Kyle Benzinger

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While at Xavier, I majored in Economics and International Studies with minors in German and Peace Studies. I focused most of my undergraduate research on issues related to international political economy, international relations, and globalization. I have always had a passion for travel and understanding other cultures and ways of life. Through the Alternative Breaks program here at Xavier, I was able to pursue this interest through service trips to the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. It was these experiences that piqued my interest in issues of economic justice, social identity, and definitions of prosperity in developing countries.

Fellowship Experience

The goal of my project through the Brueggeman Fellowship was to further the conversation surrounding the relationship between sustainable economic prosperity and the spiritual wellness of a society in the context of globalization. I chose to pursue this goal from the perspective of Buddhist economics and sufficiency economy with respect to Thailand. This allowed me to investigate a new world view as it relates to economics and financial exchange within a specific cultural context. By exploring the work of E.F. Schumacher, Vandana Shiva, and others, I came to understand the importance of small-scale, sustainable economic practices in community development and social wellbeing. While in Thailand, I was fortunate to experience the importance of these ideas as they were implemented in the daily life of the Buddhist communities I lived in and became a part of.

When I first arrived in Thailand, I spent some time in Bangkok to acquaint myself with the culture. I was most struck by the juxtaposition of the imported capitalism of the West and the communal social values of the East. I also discovered the wonders of Thai cuisine through Bangkok’s illustrious street food, the glories of Thailand’s history through its ancient architecture, and the beautiful simplicities of the Thai lifestyle. I soon traveled to the Northeast of Thailand to the Isan province of Ubon Ratchathani. It was there that I lived with the first of several Buddhist communities across Thailand.

In these communities, there were maybe five or so people who spoke English and my Thai was minimal at best. This forced me to rethink my understanding of communication across cultures and across languages. Over time, however, I was able to learn much from the villagers despite the language gap. I learned about the essentials of sustainable agriculture, the core precepts of the Buddhist faith, and the importance of community ties in crisis. Halfway through my time there, Thailand suffered one of its worst floods in living memory. Once safe to respond to the tragedy, I was privileged enough to join my new found community in self organized relief efforts in the outskirts of Bangkok. It was here that I witnessed the true power of sufficiency economy and community action in circumstances where traditional bureaucracy was rendered insufficient

What They're Doing Now

Currently, I am a Manager of Instructional Design at Macy’s Inc. After having a variety of experience with the company in such areas as human resources, business analytics, and now design, I still have interest in economics as it relates to both the public and private sector. This professional experience brought forth new yet related interests such as consumer psychology, user experience, and behavioral economics. I still continue my world travels to the extent that I am able to, but now they are more like vacations in nature than anything else. Though they are relaxing and temporarily quench my thirst for adventure, they do not have the same impact as the experience I had in Thailand. I hope that one day soon I will have another deep cultural immersion experience that will shatter expectations, inform my perspective, and alter my worldview.

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