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When Derek Labansat was an undergraduate student at Barrett, The Honors College, he discovered a passion for international development economics and a desire to help others. As a result, he sought out opportunities for international volunteerism and research, which eventually led him to a post-graduate experience working with the United States Peace Corps in Namibia.
In Namibia, Labansat works as a Small Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Development Volunteer with the Peace Corps. In this role, he works with entrepreneurs, both established and aspiring, and provides them with the necessary business skills training and mentorship to help them start and grow their businesses. He also spends time working work to help economically marginalized unemployed populations prepare for, and find, job opportunities.
“I always knew I wanted to travel, but my experiences and time at Barrett led me to the path of development economics,” Labansat stated. “This career mindset sparked my interest in emerging economies, developing nations and generally how different nations address economic opportunities. Once I learned more about the issues, I became passionate about how to reduce them, I knew I couldn’t sit on the sidelines. Knowledge, without action, in my opinion, is irresponsible and underutilized.”
Labansat asserts that an education at Barrett equipped him with “worldview glasses”– a desire to look beyond the mundane to examine issues and identity on a global scale. His Human Event professor, Dr. Joseph Foy, also heavily encouraged him to think outside of his own perspective. This inspired him to travel independently on his first international trip after his junior year, where he toured famous sites in Switzerland, Italy and Spain. Most of this trip, however, was spent volunteering in Uganda, Zambia and South Africa, further nurturing Labansat’s love for meaningful volunteerism.
“The diversity among the Barrett student body alone is enough to prepare someone to acclimate abroad to different cultures and lifestyles. My closest friends and classmates were from Tanzania, Zimbabwe, India, China, Columbia– all over the world. Between emphasizing perspective and unique worldviews in courses, Barrett exposes students to a different world, acting as their educational compass.”
In Namibia, Labansat hopes to continue to learn about and help people thrive under a variety of global economic conditions. Professionally, he is learning about emerging markets, consumer behavior, entrepreneurialism and world culture. On a personal level, this opportunity has also provided insight into his own aspirations, beliefs and ultimately, how his life fits into this “crazy small world.”
“As professionals, no matter the field, it is important to understand different worldviews and cultures. We live in a very small, integrated world that requires a deeper understanding of the people we interact with.”
Labansat encourages future Barrett students to not take the college’s resources for granted. “Try everything,” he advised, “Barrett is a gold-mine of opportunity and many of its resources go underutilized. There are countless scholarships, grants, and programs that are all capable of opening the door to an experience that may change the course of your life.”