His global passion is evident from the moment you step foot in his office. Apart from the large, eye-catching world map on the wall, there are numerous photos labelled with years and countries – Uganda, Singapore, Germany. His end table is plastered with currencies from the countries he has traveled to. It does not look like the office of a business professor – perhaps it could be the office of a missionary or world traveler. In reality, it is both of those things. At the desk, settled behind two computer monitors, sits Dr. Eric Straw.
Dr. Straw teaches business classes at Corban University. Starting next year, he will begin leading the International Study Tour for the Hoff School of Business, a class in which students travel to a foreign country and experience business in a new context. Previously, this class has been offered every other year, and has primarily focused on Asian countries. However, starting next year, the trip will occur annually and will stretch into new areas of the globe.
“I get to pick anywhere in the world,” Dr. Straw says. “…we can respond more to contacts that we have and business interests that we have around the world to give a variety of experiences.”
The study tour offers students a look at how business operates in different cultures, and gives glimpses into the history of business. Students who have participated in previous study tours will see a change in the way the class operates, however; “We’re multiplying it by a hundred-fold from the standpoint of variety and depth of what we’re going to be providing,” Dr. Straw comments on the course content. Additionally, he hopes to give the class a new focal point. “…I want them to be able to grapple with their theology of business,” Dr. Straw says. “What is the purpose of business in the kingdom of God?”
Dr. Straw is someone who has a good grasp on what business for the kingdom looks like. Apart from teaching at Corban, he serves as the director of Mark 5 Ministries, an organization that works to help missionaries solve computing technology problems. With his work at Corban and Mark 5 Ministries, Dr. Straw has been able to explore what it looks like to do business as mission. “Probably the better term to use is Business for Transformation,” he comments. “We’re in business to transform communities and the lives of people.”
Transformation happens not only in the lives of the people impacted by business, but in the lives of the students. “We are changed when we encounter other cultures, and we’re forced to recognize we’re not the center of the planet,” Dr. Straw states. This experience is crucial for building a Christian worldview that transcends our own cultural bubble and combats apathy.
“We are not the only place God is working around the globe. To know what it feels like to be a foreigner makes us sensitive to foreigners. To know what it feels like to be weak makes us sensitive to the weak… It changes you entirely.”
To know what it feels like to be a foreigner makes us sensitive to foreigners. To know what it feels like to be weak makes us sensitive to the weak.
Dr. Straw makes a point to cross out his title on his business cards and email signature and write the word “learner”. This attitude will carry over into the study tour. “I’m going to be a learner with the students in this,” he says of the class. Through the class, Dr. Straw’s hope is that his students will become life-long learners themselves.
“That is one of the key things we want to teach here: you can’t learn everything while you’re here, but you have to learn how to learn.”
For more information about the Hoff School of Business, follow along here.
Written by Brianna Ashmore
Brianna Ashmore is a junior at Corban University. She is passionate about encouraging Christians to be more engaged internationally.