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Alumni Spotlight: Roman Yavich, Co-Founder & Director of Operations, Communidad Connect

Roman Yavich (MPA '11) Working toward sustainable community development and tourism in Nicaragua

Roman Yavich (MPA ’11)
Working toward sustainable community development and tourism in Nicaragua

I still recall when Roman came for a visit to explore graduate studies at the Maxwell School. I really enjoyed meeting him and hearing about his research and work in Nicaragua.  Plus, he is a really nice guy and his enthusiasm for the work he was doing was palpable.

As he notes below… after co-founding the non-profit, Communidad Connect, the work and organization quickly grew, requiring more skilled professional leadership.   This is just one of the motivating factors which drive young professionals to our MPA and MA IR degree programs. I’ll let you read Roman’s story in his own words below. Thank you Roman for sharing your story and for all the good work you and your colleagues are doing!

Making the most of the Maxwell MPA
by Roman Yavich, MPA ‘11

Things were getting a little out of control. What started as a recycling project in a small beach side town in Nicaragua had grown to a full-fledged, incorporated nonprofit with four programs, a dozen staff, and revenues in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. I was in over my head and I knew it. Some soul searching combined with career planning lead me to decide to apply to graduate school, and a Masters in Public Administration was an obvious choice.

A daylong visit to Maxwell, really a few hours, was enough to convince me. The professionalism of the people and students I met, the academic rigor of the program, and the caliber of the faculty left no doubt that this was the very foundation I needed to take my organization to the next level.

I’m really lucky to have been born where I was and have the chance to get good healthcare, an excellent education, and an opportunity to do what I want in life. Most people don’t have that type of luck. They are born in places where meeting basic human needs is a daily challenge.  For me working in Nicaragua is a way to make the best use of the opportunities that I have had  in life.

I initially came to Nicaragua in 2006 to study the impact that tourism growth was having in this country and understand what would make tourism more sustainable. What came out of that project is Comunidad Connect, a social enterprise that combines sustainable tourism and service learning with innovative grassroots community development.

The first few years I worked as the tour guide and accountant. That was all we needed then. As the organization grew, we needed budgeting, governance, fundraising, evaluation, and of course, management. To be successful we had to invest in capacity. My MPA at Maxwell was the best investment we have made as an organization. With each course I grew more excited about applying the classroom theory in practice.

Our vision in Nicaragua is ambitious but attainable. We want to support a network of communities across Nicaragua, driven by their own strengths, knowledge, and leadership, with support from international partners, donors, and volunteers. Generating income through tourism we invest in health and education programs envisioned and managed locally by the community.

I recently had the chance to translate for a group of doctors and nurses as they visited residents in the rural Los Robles community, where much of our work has taken place. What an amazing feeling to be able to facilitate these personal connections and to see the fruits of 10 years of work. The next 10 years will be just as challenging as the first decade, but the feeling of being in over my head is long gone. For that I am incredibly grateful to my faculty and colleagues in the MPA program at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University.

Comunidad Connect is a 501c3 organization working in sustainable community development
and sustainable tourism in Nicaragua. It was co-founded by Roman Yavich (MPA ‘11) and Jon
Thompson in 2006. To learn more visit .

ROMAN YAVICHCo-Founder/Director of Operations
After completing studies in business and economics at the Univ. of Colorado in 2006, Roman received the Fulbright Grant to research the impact of tourism on the community, economy, and environment in Nicaragua. He spent a year in San Juan del Sur, and together with Jon Thompson founded Comunidad Connect. After another year in Nicaragua, during which the organization became firmly planted in the community, Roman has remained active on the Board of Directors, and currently serves as the treasurer. He is originally from Ukraine and holds a Masters in Public Administration from Syracuse University and a Masters in Environmental Science from SUNY-ESF.

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