The Value of a Global Network

By Brook Rodrigues, MADGJ ’17

Graduate school is a huge investment. As a grad student, you’ll spend hours reading, your mind will puzzle on complex problems for weeks, and your family will make big sacrifices. You’ll pay thousands of dollars over many years to earn letters after your name, a diploma, and the skills that you need for your future career. When considering the pros and cons, you might be asking: “Is it worth it?” For me, the answer was clearly “Yes,” but now that I’ve graduated, I can tell you that the factors that made it worthwhile were more than just a good curriculum, a boost to my ego, or even my degree itself. It was the meaningful relationships and life-long connections that I formed while I was a student that made my experience profound.

After I finished my undergraduate studies, I was searching for a greater sense of integrity in my life and career; maybe it was a kind of ‘holy discontent’ that I was experiencing. At the time, I was working as a legal assistant to support my family, but I didn’t feel like the law firm was exactly where God wanted me. I was interested in community development and international studies, so I spent a lot of my time looking for volunteer opportunities that would align with my interests and fit into my work schedule. It was a tall order, but after much diligent research, I found just one local service opportunity.

Through this search, I unexpectedly found many amazing job opportunities, which even included an international component, but the glaring requirement to apply was a relevant graduate degree. Having decided that global development was an area in which I wanted to grow, I began to look for the right school. While I found some exciting programs, most were incompatible with full-time employment, or they required previous undergraduate studies in that same field. After years of frustration, searching for a path towards this emerging call on my life, I found the Master of Arts in Global Development and Justice (MAGDJ) program at Multnomah University.

In addition to being a huge investment, graduate school is also a huge privilege–one that I did not want to mess up. The MAGDJ program promised that I would gain many of the skills needed for the positions which had caught my eye. The cost of the program was highly competitive, I could get accepted despite having no prior experience in global development, and it offered classes after normal working hours. That meant that I could hold my day job at the law firm to provide for my family while studying for my dream roles. It was exactly what I had been looking for, so I enrolled in the program in 2015.

The program also offered what I did not know that I was looking for: a Christian perspective on global development. I loved my time in MAGDJ. While I hadn’t intentionally sought out a Christian perspective in the field of global development, my time in the program revealed that I greatly benefitted from both a Christian framework and the preparation to converse with colleagues from a variety of worldviews and cultures. I learned that international development is complex and nuanced, usually with no easy answers. Sometimes the best intentions create larger problems and erode the dignity of others. Although the concept of inherent human dignity and value is a key tenet of any work in development and humanitarian spheres, I think that Christianity provides a worldview in which this makes the most sense. A Christ-centered education is incredibly valuable when learning how best to promote human dignity through global development. I also found that my professors didn’t just teach about these concepts; they also modeled them.

An aspect of MAGDJ that was often touted in the admissions process was its cohort model. As part of a cohort, you work, travel, and take classes with the other students in your program year. I was initially unimpressed (thinking that I wasn’t going to grad school to make friends), but that impression proved very wrong. Through the cohort model, I met some of my favorite humans, and they offered me the support I needed to get through some of the most challenging times of my life.

In the middle of my second semester, I was in a near-fatal car accident, and I was hospitalized for almost a month. When I came out of my coma, I discovered that not only had my family and friends basically camped at the hospital, but my professors and cohort-mates were there as well. I woke up to my mom having my professors’ cell phone numbers and my in-laws talking about my classmates coming over for Easter. Even MAGDJ students from other cohorts sent me messages of love and support. Years after my miraculous recovery process, I am still surprised by how much my worlds have collided and how well my biological family knows my MAGDJ family. You can’t put a price on professors and classmates who will visit you in the hospital.

When I returned to class, the whole university supported my re-entry and modeled servant leadership. My classmates filled me in on what I had missed, my professors offered me summer courses in order to catch up, and they all encouraged me in every way they could. Even though my cohort has now spread around the globe, I am so grateful and humbled to call them friends for life. That experience was invaluable.

