Born in India, living in Hong Kong and looking at U.S. colleges, Nureen Das ’00 heard about Calvin after her mother had talked with friends about colleges.
“I think if I had known about Michigan winters back then, I would have thought twice,” she said with a laugh.
However, snow aside, Das has been grateful for her college choice and has developed interests in global ministry, art and entrepreneurship along her vocational journey.
She thought she would be majoring in international development, but Calvin allowed an interdisciplinary track centering on economics and history.
“What always struck me about Calvin was the focus on service and social justice,” she said. “Right from the start [at Streetfest] we were engaged in service projects, and that left an impression. I’ve carried that emphasis into my personal life and professional career.”
She also appreciated the intentional mix of intellectual and spiritual experiences at Calvin, citing the January Series and the Festival of Faith and Writing as examples.
From Calvin, Das returned to India to work for a microfinance institution in Bangalore and then spent two years studying at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies in England.
“After my studies I wanted to develop more of my international development skills, so I enlisted in the Peace Corps and took on a two-year assignment in Fiji,” she said.
In the South Pacific island nation, Das worked for the country’s Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, helping small businesses build capacity and income.
“There’s a huge Indian diaspora in Fiji, which was interesting to me,” she said. “It is not a country you easily get to and it was a meaningful experience.”
Das developed an expertise in organizational development and ended up back in the States at a Boston executive search firm. That move led to a more recent switch to a position as a senior managing associate for the Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group, providing nonprofits leadership, board, development and management services.
Although working primarily in the U.S. now, Das has kept her vision on global matters.
“I remain committed to working on initiatives that help the vulnerable and those in transition,” she said. “It centers on giving people the means to be a productive member of society. I have often been amazed by the sheer will and determination of those who have had to learn a new skill to support themselves.”
Understanding that a chance to contribute brings self-worth and dignity, Das launched The Artesan Gateway, a web platform that helps support international artisans by providing resources and strategies about craft production.
“I want to equip people who assist the marginalized about the consumer and retail side of things, to educate them about the value of purchasing power,” she said.
She’s been developing her network of international artisan supporters, and one of them is another Calvin alumna—Bimala Shrestha Pokharel ’99—and her Higher Ground artisan ministry in Nepal.
“Our faith calls us to live in family and community with one another,” said Das. “Building organizations and networks are very much at the heart of this, at the center of addressing issues of poverty, grounded in faith and a service mission.”
Das intends to continue building The Artesan Gateway through the exchange of best practices and other development strategies.
From there, she wants to spread the word about these international art enterprises that produce fine product and at the same time build capacity in world communities in desperate need of that growth.
“I think there is a lot of interest from consumers about who made a particular art or craft item and where the piece was made,” she said. “I want to connect the gifted artisan with those who can support their lives and work.”