Coming Back to Give Back

PROVO, Utah – Mar 25, 2020 – BYU Marriott professor of organizational behavior and human resources Lisa Jones remembers filling out PhD applications like it was yesterday. “I’m an MBA who doesn’t want a BMW,” she wrote. While Jones started as an activist, through seeking higher education she also became an academic, now equipped with the necessary tools to join the fight against global poverty.

After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley in 1991 and joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jones decided she wanted to pursue an international education in order to help alleviate those suffering from the effects of severe income poverty. “I wanted to help people deal with vulnerability and learn self-reliance and resilience after disasters,” she says. “I wanted to look to the international sphere to understand more about how people in other countries take action to fight that pain.”

As a new convert to the Church and after researching BYU Marriott, she decided BYU was the right place for her to learn how to accomplish that goal. While at first being surrounded by so many lifelong members of the Church was a bit of a culture shock, she found her place with professors and mentors, such as retired BYU Marriott professor Warner Woodworth. In 1999 Woodworth selected Jones to help him run a microfinance program in Honduras, which was recovering from Hurricane Mitch.

Through this experience, Jones was able to co-found Help International, an organization focused on helping fight global poverty through social entrepreneurship. “Lisa is a gutsy woman who has perspective on life, wants to understand the world, and has a lot of a lot of courage,” says Woodworth. “She started as an activist and became an academic, and she’s integrated both into real life. She’s been able to mobilize others to make change, and she’s learned to do the necessary research, writing, and publishing on top of that.”

After graduating from BYU Marriott with an MBA in 2000 and from BYU’s David M. Kennedy Center with a master in international development in 2001, Jones went on to the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School to earn her PhD in organizational behavior and to research strategy and entrepreneurship in 2008.

Since then she has continued her work traveling the globe and learning how to help people pull themselves out of poverty. She has worked and researched in Peru, India, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Kenya, Guatemala, and many other countries, and has also started working to improve life within the United States. “I’ve also seen a lot of poverty and vulnerability stateside, and a lot of people here in pain, so now I’m trying to focus on refugees and immigrants in Utah,” Jones says.

Jones and her twelve-year-old son, Tanner, live in Vineyard and volunteer together assisting low-income families in the community. “I take my son with me so he sees that we don’t just give money, we give our time,” Jones says. “That’s something anyone can do. What makes all the time spent worth it is that my son not only sees me serve but also gets to serve too.”

This service motivates Jones in her teaching as well. “I came back to give back,” she says. “I came here to teach students like me. I want to be here for the people who feel out of place. I want those people to be able see themselves in somebody.”

Jones’ latest research focuses on women in rural Pakistan. She had the opportunity gather important data on feminine care and hygiene among Pakistani women in order to help alleviate the issues they face. She also recently published an article on how refugee and immigrant entrepreneurs differ and how these differences can shape community responses. She hopes to eventually teach electives at BYU Marriott much like the ones she led while teaching at UNC Kenan-Flagler after earning her PhD. In such a class, she would take around twenty students each year to different places locally and across the world to experience and learn from the deep connections and irreplaceable encounters she has experienced throughout her academic and activist career. 

While Jones has a diversity of experience fighting global poverty, her greatest goal remains simple. “I want to use my spare time for other people—and help other students find a way to do the same.”

Lisa Jones
Lisa Jones

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Anne Wallace