Business students to put learning into practice in Rwanda

Austin senior Campbell Caskey, Helena, Mont., senior Emilie Moore, Hempstead senior Travis Nicholson and Garland senior Joel Trousdale dance with locals on a trip to Rwanda in 2009.
Courtesy Photo

By Caitlin Giddens

Villages in Rwanda and classrooms in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business may not be comparable in appearance, but both serve to educate Baylor students about microfinancing and businesses in developing countries.

Ten Baylor students will venture to Rwanda May 15-29 on a social entrepreneurship mission trip. In addition to receiving six credit hours, students will consult with microfinance banks and witness the effects of the 1994 genocide.

“This trip is twofold: to see how Baylor students can act as a force for change for the Rwandans, and also to help students determine what they want to do with business,” said Colene Coldwell, senior lecturer in finance and faculty leader of the Rwanda trip. “We believe every study abroad program should have serving Christ at its heart, but with this mission we are more explicit about our intention. Many students want to do good, and business is their calling.”

Austin junior Jessica Guest is one of those students. She participated in the Rwanda trip two years ago and has been passionate about nonprofit business development ever since.

“The trip changed the way I view my education at Baylor,” Guest said. “I learned about what it is to make a long-term impact and see peoples’ lives changed by business and gospel simultaneously. We’re not just giving them a handout. We’re seeing these peoples’ lives change long term.”

Baylor students will tour with businesses that survived the Rwandan genocide and interact with students impacted by poverty and HIV.

“I visited one school last year that had boys who didn’t even know you could major in business,” Coldwell said. “Until you know what the needs are in Rwanda, it’s difficult to see how you fit in. But a lot of students return from this trip wanting to pursue this type of thing with their career.”

Upon returning to Baylor, Guest quickly enrolled in more nonprofit business and economic classes.

“I realized this was something I wanted to do with my life,” she said. “When I heard about the Rwanda trip and business skills and finance and a way to share the Gospel with people, I knew I wanted to see it and experience it. Now I know I won’t be happy unless my career combines business and the Gospel.”

During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, an estimated 800,000 Africans were killed, equaling about 20 percent of the nation’s population.

Although the genocide took place 15 years ago, Coldwell said Baylor students will see the effects of this devastation while visiting Rwanda over the summer.

“We’ll see churches where massacres took place,” Coldwell said. “That’s such a hard concept for us to get our heads around ­— that people died in churches. And we’ll see how the country is developing in business since the genocide.”

While Baylor students will venture to Rwanda to learn about business in developing countries, they will also take away lessons about everyday life.

“It really takes you out of the Baylor Bubble and shows you how to adjust to a new world,” said Austin senior Campbell Caskey, who participated in the trip last year. “The trip really forced all of us to rethink what financial provision is. It shows what does it mean to have enough, especially with these businesses’ loans and finances. And it shifted my worldview of what it means to have enough.”