From the moment I returned, I had a goal. I wanted to lead a Mercer On Mission trip to Ecuador - I wanted to lead a trip that would allow all students to get out of theirs what I got out of mine: cultural immersion, friendship, and passion. And now, it has come full circle.
I remember it like it was yesterday.. We get off the big blue bus for the final time, and we say our goodbyes. As I give Arturo what I thought was the final goodbye, he asks me, "Can you come to my house for dinner? I'd like for you to meet Anita and Roseangela."
I was honored that he had asked, but I didn't think Dr. Adam Kiefer would allow it.
I told him that I was unsure of whether or not I could go, but that I'd ask.
Arturo left, and I walked into Hotel Roland.
"Dr. Kiefer, Arturo invited me to his house for dinner. May I go?"
Dr. Kiefer paused for a second, looked at me, and says, "How far away does he live?"
"It's just right up the street - by the park."
He responds, "I don't think this is a good idea."
I stand still, awaiting further instruction.
After a few seconds of silence, he says, "Get a friend and be back in an hour and a half."
It was there - at Arturo's house for dinner that night - when Arturo and I first exchanged phone numbers, vowing to stay in touch.
Dr. Kiefer's willingness to allow me to fully immerse myself into the Ecuadorian culture changed my life forever. Over the past few years, while building Z Beans, I've continued to come back to that critical part of my life. Without Dr. Kiefer's trust - without the full immersion, I wouldn't be here today. Thus, I want to pay it forward - I want to create this immersive experience for others in hopes they can find their own passions. I want to do it through Mercer On Mission.
When I brought this idea up to Dr. Craig McMahan during the fall of 2018, he told me exactly what I needed to do to lead my own Mercer On Mission. I needed to get my MBA and then I could be a lead professor.
However, I didn't want to get my MBA just for the credentials. If I am going to get it, I want to give it my all. I want to extract as much value as possible from it and that was not feasible with the workload Z Beans inevitably created for me. So, I needed a new solution. If this were going to come to fruition, I needed to convince other professors to lead the trip - teach their courses - and allow me to design the international component.
I knew exactly where to start. Two incredible men: mentors, leaders, friends.
Dr. Randy Harshbarger and Mr. Bob Easter.
Once they both agreed to lead the Mercer On Mission to Ecuador, we met with Dr. McMahan. We told him our plans, and he was onboard! He wanted us to add one key additional piece to the puzzle - a Spanish course. The same Spanish course that I was able to take - the same Spanish course that made immersion possible for all of us!
As a team, we knew where to look - Dr. Jose Pino! Dr. Pino leads Mercer On Mission trips every summer, and he was a former professor of mine. But, most importantly, he is a great person.
So, like that, we had our team. Dr. Harshbarger, Mr. Easter, and Dr. Pino. All three come from different backgrounds - all three have different interests - but all three unite in terms of their ability to lead empathetically.
Over the course of the past few months, especially the month of January while I was in Ecuador, Carter worked with each of the professors to recruit students to come on the trip. Now, with a team of 15 students and three professors, we are planning to embark this summer on the first Mercer On Mission Ecuador trip with the goal of creating a sustainable supply chain that allows us to export high quality Ecuadorian chocolate yet with a purpose of immersing ourselves in the Ecuadorian culture!
To finding your passion.
I've enjoyed writing this blog, as it has given me time to reflect on my initial Mercer On Mission trip. There are so many memories that I have, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to create them. Thank you Dr. Saravia and Dra. Mengolini for giving me the opportunity to find my passion.
Here are some pictures from my initial trip!