In the Atrium with Ryan Bastian

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Ryan Bastian always knew his calling in life involved social innovation. After trying his hand with politics and economics, Bastian found his way to business and is now is his second year of the MBA program. The native of Idaho Falls, Idaho, has worked at a microfinance bank in Tajikistan, chartered projects through the Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance, and interned with Cotopaxi to help impact lives of the less fortunate through outdoor gear sales. Bastian credits these experiences—and his promising future—to the connections made and confidence gained at the Marriott School.

MAM: Why did you decide to get an MBA?

Ryan Bastian: I’ve been set on an MBA ever since my undergrad because I have a strong interest in social innovation and because I believe business is the most effective way to make a difference in the lives of people who struggle with poverty.  The skills gained from an MBA allow you to be creative and work around the constraints of a developing market.  You might not change the world, but you can definitely change the lives of your employees and your customers.

MAM: What has your experience at the Marriott School been like?

RB: The quality of the teachers is amazing as is the quality of the curriculum, courses, and meetings. The professors and staff care about the students and are concerned for our well-being and success. It’s more than a job for them. When you combine the staff, professors, students, and curriculum, it culminates in a lot of personal growth and development. That’s been incredible to see in myself and my classmates.

MAM: Tell me about your time with Cotopaxi.

RB: It was awesome! I had a lot of responsibility and was able to make a large impact in the company and in the lives of those whom the projects targeted. I was able to work hard, see the direct results of my work, and know that I was making a meaningful contribution.

MAM: How has your previous work experience shaped your plans for the future?

RB: My time in Tajikistan helped me narrow my career focus to ecotourism. The resources from the Ballard Center have shown me what it takes to bring an idea to fruition. Currently, I’m working on a project to validate ecotourism as a tool for international development. I’m going to create a website similar to Travelocity, but it will help create a market that’s more efficient and transparent so that more people will be interested in visiting certain areas where tourism is not currently popular to help buoy growing or developing economies.

MAM: What is your next step?

RB: I’ll be going back to Tajikistan with a team this summer to shoot a documentary with a team of students to build exposure for tourism in the region and to see if ecotourism is a sustainable tool for economic development. It’s our chance to build interest for what we’re doing and to see if our idea can actually operate in a place like Tajikistan.