Internships: Leaders for Social Change

Last summer I participated in a program through the Piper Center for Vocation and Career. It was called Leaders for Social Change and allowed me to have an internship and learn more about effective policies that help improve the community.

Fellow LSC Intern, Sally Cole, ’13, and me at our internship.

Leaders for Social Change offers a chance to reflect on what it means to enact social change, while giving students a glimpse into organizations that are already working to improve their communities. The internship I had this summer gave me skills that I’ll be able to carry into a career after St. Olaf, and provided an opportunity for experiential learning about social change. Here’s a basic run-down of the program: there are two houses, one in Northfield and one in St. Paul, and we all worked on projects that focus on social change. Ten students lived in the Northfield House, and eight students (including me!) lived in the St. Paul house, and most of us interned at nonprofits in each city. The houses were a vibrant mix of majors and interests to create an intentional living community centered on social change.

I spent the summer working with marketing at the Citizens League in St. Paul, MN. My organization focused on fostering discussions between citizens from across party lines to create recommendations for policy change in Minnesota. I know—it sounds overwhelming, and as an intern, I’ll admit that I didn’t understand all of their plans and strategies, but it was an awesome opportunity to look into an organization that hopes to create real change in public policy. As an English and American Studies major, most of my classes focus on literature and theory. While I love theory more than most, it was refreshing to see all the ideas play out in reality!

My desk at the Citizens League office.

The internships in the Leaders for Social Change program vary from working to promote bicycle use in urban areas, to developing programs that teach entrepreneurship in the local Latino community, to investigating the economic value of the arts. Though the program only lasted part of the summer, it provided a great opportunity to explore the communities off the Hill and figure out what I can do to improve and sustain them. It’s one of St. Olaf’s many unique programs that work to directly involve students in the world around them, creating students that are passionate, engaged, and ready to change the world!

Northfield Farm Bike Tour

This past weekend, St. Olaf students joined Carleton students and local residents to celebrate the sustainable food agriculture in and around Northfield. Participants biked from either campus to local farms to get a tour of their land and take part in different activities. The twenty mile bike route showcased efforts to grow local, organic food that supports our community.

St. Olaf prides itself as a campus that supports various green initiatives, including a recent student-driven project that put new compost bins in residence halls and provided information to first-year students about how to live sustainably. Many students took a study break this weekend to bike around Northfield and learn more about the sustainable food movement. The free event ended with a completely compostable meal, which was a delicious ending to a day focused on food.

Rows of bikes parked at one of the local farms
St. Olaf and Carleton students at a craft activity

Even though Northfield is a small town, events like these offer students an opportunity to learn about and explore the surrounding area.

Enjoy the fall weather!

-Zoey

Internships: Leaders for Social Change

I’m sure I’ve said it before on the blog, but one of the things I love most about St. Olaf is the opportunity to balance classroom learning with experiential learning.  The more I talk to graduate schools and employers, the more I discover how having experience during your four years of college–internships, research, and other experiential learning–is of utmost importance in propelling you forward in the world after graduation.

This summer, 17 students had the opportunity to participate in an internship program called Leaders for Social Change, which focuses on having the students gain experience in areas related to social justice and civic engagement.  Richard Aviles ’13, who originally hails from Los Angeles, spent his summer in the Twin Cities and wrote about his experience.

Richard Aviles ’13

This summer I got the opportunity to be a part of Leaders for Social change, a program from the Center for Experiental Learning (CEL). Seventeen Oles (ten in Northfield and seven in the Twin Cities) were given the privilege to engage in social justice work by being placed in non-profit organization throughout Northfield and the Twin Cities. We all lived in intentional communities whose purpose was to engage us in conversations around social justice, vocational discernment, and the formation/sustainability of the self and community. If you have ever thought about any of these ideas then you make the perfect Ole and if you haven’t, you certainly will if you decide to go to college here!

