This Semester I’m Working On … Sustainable Development in Rural Communities

This story is part of our series "This Semester I'm Working On," which offers a glimpse of the UT experience, as told by students, faculty and staff. Follow the series to see what Longhorns are passionately pursuing during their time on campus.

Ryan Pakebusch

“My first semester on campus, I was looking at different organizations to join, and this one really stood out to me because a friend of mine had done it before,” says sophomore Ryan Pakebusch, pictured here during a Texas Global Business and Microfinance Brigade trip in Ghana. “And I didn’t want to limit myself to one kind of thing with my majors.” Photo courtesy of Ryan Pakebusch

Name: Ryan Pakebusch
Major: Government and Political Communication
Year: Sophomore
Involved in: UT Orientation, Camp Texas, Texas Blazers, College Republicans, UT Advocates, the office of State Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville

This semester I’m working as the vice president of outreach for Texas Global Business and Microfinance Brigades. We volunteer in communities where we teach people about finances, entrepreneurship and sustainable development. But there’s a bigger, overarching theme, and that’s hope — hope that a better future is within their grasp.

We do a lot of ground work the semester before we go on a trip, and we try to go on one every semester. With our nonprofit partner, Global Brigades, we mainly work in Ghana, Nicaragua, Honduras and Panama.

This past January in Honduras, I personally worked with a tamale microenterprise. These six women were tired of the typical housework and decided to go to different towns to sell tamales. We did a market and financial analysis to show how it’s feasible, and we gave them a calculator, our recommendations and bookkeeping tips — all of these different things that go into a business. That’s been my favorite experience so far.

"I think my education is in vain if I don’t use it for something that will better someone else’s life."

We had 16 students come with us to Honduras last semester, and we have about 30 who are going with us to Panama right after graduation. I talked to more than 200 people about joining. Maybe 50 or 60 applied. I always talk about the importance of applying what you learn in class to changing someone’s life, and that’s the selling point.

Now we’re working on the actual planning. It’s logistics, like how are we going to get there, and it’s visiting the place to see the climate and talk to the people. We sent one of our executive board members down there to get a better idea of everything. We’re detailing exactly what problems we need to focus on, and there’s a lot of preliminary research we have to do throughout the semester as far as the regional economy and how that plays into our goals. The week they’re there, I’ll be their U.S. contact coordinating from home.

This whole experience has really opened me up to service. It’s really changed my perspective on what I want to do and how I want to accomplish it, from being more self-serving to wanting to give back.

At first, I was really on this set path and plan to go to law school, but there was a moment where I realized I really love this type of work. It opened my eyes to how much education can transform someone’s life by seeing how education can help get someone out of the cycle of poverty.

I think, and I know it sounds cheesy, that my purpose in life is to serve others, and that’s why I chose my majors. I think I can use them for the betterment of society. I really love service, I love traveling, and this gives me a chance to use what I’m learning. I think my education is in vain if I don’t use it for something that will better someone else’s life, whether its through consulting, business or government work.

Texas Global Business and Microfinance Brigades in Panama in 2013

Longhorns on a business brigade trip to Panama in 2013. Photo courtesy of Texas Global Business and Microfinance Brigades