SLU Student Works to Support Small Farmers Across the Globe
SLU-Madrid senior Sierra Zima already has a foot in the working world – heading up and managing communications for Blue Mangoes, an international b-corporation dedicated to working with small farmers in developing nations.
It’s an opportunity that makes the most of her passion for connecting across cultures and for pursuing positive solutions to economic and food insecurity in rural communities.
Blue Mangoes partners with small farmers and local communities in Central American, West Africa and the Caribbean to provide ways for these farmers to sell their excess fruit abroad while raising funds for better preservation technologies including solar-powered dehydrators.
A Professional Opportunity Pairs with Classroom Learning
The agency’s founder approached Zima in the spring of 2018 to invite her onboard as Blue Mangoes’ director of communication. Zima, who is majoring in international business, had been considering a career in economic development in Latin America or potentially joining the Peace Corps.
“For me, being global Billiken is about taking everything I learn about new cultures and languages a step further by trying to implement them into my life,” Zima said. “When I read more about Blue Mangoes and their mission, I felt like it was the perfect opportunity to connect and work with an organization that had similar values to my own, and that I would get a taste of what a future career would be like.”
Globalizing and Applying Jesuit Values
“Working with Blue Mangoes has allowed me to live the SLU mission by working for the service of humanity,” she continued. “I chose a Jesuit university because I really believe in the Jesuit ideal of having a well-rounded education, and the values of cura personalis and community service.”
Through her coursework, she learned about collateral design, search engine operations (SEO) and social media management skills. Internships sharpened her skills, and she now uses what she learned in SLU-Madrid’s classrooms for Blue Mangoes. Group projects, like running a dairy product manufacturing simulation, have also come in handy as she navigates working as part of Blue Mangoes’ administrative team.
Embracing New Challenges as a Professional and Student
“SLU-Madrid has really pushed me to accept challenges instead of shying award from them,” Zima explained. “I think that being able to appreciate diversity is an important skill to have in today’s world, and I’m so glad that I’ve been able to meet people with such interesting and different ideas, values, and life experiences. I think I’ve been able to become someone who tries to listen and understand before having gut reactions and judging why someone does something differently than I do.”
After transferring to SLU-Madrid from another university, Zima got hands-on experience in international business, while immersing herself in Spain’s national language and culture.
“I think this was the best choice for me since I’ve had the opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone, to meet interesting people from all over the world, and to add that international experience that gives my degree extra value,” she said.
Thinking About the Next Horizon
As she gets ready for her final year at SLU next year, Zima continues her work with Blue Mangoes, while considering her next professional position and pursuing a master’s degree in the future. She currently generates web content for the agency, and works with its team to maintain and expand Blue Mangoes’ visibility and brand.
“I’m hoping to work for a company that values innovation and sustainability, and offers a career filled with meaningful work and adventure,” Zima said.
One of Spain’s oldest and most renowned U.S. universities, SLU-Madrid is a center for international education in the country. Founded in 1967, it was the first U.S. university to be recognized by Madrid’s ministry of higher education.
Story by Katie Gortz, SLU-Madrid Marketing, and Amelia Flood, University Marketing and Communications