Over a decade ago, as my academic career was being established and the joys of tenure were conferred upon me, a colleague approached me with an interesting proposition. That was, the idea of teaching abroad to a group of business and government executives. It was an opportunity of a lifetime, as I’d always longed for such an experience and saw it as a way to: (1) not only solidify my own reputation and academic credentials, but also (2) as a way to explore the world and relax. The day I arrived in that country, my colleague and I had a conversation during which he made the following comment to me: “Leyland, there comes a time in one’s life when making a difference is what truly matters.” I must admit, once again, that those words sounded really hollow to me. After all, what crazy stuff could he have been using to arrive at such a conclusion? I smiled, nodded politely, and the conversation moved on.
To my surprise, my experience in the classroom that very first trip made me look at things differently. Standing in front of a class filled with business executives and senior government functionaries, I began to understand just what he was trying to tell me. Seeing a yearning for knowledge, a willingness to engage, the freedom to share ideas and, most importantly, the humility of individuals with larger revenue streams and societal prestige, was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life…..