Mendoza School of Business

Mendoza senior named recipient of Indiana Campus Compact student community commitment award

Published: March 28, 2014 / Author: John Guimond

Senior Peter Woo, Class of 2014, a Hesburgh-Yusko Scholar and a finance
and philosophy major with a minor in Chinese at the University of Notre Dame,
has been named the recipient of the Indiana Campus Compact (ICC) 2014 Richard
J. Wood Student Community Commitment Award
. The annual award recognizes the
efforts of students from an Indiana college or university for the impact they
have in their communities and on the citizens of Indiana.

This marks the third year in a row that a University of Notre
Dame student has received the Wood Award. Jon
, Class of ’14, received the 2013 award and Erin
, Class of ’13, received the 2012 award.

Woo grew up with missionary parents in Thailand and was able to
see firsthand how much service means to both the recipient and the people who
serve. When he came to Notre Dame, Woo grew steadily along a continuum of
service from curious college student to founder of the microlending institution
Jubilee Initiative for Financial Inclusion

The summer after his freshman year, he traveled to India as part
of an International
Summer Service Learning Program
through the Center for Social Concerns (CSC), where he worked in a nonprofit community agency, tasked
with researching money-lending practices. When he came back to campus that
fall, he researched predatory lending in the United States, and specifically
South Bend. In final preparation for launching JIFFI,
Woo spent the summer of 2012 at a microfinance organization through a Social
Venturing Internship
from the CSC and Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship
to gain additional microlending experience.

Woo said, “I had to act, especially as a business student, and
follow my philosophy of service.” He gathered a team of 12 students and
together they laid the groundwork for the student-run microlending organization
as an alternative to predatory lending in South Bend. JIFFI
now has eight active borrowers after opening the doors last February. The staff
of 12 has grown to 30, JIFFI has formed partnerships to
expand its client base and the operation has an office downtown South Bend.

In recommending Woo for the award, Bonnie Bazata, executive
director of Bridges Out of Poverty,
said, “Peter approached us and asked to understand how poverty works in our
community and what he could do about it. He wanted to connect this effort to
his growing expertise in business and finances, and he found his niche when he
learned about the trap of payday lenders who can charge up to 390 percent on
loans to low-income people who lack access to fair credit and face financial crises
regularly. With an estimated 7,000 payday loan borrowers in St. Joseph County, JIFFI is anticipating to save the county roughly $3.5 million
annually by bringing everyone out of the trap of payday loans. Now that is a
lasting contribution that few students are able to make to the community where
they learn and grow for four of the most important years of their lives.”

His focus is now on sustaining the business. Woo said, “When I
founded JIFFI, I wanted to build an organization that
would offer my peers, now and in the future, an opportunity to engage with
South Bend on a deeper level than ever before. My intent for JIFFI
does not end with providing tools for financial independence; I also wanted to
share my philosophy of service by shaping JIFFI as a
nexus at which students’ interests, passions and vocations intersect in
concrete action to address real problems in the community. I am encouraged
because my understanding of service as relating to others with what we have as
a fellow human being is really just an attitude, a way to be human.”

Woo was recognized at a luncheon and awards program as part of
the Indiana Campus Compact Service Engagement Summit on Thursday (March 27) in
Indianapolis. He is one of four Service Engagement Award winners who were
honored for their work at the summit. Along with the public recognition, the
award winners receive a cash gift to donate to the community partner of their
choice in order to further its service to the community.

Read Woo’s essay, “With
What We Have,
” that was part of the nomination process for the award.

Indiana Campus Compact supports higher education’s efforts to
develop students into well-informed, engaged citizens. By providing programs,
services and resources, ICC serves as a catalyst for
campuses and communities to improve people’s lives through service-learning and
civic engagement initiatives. For information, visit


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