Attendees from Eastern Mennonite University at the Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) conference in Houston, Texas, are (from left) Joseph Mumaw, Rose Yoder, Johanna Burkholder, Dan Zook, Jessica Vingert, Delight Tigoe, Aaron Dunmore and Roy Wenfeng. Professor Jim Leaman, of the business and economics department, also attended. (Courtesy photo)

MEDA conference attendees return inspired to serve communities through business

“This conference definitely made me proud to be a business major,” said Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) business administration major Jessica Vingert. She had the opportunity to meet with CEOs and inspiring business leaders at the Oct. 27-30 Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) convention in San Antonio, Texas, and returned with a renewed passion to serve her community.

With the theme of “Women Changing the World,” keynote speakers included two with EMU connections: Nobel Peace Prize winner and Center for Justice and Peacebuilding graduate Leymah Gbowee, as well as Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary president Sara Wenger Shenk, a 1975 graduate and former Eastern Mennonite Seminary dean. The third, Canadian journalist Sally Armstrong, is a filmmaker and three-time Amnesty International award-winner.

MEDA acts as the business arm of the Mennonite church and is committed to finding business solutions to poverty. At the convention, business owners, entrepreneurs, and CEOs gather to collaborate on these solutions.

Jim Leaman, business and economics department chair, said the presence of more women in the program than usual benefited his students and other participants, both males and females. “It was confirming and helpful to be reminded of the positive and considerable influence women have on the business world,” he said. “It was outstanding for young women to see role models and to understand some of the challenges and struggles.”

“Leymah Gbowee spoke about how it’s impossible for one to see the big picture by closing one eye, meaning there is no way to deal with development issues without involving women,” said junior accounting and business administration major Delight Tigoe.

The MEDA convention provides students from Mennonite-affiliated schools to connect with one another and potential employers and job opportunities.

Junior Roy Wenfeng, a business administration, economics and accounting major who wants to own a business, said: “I saw so many outstanding people that encouraged me to work harder. One of my big takeaways is to do one good thing that that could be risky or that you are previously unwilling to try each day.”

Two teams of EMU students participated in MEDANext Talks —ten-minute presentations on an economics or business topic. The eight students split into two groups and gave presentations on food as a resource. The men talked about how college students live sustainably as a result of their limited resources. They touched on how college students address issues like overuse of resources, dependency on oil and food waste by living in community, dumpster diving and biking. {View their presentation.]

The women addressed God’s call to be good stewards of the earth and care for those in poverty. They then presented solutions for food waste and helping those in poverty to a better chance at life.

Leaman said the convention prepares students for the future in three ways: it exposes them to a wider range of jobs, it opens up the idea of working for a non-government organization, and it gets students thinking about becoming a donor. He also encountered internship ideas for future EMU students.

“Being at the conference really gave me a good idea of what spending some time at a Mennonite organization like MEDA could do for my career after college,” said junior Aaron Dunmore, an economics major with minors in honors and math. He said seeing others start a successful career after spending time with MEDA and Mennonite Central Committee seems like a good fit for him.

Besides workshops and informational sessions, conference participants could also tour businesses putting sustainable practices to work, sample local cuisine, visit the famous Riverwalk and take in historic sites.

Discussion on “MEDA conference attendees return inspired to serve communities through business

  1. So pleased that these eight EMU students had the opportunity to attend the MEDA convention, to attend workshops, to network, and to be inspired on the good that can be done in the world through good, ethical leadership.
    MEDA’s abilities and its members’ skills applied to helping alleviate poverty through business solutions is a great cause. Helping to bring opportunity and dignity to persons around the world is a worthwhile and rewarding calling. Thanks for taking time from your busy schedules to attend MEDA. – Allon Lefever

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