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Bluffton students at 2015 MEDA ConventionSource: "Students ponder poverty at conference" by Chay Reigle on the Bluffton University website

Nine Bluffton students explored business solutions to poverty at this year's Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) conference.

The annual conference, held recently in Winnipeg, Manitoba, seeks to show how business practices—particularly in the private sector—can be used to pave the road out of poverty for others around the world.

"MEDA really made me think about my future career choices," said Emily Huxman, a sophomore from Waterloo, Ontario, majoring in communication and marketing. "We learned a lot about how to be successful in the business world without giving up our values and morals in order to make a profit. We also learned about the many ways big or small businesses can help to ensure human rights, not only for their own workers, but also for workers around the world."

This year's theme—"Human Dignity through Entrepreneurship"—lent itself to several seminars and networking opportunities for students and business professionals alike.

"Once I learned about MEDA's vision and goals, I immediately knew that it was an organization that I wanted to follow," added Carly Unruh, a senior from Wayland, Iowa, studying business administration and sport management. "MEDA introduced me to a way that I could put my faith into my work as a business professional."

Aside from hosting an annual conference, the organization has 200 partners in almost 50 countries working year-round to help end poverty, according to its website. Some of MEDA's initiatives include investing in small agribusinesses to support small-scale farmers, helping women get access to maternal health coverage and providing small populations with microloans to create new and sustainable businesses.

"MEDA was a great opportunity for me," said Owen Lugibihl, a junior from Pandora majoring in accounting and business administration. "It provides the opportunity to meet people who have been in business for a long time, and it gives you a chance to see what they have done to get that far in the business world."

Also at the conference, Bluffton students attended a lecture by Laura Ling, a journalist and author who was detained for 140 days by the North Korean government in 2009. "She talked about her experience there and how she maintained strength, and about what she learned about human rights," noted Jacey Dehogues, also a junior in accounting and business administration.

The conference "helps you become an ethical business person in this world we're in. It's something you don't get many other places," said Dr. Jonathan Andreas, associate professor of economics, who led the trip along with Dr. George Lehman, the Howard Raid professor of business. "Students are exposed to economic development issues that are eye-opening."

Next year's conference will be in Richmond, Virginia. "I most definitely will encourage others to go, even if they're not a business student," Dehogues, from Kalona, Iowa, said. "We learn about things that go beyond the business world, for example, different types of leadership and how to put it into practice. MEDA has definitely enhanced my life this year."

Pictured from left: Mike Liska, Owen Lugibuhl, Carly Unruh, Crosby Suter, Jacey Dehogues, Ryan Gingrich, Marissa Krier, Matt McCoy, Emily Huxman