Voices and Ideas

Broadening Horizons Abroad

By Julie Block 

Grant Potts is a senior at DePauw University. He is pursuing an economics major and a French minor. He is in an honors management program. He is involved in a fraternity. He oversees the first-year experience program. He tutors fellow students at the academic resource center. He assists the University President in hosting guest lecturers and members of the Board of Trustees. He has been abroad four times in his four years of college. 

He is a Phi Beta Kappa.

It is difficult to become a member of Phi Beta Kappa as a junior in college. It is difficult to become a member of Phi Beta Kappa at all—after all, it is the most prestigious academic honor society in the country—but to be recognized as a junior, you must really stand out. Grant embodies what it means to be a Phi Beta Kappa. His commitment to engaging with his liberal arts education and utilizing as many aspects of it as he can mirrors Phi Beta Kappa’s mission to advocate for the value and benefits of liberal arts and sciences education.

“I don’t think the liberal arts prepares you for one specific function,” he says. “It gives you a base that you can apply to a breadth of opportunities.” Those opportunities have landed Grant a position as a Business Analyst with Deloitte. Though he will be working out of the consulting company’s Minneapolis, Minnesota office, the international firm is based in the United Kingdom. Through DePauw’s Winter Term program, Grant has been to four continents in his four years. 

The program offers students the opportunity to spend the month of January taking an on-campus course, completing an internship, doing service work, or going abroad with a group of fellow students and professors. His freshman year, he went to South Africa to study the life of Nelson Mandela. His sophomore year, he participated in a medical service trip in Ecuador. He spent his junior year Winter Term in a cultural and language immersion program in France. And he just got back from Vietnam.

Grant has lived his whole life in Terre Haute, Indiana. Population: 60,852. Less than a quarter of residents graduate college. Of the 4,221 businesses owned in the city in 2012, minorities owned just 367. Only 3.5 percent of residents were born outside the country.

Grant was aware of how insular his world could be. He says even in high school, he knew abroad experiences would be critical to opening his mind past his small-town home and shaping his opinions of the world around him. He says that was a big factor in his decision to attend a liberal arts college.

“Coming from the Midwest, conservative America, you have so many preconceived notions you didn’t even know you had about a religion or a group of people,” he says. “In my public school— in White Indiana, Terre Haute— that perspective of different countries and different languages and cultures was not apparent… that was why I wanted to go to DePauw. I felt like I could pursue that interest.”

His passion to see the world was no small factor in his decision to join the Deloitte family, either. He feels that Deloitte’s existence as an international firm will provide him with the immersive cultural experience he craves, while still allowing him to use his economics degree in a meaningful way. And since Grant hopes to live abroad one day, he says working for a company with branches all over the world is a good first step toward achieving that goal.

“For me, that international experience in college has just made me even more hungry to try to kind of carry that through my professional career,” he says. “I think any employee that is able to understand cultural nuance and those types of things, that employee can only be an asset to any type of firm—especially at a firm like Deloitte that is so internationally focused.”

It is not uncommon for Phi Beta Kappas to travel abroad to better our society. Christiane Amanpour has spent years traveling around the world, reporting on some of the most pressing issues of our time. Kenneth Juster helps to keep world peace by serving as the United States’ Ambassador to India. Daniel Rosenberg — Secretary of Phi Beta Kappa’s D.C. Area Association—leads Birthright trips to Israel, where Jewish students get to learn about the history of the country and ongoing conflict in the Middle East. These are just a few of the many Phi Beta Kappas who have used their liberal arts educations and experiences abroad to connect the United States to the rest of the world. They embody Phi Beta Kappa in this way.

But more than embodying Phi Beta Kappa, Grant hopes to be an active member in the years to come. He says part of the reason he feels comfortable making the move to Minneapolis is because he knows there is a Phi Beta Kappa alumni association there, the Twin Cities Association of Phi Beta Kappa. Becoming involved with Phi Beta Kappa as he begins his career will not only give him networking opportunities, but the chance to interact with other highly intellectual people who understand the value of a liberal arts education and broadening one’s perspectives.

“I’m really looking for as many outlets as possible to just connect to people who are on the same wavelength, and that’s what a Phi Beta Kappa opportunity could represent,” he says. “There’s a group of people who were really successful in college and are passionate about the field they’re in. That’s the environment, and those are the people, I want to be around.”

To connect with Phi Beta Kappas near you, contact your local Phi Beta Kappa alumni association.

Julie Block graduated Phi Beta Kappa from DePauw University in 2017. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Writing and currently works as an Associate Producer at FOX59 News. DePauw University is home to the Alpha of Indiana Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

Photos provied by Grant Potts from his travels abroad:

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, during Winter Term 2018

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France, during Winter Term 2017

Nature Reserve outside of Quito, Ecuador, during Winter Term 2016

(Posted on 2/7/2018 )