Many have heard about the bubble that seems to envelop all of Oklahoma Christian University; however, many are attempting to change this perception. Oklahoma Christian faculty, Don Drew and Nathan Mellor went to Rwanda, Africa this semester in hopes of training the women to become better business leaders.
February 8-17, 2008, Drew and Mellor went to Rwanda for their first time with the mission Peace Through Business under Oklahoma Christian's Academy of Leadership and Liberty. They are partnering with the Institute of Economic Empowerment of Women to find 15 skilled business women with a plan to help them further develop their ideas.
"We met with business owners and government; key leadership people. Our objectives are to help create a middle class. Fifteen percent of the people are affluent and the other 85 percent poor," Drew said. "Another goal we have is to help the people create their own jobs."
The 60 women who applied for this program were required to speak English and be a business woman with a business plan. Among the different business plans were hardware stores, crafts, a pre-k school, tailoring, textiles, a travel agency, organic culture, an ice cream shop and a half-way house for women who escaped from prostitution.
"We don't want to just give to Rwanda but enable them and help them," Drew said. "The problem with giving is when the giver stops giving, it creates dependency. They want equal partnership so it will extend through generation to generation; it's not a quick fix."
While Drew and Mellor were there, they narrowed down the 60 women to 30. Since then, the 30 have been reduced to 15 women who will come to Oklahoma Christian in July and attend three weeks of classroom training. For their last week, they will "shadow" a female entrepreneur of the same interest. After the program here, they will return to Rwanda to start their businesses and train the women who were not chosen.
"It's the pay it forward factor. All 60 will have access to business training because the 15 will train the ones that didn't get in," Mellor said.
This program was a great experience for both men and also a time to give back.
"Watching Drew teach a class was phenomenal. It was so amazing to be there and see him everyday in that context. I couldn't be more proud of him and of Oklahoma Christian," Mellor said. "That's who we are. We have the kinds of professors that take what they know and teach it in Rwanda, professors who want to use their gifts."
Even lately on campus, Oklahoma Christian is becoming more world-minded and wanting to help benefit the world as a whole.
"Oklahoma Christian is developing into a global community. Fifty-five percent of the students aren't from Oklahoma," Mellor said "There are 34-36 different countries represented here. Oklahoma Christian is everywhere, even all over the world, and people underestimate that."
Peace Through Business in Rwanda is just one of the many different activities going on with the Academy of Leadership and Liberty. The Academy began the fall of 2006 but has actually been a part of Oklahoma Christian for 50 years. Their mission is to promote programs that develop leaders for tomorrow and build people of character. Among the different programs are the Southwest youth leadership conference, Oklahoma Leadership Academy and iDebate with General Tommy Frank.
"We are raising $10 million to rebuild Enterprise Square, but none of the funds come from Oklahoma Christian's budget. We don't take money from other programs, just add to them," Mellor said.