From Africa to EMBA

PROVO, Utah – Sep 13, 2018 – Twenty-two years in the US Air Force wasn’t enough service for Paul Cazier, one of the newest additions to the BYU EMBA program. Now he is going back to school to help create a flourishing economy for the people who became his family in Mali, Africa.

After working as an African affairs military expert for six years, Cazier volunteered to be stationed in Mali. It was in Africa that he realized how blessed his life had been. “There’s so much that is given to us in the United States that we’re partially blind to,” he says. “We can bless people and help those who don’t have what we have.”

Cazier’s decision to serve in Mali had been heavily influenced by a conversation he had years before with a military officer from South Sudan named Afrikano. Afrikano asked Cazier what his plans were after retiring from the military. With eight years of service left, Cazier replied that he didn’t know, causing Afrikano to look somewhat disappointed. Cazier then asked Afrikano what his plans were, and Afrikano said he was going to become the president of his country.

Afrikano’s reply stirred up an unexplainable feeling in Cazier’s heart. “The type of officers I met wanted to make a difference in the world,” he says. “Afrikano was one of those and I wanted to be one of those too.”

While interacting with the people in Mali, Cazier identified the purpose he needed to fulfill after retiring. He spent time getting to know the local population where he was exposed to the immense poverty in Mali. As a way to help alleviate this issue, Cazier reached out to friends and family from home who helped donate money to providing food.

And though The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had not established a formal presence in Mali yet, Cazier stumbled upon another member of the Church soon after moving to the country. To his surprise, Cazier learned that there were a handful of people meeting in a chicken coop each Sunday to hold church services. He soon started attending church with them and helped open up the country to missionary work.

Amazed by the humility and kindness of the Malian people, Cazier felt a special connection to them. When his deployment came to a close, Cazier believed his work in the country was far from over. “In my mind I couldn’t say, ‘I’m going to go back to my country, and I’ll pray for you,’” he says. “I knew I wanted to make a change.”

Cazier began thinking of ways to boost the economy in the poor country of Mali but knew he needed more business education to achieve this goal. Upon returning to the United States, Cazier looked into getting an MBA degree from BYU Marriott.

“There are two things that led me to BYU,” he says. “The first was the spiritual nature of the school. The concept of self-reliance so closely ties with Church principles and that played a big factor in my choice. The second reason is that I felt a spirit of collaboration through the program and the alumni network.”

While Cazier attends the program at BYU Marriott, his wife will attend LDS Business College or BYU-Idaho to study business management and his son will continue studying international relations at BYU. Together, the three of them plan to enhance Mali’s economy by building upon the businesses they’ve already started and offering more economic opportunity to the people.

“Early Latter-day Saints came into Utah and turned a desert into a thriving society,” he says. “If my ancestors can do that here, why can’t our friends in Africa do the same thing with a little bit of help, encouragement, and support?”

Paul Cazier
Paul Cazier with the local Malians.
Paul Cazier
Paul Cazier attends church with the Malians.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Sydney Zenger