Oxford Seminar Takes BYU Students to India

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New changes are coming to the Oxford Social Enterprise Seminar this summer, and pre-finance major Julia Mahterian is excited about what this could mean for other alumni of the program.

The seminar, sponsored by the Whitmore Global Management Center and the University of Oxford, is sending BYU students to Hyderabad, India, for the first time this summer.  Students will work with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, an international nonprofit organization that carries out scientific research for market-oriented development.

“You don’t always see the people that you’re serving or really see what becomes of the company,” says Mahterian, who did the Oxford program in 2016. “So I think having an opportunity to go to India to apply what you find and have developed would just be great.”

In the past, students, like Mahterian, went to Oxford to attend business classes and a business and poverty conference. They then used this knowledge to work on a social innovation project. Now the students in the 2017 seminar will be able to implement their project in the actual location.

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Mahterian, who participated in the program before the change, still describes it as a very valuable experience. She says her experiences at Oxford helped her outside the classroom, especially when it comes to assessing impact. Using what she learned abroad, she recently helped to start a nonprofit called Alpha, which helps local low-income students with their college applications.

Mahterian says of her experience at Alpha, “We talked a lot about measuring impact to make sure that we actually made a difference in this community. The Oxford seminar taught me that if you see something that you think should be changed, you should do your research and take steps to get it done.”

Though Mahterian applied her learning independently, the added India portion will help ensure other students get that same opportunity.

Jonathon Wood, managing director of the Global Management Center, is also excited about the seminar’s new changes.

“What’s interesting to me is the idea that the students who participate this year will start in a first-world country to study business, poverty, social innovation, and social enterprise, and then go to a third-world country to actually see what it really means,” Wood says.

Together with ICRISAT, students will use business skills to help Indian farmers improve profitability all along the supply chain. Students will place a special emphasis on millet, a nutrient-rich crop that can thrive in arid conditions.

“I hope participants can take a lot of knowledge from this experience, including the thought process behind social enterprise,” Wood says. “Simply getting out of the United States and seeing something different shows them that there is a bigger world out there and they’ll walk away believing that they should be a part of the global community.”