlander held online seminars (due to COVID-19), joined speaker panels on social entrepreneurship, and spent evenings exploring the busy streets of Bogotá or spending time with new friends, he said.

“Despite all of the unrest in Colombia, a health crisis, my poor Spanish, and being in a mask, I was struck by how generous and kind everyone I met was to me,” Friedlander said. “Given all of the factors in play, I found this remarkable and a testament to the commonalities between people.”

While in Colombia, Friedlander taught a course where students were challenged to develop a $1 billion enterprise inspired by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. He was also the featured speaker on a panel focused on building failure immunity in social entrepreneurs that was live streamed around the world, according to Fulbright materials.

He said he was both excited and daunted when he received news of the award.

“At the time I went to Colombia they were experiencing significant social unrest and had one of the highest rates of COVID in the world. Nevertheless, it felt important to be there, especially at this time of crisis,” Friedlander said.

The two schools he worked with during this time were on very different ends of the economic spectrum: the College of Advanced Management Studies, a top business school that serves mostly elite families, with about 1,000 students, and UNIMINUTO, one of Colombia’s largest universities that houses about 130,000 students from lower income families.

Friedlander’s students dove into the topics of social innovation and sustainable entrepreneurship with his guidance.

One of the things that most captured the attention of the Colombian schools was COA’s Diana Davis Spencer Hatchery, Friedlander said.

The highlight was seeing how COA’s approach to sustainable business was both relevant and inspirational for Colombian students and professors,” he said.

The Hatchery is a business incubator that provides eligible students academic credit, professional services and access to seed funding to develop a business. The program “allows students to walk the entrepreneurial high wire with a safety net and support,” according to “Offering academic credit aligns the entrepreneurial and educational interests of students, allowing them to start enterprises because of their education. This program is unique among liberal arts colleges.”

Being in Colombia during this unsettled time gave Friedlander some perspective on issues within the United States, he said, focusing on the importance of harmonizing with each other and solving our differences. For him, the Fulbright experience demonstrated how important this mindset of peace is.

“The history of violence and political division in Colombia offer a stark warning to an increasingly divided United States,” Friedlander said. “Colombia offered a glimpse of how political divisions can spiral out of control and lead to violence that negatively impacts everyone. We are much better focusing on how to work together versus demonizing each other.”

The Fulbright program Friedlander took part in was designed to focus on sparking innovation and entrepreneurship with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and merging theory and practice to encourage social entrepreneurship, according to Fulbright Press.

COA professor Jay Friedlander (center right) shares a meal with colleagues in Bogotá during his o...COA professor Jay Friedlander (center right) shares a meal with colleagues in Bogotá during his once month stay in the Columbia on a Fulbright Specialist Award.

When Friedlander wasn’t busy teaching or speaking, he could be found exploring the streets of Bogotá.

“Most days started with breakfast accompanied by a smattering of other people at my hotel. Given the COVID situation, many days were spent running classes and seminars online,” he said. “After work was done, I went out most days to walk around and explore Bogotá and have dinner at an outdoor restaurant. Occasionally, I went out with colleagues or other Fulbrighters.”