November 03, 2011 | Myrna Anderson

Students taking the new “Business as Mission” will spend two weeks working in businesses Hyderabad, India. And they'll see the Taj Mahal.

While they are in India, the students will visit the Tomb of Akbar the Great. Also the Taj Mahal. And the Red Fort, the Amber Fort, the Agra Fort and the Lotus Temple. There will be ample sightseeing on the “Business as Mission” interim to India—held January of 2012—but all of that happens on the weekends.

During the week, the 14 students who make up the interim class will be in Hyderabad, working. They will spend two weeks of the three-week interim doing internships at Indian-owned companies. 

“It’s pretty experimental,” said business professor Leonard Van Drunen, the interim’s leader. “I hope it works.”

One student will work as a human resources intern for a large real estate developer; one will work as a marketing intern for a micro-financier; two will work as accounting interns for a public accounting firm. Several will work as marketing or HR interns for companies that do medical transcription. Others will intern at a dry car wash, a cotton-spinning mill and other companies.

Business in India

The new interim was designed to give business, accounting and economics students an opportunity to work in an emerging economy. “Learning how business works in India is going to become increasingly important over the lifetime of these young people,” Van Drunen said. “This is going to be an important economy.”

A former investment banker with a international resume, Van Drunen has already led three interims to China. He believes India is an appropriate place to pioneer a more immersive business experience: “In India, English is widely spoken. Because of that, I can actually have students engage and participate in an internship in an Indian company, and that wouldn’t be a business barrier,” Van Drunen said.

To facilitate the India internships, Van Drunen has joined forces with Partners Worldwide, a global network of business and professional people committed to business as ministry and as a key to overcoming poverty. The students will be placed in some of the 60 companies that are members of Business Seva (“Serve through Business”), a Partners Worldwide affiliate based in Hyderabad.

“These businesses in India; they’re top-notch people,” said Jacqueline Klamer, a 2007 Calvin grad who works as a writer and project coordinator for Partners Worldwide. The key leaders of this business network there are very strong Christian businesspeople who are called to share the concept of business as mission with other entrepreneurs around them.”

Van Drunen has three goals for his students for interim. He wants them to understand how business in India works. More specifically, he wants them to understand how Christian business in India works. “They’ll gain firsthand experience how Christians in business are working out their faith in India. For cross-cultural engagement, it’s much better to work alongside a peer than it is to meet a random series of foreigners.”

Business as mission

Van Drunen’s third goal for his students is love. “I want them to learn love, specifically, how to love an Indian person or a person different than themselves. The other interims I teach, you spend maybe a few hours with a person from another culture, and so you have no depth,” he said.

The term “business as mission” refers to a for-profit, Christian-led commercial business venture that serves as an instrument of God’s mission to the world. “This usually means providing a valuable product or services and employing people in a way that lets them flourish—and being intentional and openly Christian when doing so,” Van Drunen said.

He sees good alignment of vision and mission between Calvin and Partners Worldwide: “Everybody there is Reformed in their approach …,” he said. “I’m very confident that this is a good learning opportunity for our campus.”

Klamer, who interned with Partners Worldwide while a Calvin student, believes that the India internships will be invaluable experience for the students: “They’re going to be offered a new understanding and business context that they have never had before. They’ll be challenged in new ways,” she said.

Leonard Van Drunen

Jackie Klamer of Partners Worldwide

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