Rethinking Poverty with Alumnus Patrick Oetting
This fall, a crowd of 100 thinkers, including Bethel students, alumni, faculty and local high school students came together on campus for a screening of the critically-acclaimed documentary Poverty, Inc. The event, sponsored by the Bethel Business Department and organized through the Bethel branch of the American Enterprise (AEI) executive council, challenged viewers to re-think poverty in the developing world – and how to help.
Alumnus Patrick Oetting ’14, who currently serves as director of alumni relations at the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Mich., came to introduce the film. (He also served as the keynote speaker at a leadership dinner held for Bethel business students earlier in the week). This is the second time Oetting has traveled back to his alma mater to introduce Poverty, Inc. The film encourages donors to evaluate organizations they invest in. Questions to ask can start with “What amount of respect do the organizations give to the communities they reportedly serve?” and “What do the services they give provide for the people?”
Oetting says, with this film, “People will begin to think deeper about their charitable efforts … The documentary causes a college student to stop and think about what they are doing, what the effect could be, and what [they could] do better.”
Oetting first heard of the Acton Institute – the think tank behind Poverty, Inc. – as a Bethel student, when he viewed the film PovertyCure, brought to campus by Associate Professor of Economics and Business Department Chair Aaron Schavey, Ph.D. It sparked Oetting’s interest in the organization’s efforts to “promote a free and virtuous society.”
“The Acton Institute [is] all about promoting and advancing free markets while maintaining strong moral foundations. We do that by producing high quality media products like Poverty, Inc. … I became passionate about [their ideas] here at Bethel,” Oetting says.
A post-graduation internship tuned into a full-time job for Oetting. He began as an associate and moved up to managing some of the PovertyCure programs, traveling the country promoting the ideas of ethical free societies.
He credits the Bethel business department program for elements of this success:
“When you work hard and you work with integrity and honesty, you can move up fast, and I think Bethel provides you with a good framework for how to do that,” he says. “In my department, I would definitely hire Bethel students … Bethel provides you with a way of thinking about the world that’s different than a lot of places, and with a Christian worldview. There are just genuinely good and honest people [who] carry themselves with a lot of integrity.”
At Bethel, when he wasn’t earning the title of Crossroads league all-defensive team member on the basketball court (contributing to two outstanding Pilot season records in 2013 and 2014), Oetting was involved in the business department as an economics and finance major. He was co-founder of two reading groups on campus, who came together to discuss relevant issues associated with public policy. Oetting considers that one of the best opportunities Bethel provided him for cirtical thinking and future success. These reading groups continue within the business department, and the groups have flourished into instituting an AEI Executive Council branch at Bethel College.
Business department students are receiving a unique opportunity with this program, but it also provides eye-opening opportunities for the Bethel community, with events like the Poverty, Inc. screening. According to Dr. Schavey, “It’s something our campus is doing that other campuses aren’t doing … it benefits the campus as a whole.”
With their investment in the program, Oetting and his classmates left behind a legacy for business and economics students. Oetting’s success following his graduation attests to the value of a degree relating to public policy.
“Economics provides a framework for how to think about things … and employers realize that as well … Economics is well respected, you can do just about anything with it, and you [learn to] think about things in innovative and creative ways.”