I lived in St. Paul for the summer, and I was placed with an organization called Youth Farm and Market Project, a nonprofit organization that focuses on youth development by growing food. I worked at an urban organic farm in the Powderhorn Neighborhood of South Minneapolis. My summer was filled with sunflowers and kale. As the Harvest Coordinator I was in charge of processing and distributing all of our harvest. There would be days when I had to manage more than 100+ pounds of food.  Based on my summer internship many people would think that I’m an environmental studies or biology major, but I’m actually a double major in dance and women’s studies. So what does a dancing feminist contribute to gardening and food justice issues?

I’m still trying to answer that question. Though my area of expertise is not food issues, I still applied all of the critical thinking skills that I have gained in my women’s studies courses; as a community organizer I got to think about food justice through a holistic approach, an approach that I’ve learned to use in dance. At St. Olaf you’re not limited by your major or what you think your area of expertise is. You learn to take all of your skills and apply them in a vast array of places.  I feel like I can now say that I am a dancing eco-feminist, and each new academic and experiential opportunity I have here brings depth to my knowledge base and breadth to my experience.  

Well said. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t say how excited we all are that the awesome class of 2015 moves in tomorrow!  More photos and updates after the fact–we’re so excited to have you all on campus as a part of the Ole community.

-Miriam

St. Olaf’s Natural Lands

When we say St. Olaf is an awesome place, we mean it is an awesome place — it is located 45 minutes south of the major metropolitan area of Minneapolis/St. Paul, yet it is also surrounded by 700 acres of prairie and woodland (this is in addition to the 300 acres of the campus itself).  It is truly the best of all worlds — students will go up to the cities to do an internship in the morning and they’ll come back for a run in the natural lands in the afternoon.

There are quite a few students on campus who focus on St. Olaf’s natural lands from an academic perspective as well.  Professor of Biology Kathy Shea is the curator of the natural lands, and under her and other professors’ guidance, students get to know the natural lands through biology classes and independent research projects.  Kathy also selects to to three students to be student naturalists every year — this year’s naturalists are Zephyr Mohr-Felsen ’11, Tyler Refsland ’11, and Katie Halvorson ’11, and you can read more about them here.  These students are passionate about environmental education and host educational walking tours, field trips, tree plantings, and other activities related to the natural lands around campus throughout the year.  They finished the school year with a photo contest of the natural lands — check out the winners!  How lucky are we to have this as our view every single day?

-Miriam

Top Prize: Knute Gundersen '12
Landscape Winner: James Patrick Daly '13
Portrait Winner: Vicki Anton '14
Close-Up Winner: Rachel Butler '12

St. Olaf's Natural Lands

When we say St. Olaf is an awesome place, we mean it is an awesome place — it is located 45 minutes south of the major metropolitan area of Minneapolis/St. Paul, yet it is also surrounded by 700 acres of prairie and woodland (this is in addition to the 300 acres of the campus itself).  It is truly the best of all worlds — students will go up to the cities to do an internship in the morning and they’ll come back for a run in the natural lands in the afternoon.

There are quite a few students on campus who focus on St. Olaf’s natural lands from an academic perspective as well.  Professor of Biology Kathy Shea is the curator of the natural lands, and under her and other professors’ guidance, students get to know the natural lands through biology classes and independent research projects.  Kathy also selects to to three students to be student naturalists every year — this year’s naturalists are Zephyr Mohr-Felsen ’11, Tyler Refsland ’11, and Katie Halvorson ’11, and you can read more about them here.  These students are passionate about environmental education and host educational walking tours, field trips, tree plantings, and other activities related to the natural lands around campus throughout the year.  They finished the school year with a photo contest of the natural lands — check out the winners!  How lucky are we to have this as our view every single day?

-Miriam

Top Prize: Knute Gundersen '12
Landscape Winner: James Patrick Daly '13
Portrait Winner: Vicki Anton '14
Close-Up Winner: Rachel Butler '12