I’m a missionary. That’s my calling in life. I’ve known that for longer than I can remember. But unlike being a doctor or a writer or whatever else, being a missionary isn’t something that can support a family. So when it came time for me to choose a profession, I ran into major problems. The biggest issue was that I felt I needed to find something else – something different from my spiritual calling that could be my professional calling. So I tried a lot of different things, all somehow connected to missionary work in a way. I was an opera singer to understand the empathic nature of communication, and a writer to better understand the written word. I did educational game design, corporate education, consumer research, management consulting… but nothing really felt right. At the end of the day, those were all just means to a different end. I needed something more.
Then I realized one day that my spiritual calling didn’t need to be subjugated to a different professional dream. They could be the same. Not only that, they should be the same. I wouldn’t be happy in my professional life until I found that fit. I just needed to find the right alignment. And that’s when I realized I was a teacher.
Looking backwards, teaching is obvious. One of the most influential moments of my life was while a freshman at BYU. That semester I was deeply disillusioned by a handful of my professors… and it came to a point one day in class, when a lecture left me feeling completely sick. I pondered leaving BYU for a different school. That night, however, I had a vision – the same kind of vision that Karl G Maeser had when he was thinking about leaving BYU – of people entering the doors of the university and leaving filled with light. I realized that the vision could only happen if people who had seen it were willing to stay and make it happen. So I decided to stay and do my part.
I did my undergraduate degree at BYU in physics teaching, and loved the opportunity. I did a thesis through the Honors Program on creating better educational environments. After completing my student teaching, I taught at a private school, then worked for the Church designing curriculum for the missionary department.
As soon as I left that job (Gay) Mormon Guy became a part of my life. For the next few years, I found myself being able to share my testimony through (Gay) Mormon Guy no matter where I was, and even when my professional career didn’t give me as much of an opportunity.
Somehow, along the way, I got involved in the world of business. I never wanted to do anything to do with business… but my sister got cancer, and suddenly my family was immersed in the world of health. I had more time than my parents to read peer-reviewed medical journals, so I became the go-to person on whether everything we were hearing was scientifically backed or effective. I was honestly trying to debunk everything. But, deep beneath the surface, I found things that made me change my mind. They couldn’t cure cancer, but had other impacts. The experience with rampant misinformation and price gouging pushed me to start my own business in natural health so that I could supply family members with honest information and scientifically-backed products. (Me? Natural health? I have a degree in physics. Not in brainwashing. You’ve got to be kidding.) You’ll probably hear about that in the coming days and months.
Then I had a strong feeling that I needed to get an MBA. That was strange. How would an MBA fit in with my goal to change education? I stressed about that for a while. It was a strong prompting, but hadn’t come with any real elaboration on why. Maybe it was about buy-in – maybe business leaders would be more willing to work with me if I had paid my dues in the business world. Or maybe there was something there that I needed to learn to inform my goal to change the world.
I got rejected the first year I applied, so in the interim I worked for a consulting firm, applied again, and then was accepted.
And that’s where I am now – studying business.
I’ve seen more applications from the world of business to education and missionary work than I ever thought possible. Marketing is incredibly similar to understanding the needs of individuals and speaking to their strengths and passions. Supply chain and operations management, human resources and organizational behavior… change management and entrepreneurial tactics all have mixed together to give me a much better understanding of the world and my place in it.
After the MBA, I’m hoping to get a PhD in education, with the ultimate goal of being a professor and having my own research lab. I want to identify elements that influence learning on the personal psychological level (the merger of neuroscience and education), then identify high-leverage influences that can improve learning. Hopefully I’ll be able to find things that can be applied within the context of popular culture to more than just individuals – ideally something like the Learning Styles research but validated with neurological research and individually applied. Stanford has a program that fits my goals perfectly – Learning Sciences and Technology Design – and when I visited the campus I fell completely in love. My hope is to be admitted for this next year… and take the next step in making a (however small) difference in the world.
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