From my balcony in Bihar, India, I gaze across the sea of rooftops and wonder to myself, “How did I ever end up here?”
By Whitney Dastrup
Ever since I accepted the position as co-director of the nonprofit organization Effect International, I have been running a non-stop campaign battling illiteracy in South Asia. I am here in the poorest state of India, visiting the elementary school we opened in September 2010. The concept of reshaping luck through educational opportunities is something I have grown passionate about over the past year. As I wave to some of our students on a nearby rooftop, I try to pinpoint where my passion developed. What incubated it? What chain of events in my life brought me here?
Being a first-generation college student, I started my academic career at Utah State University with a determination to create opportunities for myself that were not available to my parents.
Throughout my first few years of college, I was committed to my studies, but I did not understand how to commit myself to my education.
It was not until a friend encouraged me to participate in a study abroad program with the Huntsman School that I learned how little textbooks have to do with receiving an education. While staring across the rooftops in the poverty-stricken state of Bihar, it did not take me long to trace my whereabouts back to my experience with the South America Study Abroad Program in 2007.
It was during the study abroad program that I determined I would pursue a global career. I found the world to be too interesting to stay in just one place. Since becoming a part of the Huntsman School of Business, I have visited 15 countries on three continents. Countless experiences from these programs have allowed me to have a more dynamic education. I have learned the role capital plays in economic development at the celebrated Institute of Liberty and Democracy in Lima, Peru. I have discussed banking over dinner with the president of one of the largest banks in South America. I have debated trade issues at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. I have contemplated business strategy with the Microsoft team in Europe. I have fought poverty at the front lines while interning for the SEED Program in Trujillo, Peru.
Each program has added remarkable value to my education by connecting me with impressive business professionals and politicians throughout the world. Furthermore, they have had a profound influence on me by changing the way I perceive my position in the world, deepening my personal commitment to our social responsibility.
I have been exposed to poverty and wealth throughout the world; I have seen both extremes. The various programs offered by the Huntsman School of Business have been catalysts to developing, refining and actualizing my ambitions. I suppose it should be no surprise that I am now on a rooftop in India contemplating what I can do to help children find new hope for themselves. It is humbling to know that the keys my educational experience have given me will unlock the shackles of poverty for these children.
To learn more about Effect International, visit effectinternational.org