Father Travis Russell, SJ (EMBA’22) — Tying Business to Purpose in Tanzania

Father Travis Russell

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Father Travis Russell, SJ (EMBA’22)

Father Travis Russell, SJ (EMBA’22) traveled abroad with his team on a student-designed global capstone project to analyze and improve the capacities of St. Joseph Hospital in Moshi, Tanzania – a health care center that provides vital medical treatment and services to communities near Mount Kilimanjaro. Beyond participating in a successful business plan, Russell’s greatest takeaways were the power of people, the potential of purpose-driven business, and an unwavering commitment to serving the common good.

He and his EMBA Class of 2022 teammates, Jennifer Dolan, Mark Hogan, Peter Leszczynski, and Nathan Rutledge, worked directly with the sisters in St. Joseph Hospital to analyze the challenges of delivering essential health care services to the people of Tanzania while dealing with scarce resources and limited business capabilities. They then returned home to deliver their final project presentations at the EMBA Global Capstone Symposium on April 30. 

Russell shares his experience working on the consulting project and his most memorable moments from the team’s trip abroad. 

Why did you want to work on a consulting project with St. Joseph Hospital in Moshi, Tanzania?

Russell and his cohort in front of St. Joseph Hospital in Tanzania.

As a Jesuit who has lived in Malawi, East Africa is near and dear to my heart. So when Pete Leszczynski, a member of the EMBA 27 cohort and the leader of our team, invited me to join I couldn’t say no. Plus, I knew the project would involve working with sisters, who in my estimation do some of the most heroic work imaginable. Honestly, it wasn’t a choice. The project was too good to say no.

How did traveling to Tanzania contribute to the project deliverable?

Not to be overly sentimental, but there’s a saying by Pedro Arrupe, the 28th Superior General of the Jesuits, that captures our travels well. He said there’s nothing more practical than falling in love because what you are in love with will decide everything. 

During our travel to Tanzania, we fell in love with the Tanzanian people. They welcomed us, they fed us, and most importantly, they shared with us their joy for life. We quickly realized that although we had come to solve a business problem, we left with an inspiring story that the world needed to hear. Our job was to tell it. We feel blessed the sisters entrusted us to do so. 

“What I learned from her is that leadership is everything, and when it’s tied to purpose, miracles happen.”

What have been your biggest takeaways from working with your client?

When you meet Sr. Maria Pacis and her team, you’re instantly transformed into a better person. It’s like magic. That’s because you see how these remarkable women, who are amongst the best and brightest of their society, are multiplying the little they have to care for others. In this sense, miracles happen daily at St. Joseph Hospital and Sr. Maria plays a big role in this. 

Sister Maria Pacis
Sister Maria Pacis

What I learned from her is that leadership is everything, and when it’s tied to purpose, miracles happen. I also learned that anything worth doing starts out as a little thing, which is why hope and persistence are so important. Their work is not for the faint of heart. 

What was your favorite moment from your trip to Tanzania?

Hands down the team. If you’ve ever been part of a great team, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. There’s something transcendent about it. Through this project, we’ve formed life-long friendships that will undoubtedly shape our futures. It goes way beyond “networking.” We now know each other’s stories, we know each other’s families, and we can laugh, cry, and celebrate together. 

Recently, after our capstone presentation, a few of us went to lunch to celebrate. We talked about our adventure and how proud we were of what we accomplished together, and then our conversation quickly turned to the life lessons we learned. This was by far the best part of lunch. We learned by sharing, just as the Tanzanian people had taught us.

“This is what business done right feels like. It’s a noble calling with enormous responsibilities. It fills your life with meaning, and at the same time, benefits others.”

How did the trip impact your understanding of global perspectives in business?

My biggest takeaway is that business must be rooted in something bigger than yourself. Never – not once – did our project feel like work. We loved every minute of it and had tons of fun while doing it. This is what business done right feels like. It’s a noble calling with enormous responsibilities. It fills your life with meaning, and at the same time, benefits others. What more could one want?

I want to end by saying none of this would have been possible without Sr. Maria, St. Joseph’s Hospital, and Tim Pagliara, our honorary team member. Thank you for inviting us into the amazing work you’re doing! Thank you, Georgetown, for letting us tell the story.