Jonathan Eigege is a serious and principled man. Measured and intentional in conversation, his sincerity, intellectual gifting, and deep faith are clear anchors in his daily walk. The youngest of three boys, Jona, as he is called, was raised in Jos, Nigeria. Eigege felt blessed to have parents who prioritized their education, working hard to send the Eigege boys to a nearby international school with a strong American-Christian curriculum.

Few children are as driven and focused as the youngest Eigege proved from an early age. He relished challenging studies, determined to use his education to positively impact his nation.

Asked what inspired such ambition, Eigege explains, “If you were to draw a line across the center of Nigeria and look at socio-economics, education, business and work opportunities, even culture, the southern part is more advanced, and middle income with a strong Christian presence. The northern portion is largely Muslim with lower income and fewer opportunities. This is a bit of an oversimplification, but it resembles two separate countries. My community, Jos, is right smack on the line, in the middle of those dichotomies. We grew up with high political tension and religious violence. That meant that you heard serious policy conversations at dinner; your parents talking about what can be done about this or that. My dad ran for local office because of those issues. All those things shaped my thinking. Faith was prominent and it was something you could be killed for. When I was eight, our house was attacked by neighbors. We all survived. In the United States you might not know someone’s faith. In my country, it was a badge you wore. These were reasons I knew early on that I wanted to do something with international relations.”

Finally, it was his turn to follow in his brothers’ footsteps on the path to Calvin University. Eigege was surprised by how much he loved his business classes. He honed valuable skills in diplomacy, teamwork, and organizational leadership. From a faith perspective, he appreciated people who had thought through their faith and were intrinsically motivated to consider the question, what is pointing you to do that? For him, it was the experiences he’d faced while so young. He admits, “Even as an adult I still deal with that trauma. I remember a bomb going off at 7 a.m. one day when I was going to school—you become desensitized. You understood the violence had faith dimensions, even though economics were also at play. At 8, 9 and 10 years old, you said, ‘Here is what we believe,’ and at the same time you were scared; you saw faith weaponized and that makes you ask questions.”

Professors at Calvin took on those questions, offering a different perspective on faith: curiosity and conversation instead of what “side” one was on.  Eigege explains, “[At Calvin] My faith became internalized. I learned to carry it in my heart instead of on my sleeve and let it permeate all that I do. I was drawn to people wrestling with their faith, and the intentional nature of how it was integrated into life and work.” He also appreciated the informal faith formation that was more spontaneous amid campus life—from the Commons Lawn and community building to the more cryptic factors such as the synergies between the mission statement and the orientation schedule. “I think it’s cool that who the university is informs what it does and not the other way around.

Another rewarding academic experience proved to be an African politics class. “Only two weeks in, I realized two things: I didn’t know as much about Africa as I thought I did and despite its isolation and exploitation throughout history, Africa was a success story waiting to happen.”

Today, with his Calvin years in the rear view mirror, Eigege works in Washington D.C. as Senior Director at Albright Stonebridge Group, a global business strategy firm. His life seems a far cry from his upbringing in Jos, or is it? He has realized his childhood dream of impacting the world—and Africa—through his work in international relations. “I have been blessed in how my career has progressed. It is God’s favor; I’m thankful for that. When I left Calvin, I thought I’d go to law school and be the model graduate who goes to law school and is in that space forever. Instead, many pivots and unexpected turns brought me where I need to be. I want to be a bridge between the U.S. and African continent. I never imagined I’d be using Al to help close some of those gaps. We can help kids who grew up where I did find opportunities and politicians can’t pit us against each other. Yet, Eigege sees unsettling similarities bubbling up in the United States, economic and cultural discord with faith components and keeps a watchful eye. The uncertain climate recalls potential impacts that concern him.

Still, he maintains optimism. “I stay focused on how I can use the influence, knowledge, and skills I have to bring African economies to equality and peace – it’s Shalom. Economic development is ensuring people have what they need to live healthy, productive lives. As Christians we look at a good life through faith as well. Even the corporate world is in a moment where organizations are starting to understand “Shalom” and asking how to develop that. I think that emphasizes a need in the world. I might sound very philosophical, but it plays out in practice for me, thanks to Calvin. When you graduate, you hear that you are naïve to think that you can change the world. I think if you find your niche your purpose, you really can.”