Throughout the MAGDJ program, I was looking for opportunities to work in international development, which is a super competitive field. I knew that MAGDJ had close ties to Africa New Life Ministries (ANLM), whose mission is to serve with Rwandans to promote the holistic flourishing of children and families. My MAGDJ cohort-mate, Lillian, was a sponsored student alumnus working for ANLM at the time, and she recommended the organization to me. Knowing that we had similar values because of our time in the program, I took her recommendation very seriously.

I followed the organization’s website closely, found opportunities to interact with Africa New Life staff, volunteered at an ANLM event, and loved my time with them. The more I looked into the work that they do, the more I was impressed. I heard many testimonies about how effectively and discerningly they served alongside communities, and I got to witness transformed lives firsthand. I was pleasantly surprised to see just how much the values of Africa New Life and MAGDJ aligned.

I graduated from the MAGDJ program and later accepted a grant-funded, one-year, paid internship as ANLM’s Marketing and Communications Associate. During my time at ANLM, I was able to gain the experience I needed to live into my calling. My role included a lot of great opportunities to develop my skills and grow, one of which was traveling to Rwanda. There, I got to work with a mixed Rwandan/American marketing team, hosting a creative summit event in Kigali, gathering stories, photographs, and videos for use in future marketing materials.

On that trip to Rwanda, I got to see my MAGDJ coursework come to life. I was thrilled to be part of a research team learning about childhood malnutrition and school feeding for sponsored students. I would not have succeeded in that work without the skills and information that I learned in the Applied Research Methodology course, the Conflict, Complex Disasters & Refugees course, and the Human Rights, Law, & Ethics course. Additionally, I found that the cohort model of the program provided me with a very practical network in the field. While I was in Rwanda, one of my cohort-mates, Dana, was also in Rwanda working for World Relief, and just after I left, another MAGDJ graduate named Lydia arrived in Rwanda to work with Dana. Through the MAGDJ program, I was able to form deep connections and a professional network that has already proved invaluable.

Global Development and Justice is a huge field, and I am still on a journey to live into God’s calling. I am passionate about so many facets of God’s kingdom-building, both locally and internationally. During my time in the MAGDJ program and since graduating, I have worked at a nonprofit law firm in North Portland, a community development corporation in Rockwood, disaster relief services across the nation, an NGO in Jordan, and with Africa New Life Ministries in both Portland and Rwanda. I have helped to launch a nonprofit that provides legal services for immigrants based out of a church in Rockwood where I currently serve as a legal assistant. I also serve on the Biblical Justice Team at my church, and through my involvement, I get to help members find service opportunities. I work in rural Clackamas county – which is actually where I live, for once – with unaccompanied high school students experiencing homelessness, and, in the next year, I hope to begin a youth discipleship program in a local church. I will remain on disaster response rosters and keep up my training for national and international deployments. The MAGDJ program equipped me for all of these experiences and service opportunities.

As a MAGDJ graduate, I have been prepared to serve in truly “global” contexts, which sets me apart as a job applicant. More than that, the MAGDJ program gave me a community. Because of the connections that I made in MAGDJ, I have life-long friends who prayed for me in a hospital lobby; I got a job at Africa New Life Ministries, giving me priceless experience in the field; and I have an ongoing network of likeminded people who are committed to sustainable change. In both local and international settings, MAGDJ gave me the relationships I needed to make a difference in the world. I am so blessed to have enjoyed such mutual service with my MAGDJ community, and I am excited to see how God’s investment in each of us through graduate school is instrumental in our participation in His Kingdom.

If you resonated with Brook’s story and are interested in global development and justice, check out the MAGDJ program at Multnomah University. For more details on the program or to receive an application by mail, contact Admissions at (800) 275-4672 or

To learn more about Africa New Life Ministries, click here.

August 27, 2020 | Articles