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Grant enables students to network in D.C.

By Kari VanDerVeen
January 26, 2011

Next week 10 St. Olaf students will travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with alumni and political leaders as part of a new career-exploration program.

Made possible through a $10,000 grant St. Olaf received from the Target Foundation, the program — dubbed the Innovation Scholars Leadership and Vocational Externship to Washington, D.C. — provides students with the chance to connect with alumni, shadow entrepreneurs, meet with political leaders, and visit organizations that are taking new approaches to addressing social problems.

The students traveling to Washington are members of the college’s Innovation Scholars program, which provides training, internships, and reflection that encourage Oles to explore “how to lead sustainable lives in the global community in ethical and innovative ways.” As the students meet with leaders in the nation’s capital, they’ll consider the effect various types of entrepreneurship have on the environment, social and political matters, and profitability.

The Center for Experiential Learning's Kristine Estenson will lead a group of students to Washington, D.C., as part of a new program funded by a grant from the Target Foundation.

The five-day venture will serve as an “externship” for students. An externship is a more substantive experience than job shadowing but is less involved and shorter than an internship. In addition to meeting with U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and legislative directors from several other political offices, the students will meet with Oles working for a wide variety of organizations in Washington. Mark Dimunation ‘74 will provide a tour of the Library of Congress, where he serves as chief of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division; Judge Robert Yock ‘59 will provide a tour of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims; and Philip Moeller ‘63 will host a dinner at his home, which was once the residence of the deputy postmaster for Abraham Lincoln.

Students also will participate in a service-learning project at the N Street Village, a community for women facing homelessness and poverty, and they’ll meet with a number of St. Olaf alumni involved with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps in Washington, D.C. Each of the students will also spend one day shadowing an Ole working in their desired career field. The alumni who volunteered to spend a day mentoring a St. Olaf student range from an executive producer at C-SPAN to the director of the counseling program at the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Kristine Estenson, associate director of the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program within the St. Olaf Center for Experiential Learning, is organizing the trip and will lead the students to Washington. “I think it will be really valuable for them to hear how St. Olaf alumni have been able to take their experiences and turn them into truly sustainable lives,” she says.

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or