Faculty Spotlight: Darline Augustine
Photo: Elizabeth Leitzell
Everything Baruch College Assistant Professor Darline Augustine has done in her life comes from “passion and love,” as she herself describes it. From her time spent on Wall Street to her schooling in London, to the development of a nonprofit benefitting Haiti, Augustine has followed her heart with each new challenge, including the acceptance of a substitute position teaching entrepreneurship at Baruch College.
Augustine grew up in Brooklyn but has spent several years in the United Kingdom, most recently to pursue her PhD at the London School of Economics. Upon her return to the States, she says, Baruch seemed like the right fit. “I knew I wanted to come to CUNY because it’s a government-funded school and I think CUNY can really produce great quality students. New York has a lot of private colleges but needs a really great public university system that’s not expensive so people of all backgrounds can attend. So when I was contacted by Ed Rogoff [Zicklin School of Business management department chair] I was very, very keen on coming here,” she says.
The financial world is where Augustine got her start, having held positions at big-bracket firms and the United Nations, but it is microfinance that most appeals to her. “I started thinking about working for the poor and working for wealthy institutions and how the two can work together – it was just something in the back of my head. Being that my background is from Haiti, a country always in financial crisis, it’s always been on my mind. So eventually, I thought, ‘Can microfinance be a tool to bring people out of misery to create more economic democracy?’ I began to research the question on my own and then in 2006 decided to go back and complete a PhD,” she says.
This was not the first time Augustine worked to adapt financial know-how into something that could aid the underprivileged. In her last year as an undergraduate at Hamilton College, she wrote a thesis on economic development in Haiti that spurred the creation of a non-profit called the Haiti Resource Consortium. While a college senior, Augustine brought on fellow college and university students across the United States to aid in the organization’s growth, which would focus on combining environmental development with economic development, raising money to give Haitian college students the skills they needed to bring growing solar technologies into their local culture. “At one point, I realized I needed to get Haitians from Canada and Europe on board. Haiti’s official language is French, so there are a lot of Haitians in Montreal, Paris and Geneva who could help our endeavors. That was my original inspiration to go to London, where I completed an MSc and a PhD,” she says.
Augustine says she is richer for her experiences in the United Kingdom and Europe, having lived in an area in such close proximity to a multitude of different cultures. Yet New York has always managed to pull her back. She has taught at two other colleges in the city and has a special place in her heart for inner-city students.
At Baruch, she says, she is particularly impressed by the quality of the students: “A lot of them are working fulltime but they take their studies seriously. I think Baruch can show itself as a great leader in New York.” As a professor she wants to see herself as someone committed to the development of the country as a whole. “It’s very important for me to give students a sense of ‘I can achieve:' I can achieve with excellence and not with mediocrity’ and ‘I can achieve by caring and not just unthoughtful exploitation,’ starting with one individual at a time. I think these tenants areimportant and I feel privileged and honored to be able to promote these values in a classroom.”