OBHR Professor Returns the Favor

In 1997, Lisa Jones Christensen took a break after a decade of working in business development to travel the world and work on her Spanish. While in Guatemala, she lived with low-income families in their homes. One night, when the father of one of the families came home from work rejected, mistreated, and empty-handed, she realized she needed to re-evaluate the paradigm she had grown to know about the relationship between business and quality of life.

“That experience really made me think, ‘Who makes these decisions? Who chooses how to treat the people? Who chooses the agenda?’” Jones Christensen says.

The experience was a tipping point in her life. Embracing the spirit of service, Jones Christensen has used her expertise in organizational behavior to make changes for the benefit of mankind—whether they be in Africa, Nepal, Honduras, or even in a classroom in Provo.

Upon returning to the U.S. from Guatemala, Jones Christensen began building her foundational knowledge by enrolling in the BYU MBA program.

“I thought if there was a way I could change business it would be from the inside out,” Jones Christensen says. “I went from being anti-business to being really curious about how things work.”

While at BYU, Jones Christensen worked with students and faculty to explore international welfare and business to fight poverty. The Marriott School helped her focus on experiential and action learning by providing resources study and research microfinance abroad.

“I was hooked as soon as I saw BYU as a great context to enter to learn and go forth to serve, to enact and practice the values I have, to serve the mission I never had,” Jones Christensen says.

Jones Christensen put everything she learned into practice as a direct response to Hurricane Mitch in 1999 by co-founding HELP International with other students and with now-retired faculty Warner Woodworth. HELP is an NGO alleviating international social impacts. In response to the disaster, HELP raised $116,000, administered humanitarian aid, created forty-seven banks, and provided other service to the people of Honduras. Today HELP provides more than 200 students from BYU, Stanford, Virginia Tech, and other universities with volunteer opportunities in eight countries, including Nepal, Thailand, Uganda, and Fiji.

 

While working in international development and education over the next thirteen years, Jones Christensen fell deeper in love with international business and organizational behavior as she traveled the world consulting and conducting research.

This love eventually took her to North Carolina where she received her PhD in OB at Chapel Hill. After teaching there for almost a decade, Jones Christensen is now back in the Tanner Building where she found her first passion for business.

“I have loved every minute of every day of the three months that I’ve been here,” Jones Christensen says. “I wanted to come back in hopes of being useful to those that are sometimes surprised by or resistant to the unique culture here at BYU–like I once was. Coming to BYU in ‘99 was such a turning point in my life that I hope I can help it be that for other people.”