By Gordon Govier

InterVarsity alumni - Adam White

Arriving at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business 15 years ago, Adam White had a lot of questions about faith and business. Adam had become a Christian between his junior and senior years at the University of Florida. “I was still kind of figuring it out, by the time I went off to business school,” he recalled.

Getting Organized and Getting Grounded

One way or another, he doesn’t remember exactly how, he networked with Christians among the other business school students. They decided to organize the Christian Business Students Association.

“It helped a lot to organize, because there was this strong tendency to think that you were all alone in terms of your faith and your desire to incorporate your faith into your business career,” he said. “Just the fellowship, having a dozen other people that all felt the same way and were trying to grow in the same direction, is powerful.”

Craig Gartland was InterVarsity’s sole staff worker at the University of Chicago at that time. “It was exciting to see a core group of students ready to start something,” Craig remembered. The leaders of InterVarsity’s MBA chapter at Northwestern University met with Adam and the other students to offer their suggestions and encouragement.

Adam is still grateful for Craig’s assistance in helping the group get started. “If InterVarsity had not been there at the University of Chicago, then there would not have been anything in terms of campus ministry taking place,” he said.

Doing Business as Ministry

Today Adam operates a ministry-focused business called X31, which works with Christian artists. All of the artwork that is sold through X31 was created for the purpose of glorifying God. The name comes from Exodus chapter 31, which tells the story of the artistic craftsmen Bezalel and Oholiab who created the wilderness tabernacle and all of its accessories.

Adam also works as a financial analyst through his Atlanta-based consulting business, White Knight Research and Trading. Last year he spent a lot of time researching the commodity speculation that was driving up food and energy prices, creating a bubble that eventually burst when speculators pulled out their money.

“When tech stocks have a bubble, then it feels good while the bubble is expanding and doesn’t hurt anybody,” he said. “When commodities like food and energy have a bubble, since they’re not really assets but raw materials that are consumed by everybody on the planet, it hurts tremendously.”

Adam and his colleague Mike Masters testified on their research before a congressional committee last September, and several times since. They urged lawmakers to reinstate limits on speculation that were begun in 1936 but removed in recent years. They now have a weblog that continues the dialogue on the issue.

He said, “It’s really a social justice issue, in the sense that when there are three billion people in the world who live on $2/day, and a dollar a day goes to food. When the price of food doubles or triples those peoples are in a world of hurt.”

Connecting to God and Connecting the Dots

Adam remembers some of the intense spiritual discussions with his fellow MBA students back at the University of Chicago. The opportunity to discuss issues of faith and vocation, and challenge one other’s assumptions, was crucial for his spiritual development. One of the questions they wrestled with was whether they were “serving mammon” by working on Wall Street.

“But you have to realize that God wants people who will work for Him on Wall Street,” he said. “Things happen on Wall Street that impact the world. Obviously, if I didn’t go to business school and didn’t have a Wall Street career, I wouldn’t be able to connect the dots on an issue like commodity speculation.”

Today, 15 years later, InterVarsity’s University of Chicago Business School Fellowship holds two meetings every week, one for prayer and Bible study and one for topical issues. It numbers about 25-30 and hosts frequent guest speakers to provide a steady Christian witness at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.