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Into Africa

Couple sets out on service sabbatical to Rwanda.


Noah Hampson ’12 and his wife Rebecca have been nothing if not thoughtful about their respective careers, he as an associate in the private equity practice at Baker & McKenzie LLP in Chicago, she most recently as chief of staff to former US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson.

But as Rebecca began to look for her next professional role after a six-and-a-half-year tenure at the Paulson Institute, the couple decided to seize the opportunity to do something focused on others, for a period they came to call their “service sabbatical.”

With the support of their employers, including the promise of an unprecedented twelve-month leave of absence from Baker for Noah, the couple spent a good part of 2018 considering opportunities around the world, and asking themselves how they might lend their skills to a project where they could make a difference.

“Service is important to both our families. We were each raised to look for ways to be of service to others,” said Noah, explaining why this sabbatical means so much to them. He said they have been guided in their search by Fr. Michael Himes’ “Three Key Questions”: What am I good at? What brings me joy? And what does the world need me to be?

“We wrote a memo describing our goals for the sabbatical, and spoke with dozens of people and organizations about what we hope to accomplish,” said Rebecca. “We want to plant ourselves in a community and do what we can to contribute to an ambitious project that’s focused on helping people who need it most.”

Thanks to a chance meeting at an Aspen Institute conference, the couple will spend 2019 working in Rwanda as senior advisors to a private charitable foundation that is founding the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA), Africa’s first land grant university.

In RICA, the Hampsons think they’ve found answers to Father Himes’ key questions—at least for now. They embarked on their journey January 8.