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Professor Patrice Flynn Discusses Her Career and Work in El Salvador

Donna Klinger

Professor of Global Business and Economics Patrice Flynn, Ph.D., the first woman to earn tenure and the rank of full professor in the Richard S. Bolte, Sr. School of Business, recently shared with a rapt audience of international students the story of her career and the “forks in the road” that led to her life of significance. Flynn was the speaker at iLEAD’s International Dinner and Dialogue earlier this month.

flynnpatrice-2017web.jpgProfessor Flynn spent much of her career as an economic policy researcher with the Urban Institute, Independent Sector and Flynn Research in her hometown of Washington, DC. Throughout her career, she was drawn to teaching with adjunct appointments at George Washington University, Johns Hopkins University and the Pentagon. As she excelled in her various jobs, she found that her lofty expectations weren’t being fulfilled. Several times, she paused, sought the advice of mentors and former professors, and chose a new path. The “two shining lights” that have kept her going are her current positions as professor at the Mount and a founding board member of Salvadoran Enterprises for Women, established by Sr. Anne Marie Gardiner, SSND.  

A dual citizen of the U.S. and Ireland, Flynn’s research and cultural interests have taken around the world from India to Africa, Central and Southeast Asia, Europe, the Middle East, South and Central America, the Russian Federation and much of North America.

During her time as a Fulbright U.S. Research Scholar at South Ural State University in Chelyabinsk, Russia in the Spring and Summer of 2019, Flynn published her first Russian scholarly article on Russia’s partnership with China’s new Silk Road, created a textbook for Russian professors interested in experiential learning techniques, and established a research group to explore how to use autonomous humanoid robots in university classrooms. She also developed meaningful relationships with Russian scholars that continue today.

int-dinner-in-text-1.jpgAt the International Dinner, Flynn focused on her work in El Salvador with Salvadoran Enterprises for Women (SEW) and the Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad, sharing inspiring stories of how SEW helps groups of women in various villages to come together to develop small businesses and in the process move out of poverty and toward social justice. “The International Dinner and Dialogue Series promotes student engagement with some of the most influential leaders in our community,” said iLEAD Director Dana Larkin Sauers. “It allows an opportunity for students to learn from a first-hand account of what it means to be a leader, how to conquer challenges, and most importantly what these experiences bring to your life as well as the impact it may have on others.”

As Flynn talked about the cheese-making, indigo dye, natural medicine and other businesses that women have launched in El Salvador, she highlighted the women’s persistence under challenging circumstances, including gang violence and extortion. These business owners are now admired in their communities and mentor one another. “One idea leads to another. One group teaches another,” Flynn said. “They are sharing their knowledge and their self-esteem has grown.”

int-dinner-in-text-3.jpg“SEW is testimony to how a small amount of money, administered judiciously by a committed group of women, can profoundly improve people's quality of life,” she added.

Flynn urged students to engage in the world in meaningful ways as they prepare for life after college. “Get involved. Find a project, find a country,” she said. “There’s so much work to do in the world. If we join together, we can accomplish a lot.”

Below several of the students who attended the dinner offer their reflections on Professor Flynn’s talk.

Janelle Ramroop, C’23

“I was truly honored to have been invited to the International Dinner and Dialogue with Dr. Patrice Flynn. I had encountered Dr. Flynn a few times before in passing, however, I have never had the pleasure of engaging in a conversation with her. The things she has accomplished are remarkable. I find myself often pondering my direction for my future, trying to have it all figured out, but Dr. Flynn helped ease my fear with her discussion about her life and the many forks she has encountered. It helped reassure [me of] the idea that one should follow their passions as opposed to creating a linear path to follow because life forks are bound to happen.”

Therese Kolb, C’25

“At the International Dinner and Dialogue, we heard Dr. Patrice Flynn give her personal testimony of her life and how she has impacted the women of El Salvador. Dr. Flynn has struggled with many forks in the road, but she has continued to fight for what she believed in. In her later years, she worked with the women of El Salvador to help provide funding for businesses that would allow the women to provide for their families. When she told us about these women in El Salvador, I was truly inspired because these women have dealt and continue to deal with many adversities in their lives including gang violence, revolutions, and poverty. However, despite all these adversities they continue to fight and provide for their families through hard work and determination. These women have changed their El Salvadorian communities and have inspired the young girls of the communities to work hard and learn how to be a leader. At this dinner, Dr. Flynn opened my mind to how women can inspire those in their communities despite being targeted.”

Roberto Fuentes, C’25

“The dinner was an experience I wish more of my peers could've shared with me. This event allowed me to see some familiar faces and meet some new ones as well. The concept of the modest and humble meal of soups with some bread and refreshments allowed for everyone to focus on the talk given and each other's presence. Dr. Flynn's talk was one that brought me many different emotions—joy, curiosity, sadness, inspiration. My biggest takeaway was that the women she got to work with and see grow are women who could be my mother, aunt, grandma.  Being from Honduras the story of Dr. Flynn's time in El Salvador hit home and made me ask myself some questions. The main one was how I can make an impact on my family back in Honduras and the area they live in. Often, I've found myself complaining about how life is hard here at times and how maybe I'm ungrateful for certain things. Yet hearing the story of the women who despite the circumstances became flowers that bloomed in the dark, I realized that I must start being more grateful for the good and bad in my life and work toward a cause greater than myself and my desires. This talk and dinner gave life to the embers deep in my soul and turned them into a burning fire that I plan to use to drive me throughout the rest of this semester and year going forward.”

Donna Klinger