Jesse Casler is visiting PLNU for the spring 2013 semester as an Executive in Residence for the Center for International Development (CID) and the Fermanian School of Business. He is teaching an upper division economics class and leading the CID while Dr. Rob Gailey is on sabbatical. Jesse is taking a study leave from HOPE International, where he serves as vice president of administration, to join the PLNU community. He is a valuable asset to PLNU’s school of business’s culture of using business to serve the least of these, having held positions in finance and accounting, operations, and administration at HOPE International, a Christian non-profit network of microfinance organizations alleviating physical poverty and proclaiming Christ around the world.
Casler earned a B.A. from Eastern Nazarene College (ENC). Beginning his studies in psychology and sociology, Jesse was also drawn to business and added a business minor. After graduating from ENC, he worked for State Street Corporation, a large banking corporation in Massachusetts, and pursued graduate studies at Boston University. For an elective course in development he read an article about Muhammad Yunus, developer of the concept of microfinance (the giving of small loans to business people too poor to qualify for traditional loans). A flame of interest was lit inside him and he began to research everything he could find about microfinance and using business to alleviate poverty. He earned both an M.A. in international relations and an MBA from Boston University. He also studied abroad in Eastern Europe and has traveled extensively throughout Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean, witnessing global issues of justice and poverty.
We asked him a few questions:
How have you and your family settled into San Diego?
We have really enjoyed our time here. My parents actually came with us – they are both retired and came to help us with our boys, Josiah, 8, and William, 3. So, between them and us, we’ve been having a great time. We took the boys to the Safari Park, LEGOLAND, Sea World, the zoo … all great things for our kids at the ages they are. We’ve got a whole list of San Diego must-dos, so we’re working our way through that.
You’ve been here a few months now – what has been a highlight or two in your time at PLNU?
It’s a little thing – but we’ve loved being on a college campus again and the exposure that brings to things in general. For example, I stopped by a free piano concert on campus a while back – it’s just so enjoyable to have access to things like that. We’ve also really enjoyed the community in general. We were plugged into San Diego First Church of the Nazarene pretty quickly as well as the Peace River Community – a church plant in Mission Beach.
What was the biggest draw for you to spend a semester at PLNU?
It’s kind of an obvious answer – coming from Lancaster, Penn. in the winter to San Diego – well, there are worst places to be. We’ve been excited to build connections on the West Coast for Hope International, get to know new people, and expose PLNU students to opportunities within Hope International.
What have you been able to bring to PLNU from your experience at Hope International?
I have a lot of connections, so I’ve had several events and special speakers in my class as well as other events on campus. Bringing experts to campus in the field of microfinance, either here on campus or through Skype, brings PLNU students closer to some of the real-time work that’s happening in the field. It’s great to read about it in books, and we’ve been doing some of that in class (I’m teaching a class in current issues in microfinance), but it’s important to talk about what’s happening right now [in microfinance] and what are the challenges. From my own experience, I’ve tried to work in a variety of different areas of nonprofit work and I’ve tried to spread that around. [For example], I met with some accounting students and went over microfinance accounting statements and nonprofit accounting statements. I’ve been part of the microfinance club, which has been great. I also led an event on personal finance here in the business school – as it’s just a personal interest of mine. So, I’ve been trying to bring my experiences here and share them with students as much as I can and be available to students.
Is there anything you hope to accomplish in your time with PLNU?
I’d love to introduce more and more people here to the work of Hope International and Christian microfinance in general. I’ve had several students apply for internships with Hope International this summer and well as talk about the possibilities of students working with us in the future, which I’m really excited about.