I remember there was a great celebration when the San Pedro Fishermen’s Cooperative1 received its license from the Department of Commerce. They hadn’t asked for a fish and surely didn’t need me to teach them how to fish. They simply needed the small grant I arranged to buy some nets, motors, and refrigeration equipment. Then they could leverage a bank loan and get serious about marketing.
I’ve spent my life studying and lecturing on international development and working with respected international development agencies—from the lofty World Bank to the personable Mennonite Central Committee. Years on the ground in slums and hinterlands have taught me how to help people who are improving their lives and making their societies work better—people like the San Pedro fishermen. I’ve come to understand how society works and become close to so many interesting people from different backgrounds. It’s been a worthwhile and very gratifying career. Many students have asked me how they can prepare for such an occupation.
BYU would seem to be the ideal place to address the gripping challenges of today’s world—grounded in educating the heart with the mind and in applying knowledge to eternal principles. We have students in many fields of study who are interested in working and serving abroad. Our students truly are remarkable—77 percent confidently speak a foreign language and almost half have lived overseas (nearly 15,000 people!). Their exposure to the world has brought awareness of culture, a love of people, and a comfort in moving around the globe that enflames their desire to be out in the world contributing. Students join international study programs in impressive numbers, volunteer in community service, work with NGOs, and pursue international careers. Feeling blessed, BYU students are seeking a good cause in which to be engaged. The question is:
Where do our students learn how to work broadly and effectively in an international context? How well is BYU preparing the future generation to do better than we have done at solving our world’s thorny problems?