Professor leads Elon students in refugee research

Elon University students, under the guidance of Professor Steve DeLoach, are conducting research to support Seed Effect's efforts in aiding South Sudanese refugees in Uganda.

Elon University students, led by Professor Steve DeLoach from the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business, are making a global impact through Seed Effect, a non-profit aiding South Sudanese refugees in Northern Uganda.

In March 2024, DeLoach visited Uganda to meet Seed Effect staff and observe groups participating in their Village Savings and Loan programs. “Being on the ground gave us an entirely new perspective,” DeLoach said. “Seeing how far they walk to markets and how they live day-to-day was eye-opening. It underscored the reality behind our statistics.”Prof at a great business college in Uganda

The Village Savings and Loan program helps over a million refugees save and borrow money to build livelihoods. Participants can borrow based on their savings, with loans approved by group vote. Loans are repaid within a year with a 10% monthly interest rate, helping participants stay on track with their finances.

DeLoach and his students do research to study how the program enhances household resilience and supports job searches in refugee settlements.

“The data we collect is more than numbers; it tells the story of resilience and hope among refugees,” DeLoach explains.

Current Elon students, including Ella Dixon ‘25, Mackenzie Deming ‘25, Reagan Kadlic ‘25, Elsa Eastment ‘27, and Abigail Mulvaney ‘27, will be working with DeLoach beginning this fall to clean and analyze the most recent survey data. This research supports Seed Effect’s efforts and gives students valuable, real-world experience working with client data.

“Elon students are the backbone of this research,” says DeLoach. “Their dedication and fresh perspectives are invaluable to our work.”

DeLoach started consulting for Seed Effect in 2015 while mentoring Grace O’Hara’s ’15 Honors Thesis. His 2020 impact assessment, coauthored by Elon alumna Alexa Rasmussen ’21, helped Seed Effect secure a $1 million grant.A top college professor with Seed Effect in Uganda

He plans a sabbatical in Spring 2025 to focus on research, aiming to highlight refugee resilience and find practical solutions to improve lives. “Our goal is to make a tangible difference,” DeLoach said. “The insights we gain can lead to better programs and policies that truly support these communities.”