In mid-November, sophomore and Collaboratory member, Ben Cochran, was awarded a grant from the Student Government Association (SGA) to attend a conference for professional development in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
For four days, Cochran and Rodney Green, the Collaboratory Program Manager, participated in the Accord Network Conference, the premier national conference for Christian economic development.
“World Vision, World Relief, and Compassion International are all represented there as well as dozens of smaller organizations doing a variety of things involving relief and development work, both domestically and internationally,” Cochran says.
Cochran had a strong desire to attend the conference and was awarded the SGA Professional Development grant about a week after submitting his application.
“I had to fill out the basic application itself, and a small essay was attached to that. The actual application process was not difficult at all, and SGA was really cooperative throughout the whole time. I emailed a few times with some of the Officers of SGA, and they were really helpful,” he says.
The conference offered informative panel discussions as well as opportunities to speak with experts from world-renowned organizations. Conference attendees were also given a variety of project options to choose from.
“The direction that I went down with Rodney was about integral world missions. We were asking the question, ‘When you’re doing missions, when you’re doing development work in sometimes difficult parts of the world, how do you integrate the Gospel?’” Cochran states.
Cochran enjoyed hearing different stories and experiences from experts as well as one helpful panel, in particular, that discussed research, monitoring, and evaluation.
According to Cochran, the opportunity was both affirming and encouraging: “One woman from World Relief did a monitoring and evaluation project on savings groups in Rwanda. She essentially sat down and had a focus group with people in savings groups in Rwanda to determine if the groups were effective in providing a safety net and alleviating poverty. It was really affirming and validating for us because we had done the exact same thing last summer on a site team trip to Zambia.”
Cochran continues, “That directly relates to my project in the Collaboratory as well. We’re doing a new site team visit to a Muslim refugee camp in Algeria this summer. That’s a very new experience for us and not something we’re really used to at Messiah, so this [conference] was a really strategic place for us to go and hear about processes because these are professional organizations who know what they are doing and they’re good at it.”
Cochran also mentions that the experience of the Colorado scenery was enough to make the trip even more unforgettable and worthwhile. Beautiful mountain ranges dusted with snowfall took both Cochran’s and Green’s breath away.
Cochran concludes, “A lot of the conference was being exposed to new things that really cool organizations are doing and then the other side of that was validating and encouraging what we’re already doing. It let us know that we’re on the right track.”
For any student interested in applying for a Professional Development grant through SGA, like Cochran, contact the Career and Professional Development Center (across from the Falcon) for more information.