Dr. Jerry Buckland has been Professor of International Development Studies at Menno Simons College for 25 years.
What do you love about your work here at Menno Simons College?
I would say that one of my deep passions is to understand the lives of people who struggle, particularly people who struggle with material poverty. I spent time in Bangladesh with Mennonite Central Committee in the late 1980s and it was really eye-opening. I've really been guided by this desire ever since. The other thing I really love doing here is working with students. So many students bring enthusiasm, and often times high levels of idealism, which sometimes needs to be tempered through their studies, but I really enjoy working with students like that because they're inspiring.
What are you teaching right now that you're most excited about?
I'm teaching Action Research Methods. It's a third year course that gives students an overview of a particular kind of research methodology we call Action Research. And I'm also teaching a course called Program Evaluation on how to evaluate a program for IDS or CRS on a regular basis. I've been doing research now for so long, it's been 30 years, that I have so many examples to share with students. I'm sure they gloss over sometimes when I share them, but I really enjoy sharing examples because it gives students practical knowledge about what can be done with research methods.
What are you researching and writing?
I've just published a book called Building Financial Resilience, and it's a book that looks at different finance and credit schemes and whether these schemes have helped or harmed vulnerable people. I look at everything from micro credit, asset building, financial literacy, payday lending, a whole variety of schemes with money at the heart of them, that affect low income people, and I ask the question, are these helping or harming them. There's another book recently published that I co-edited, which looks at payday lending in Canada from a global perspective. And I have a third project that's coming to fruition in the next couple of months, which looks at a special kind of RESP called a scholarship trust fund for low income families. It's a multi-disciplinary project that I've worked on with several colleagues for over a year, and we're near to completing the report.
What are you reading for enjoyment?
I'm very interested to understand how the rise of big data, and especially the control that big data companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, have over our lives. I'm really just starting to read books in this area. This kind of overlaps into my working interests because I do think this an issue for IDS. But it is driven more from my own interest. I also do a lot of reading in relationship to my faith journey. Recently I've enjoyed Timothy Keller's The Prodigal God. NT Wright is another favourite author of mine.
Where or how do students give you hope?
I would say that students bring enthusiasm and idealism and questions. The questions are not all thought out, and structured and formed, they're just questions in many cases. And sometimes those more basic questions are more powerful than the questions that are thought through and structured and categorized. I find that impulse to question coming from students, the genuineness, the authenticity, and enthusiasm, I find it very inspiring.
What do you most long for in your work?
My immediate response is that I hope for relevance. I hope that what I'm teaching or what I'm researching has some relevance. I mean that I hope what I'm teaching is relevant to the students, that I'm not just standing at the front lecturing, but that they're engaged, it makes sense to them. It's really important that there's an authentic exchange, a dialogue going on. I would say the same with my research. Do I understand what people are saying? Am I being an authentic part of the process of research? Am I listening? Relevance.
Do you have a saying or a Moto, or text that inspires you?
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is credited with saying that as a teacher, like if I was to teach ship building, you're not going to be effective by bringing in the wood, and tools, and equipment to build the ship, and then training people to build the ship. Instead, you give people a passion for the sea, explain to them the beauty, and the mystery, and the depths in the sea, so that they're inspired to build the ship to go out to sea. Honestly, I think you need to do both, and my tendency is to focus more on the training and the tools. For me it's something to work at, to work on the vision, and to find that balance in my teaching, and research as well. Once the vision is articulated people can come along beside you and work towards that vision.
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