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Meet Les Dlabay

By Allison Kooser

This fall, we are celebrating education by highlighting incredible students and teachers around the world - including our friends right here at home. This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Les Dlabay, a long-time Opportunity International supporter and Professor of Business at Lake Forest College. Les has been instrumental in involving his students with global issues - including introducing them to Opportunity!

Hi Les! Please take a moment to introduce yourself!

I'm Les Dlabay, Professor of Business at Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois. I teach accounting and international business development with an emphasis on informal financial services, microfinance, and value chain facilitation. I have authored or have adaptations of more than 40 textbooks in the United States, Canada, India, and Singapore. I also serve on the boards of Bright Hope International (www.brighthope.org) and Andean Aid (www.andeanaid.org). For more than ten years, I have helped coordinate an urban youth ministry in Waukegan, Illinois.  

What motivated you to teach? Why do you teach the subjects and courses that you do?

Teaching business development allows me to encourage students to improve their quality of life and that of others through business enterprise and innovation. My goal is to prepare students to do business with all people of the world, not just those in industrialized economies. Instructional emphasis in business classes is most often on getting students ready to work in the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. I want students to also be prepared to work in Cambodia, Costa Rica, and Cameroon, among others.

What a great goal. Why do you think education matters for students today? What are the key things students should look for in their educations?

A vital aspect of education today is preparing students to be life-long learners. I work to create an environment for students that results in "learning for a life worth living" with an emphasis on creative problem solving, field research experiences, clear writing, effective presentations, team projects, and social contributions.

What is one thing you have been learning recently? It can be from a book, a class, a life experience - anything!

Recently, while attending the International Holistic Missions Conference, I encountered this saying: "Anything you do for us without us is not for us."  Global business development must start with an understanding of the cultural environment and community needs. Tools such as asset-based community development, appreciative inquiry, and participatory learning activities create greater insights to best work in emerging market settings for sustainable business activity. 

Why do you support and stay involved with Opportunity International? 

After trillions of dollars have been spent on foreign aid and development, many have realized than an emphasis on financial inclusion to enhance entrepreneurial activity is the foundation for sustainable economic growth and improved quality of life. The Opportunity International model of holistic, transformational development has this priority. 

Thanks so much, Les! 

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