Innovation Scholars Leadership and Vocational Externship to Washington, DC
Nick Kang & Andrew Foxwell ’08 iConstituent
“The Innovation Scholars Leadership and Vocational Externship was an amazing experience that allowed us as students to step out of the academic life on campus to venture and meet with real St. Olaf College Alumni and others to learn about their vocational journeys. Throughout the externship, we were able to create meaningful relationships with dozens of individuals which has led to some becoming mentors, role-models, or partners towards common goals. In a matter of just five-days I feel I was able to engage in more meaningful discussions about vocation, life after college, and career exploration than I have been able to do in the past 22 years. Not only did this externship provide me with an opportunity to hone my networking skills, but it also provided me an opportunity to work with an academically diverse group of St. Olaf College students who shared equally creative and innovative minds. What this experience did was challenge my own perception of “innovation” and see innovation in the broader context of today’s global community.
It is my hope that this program and this externship can continue to provide other students an equal opportunity to broaden their understanding of innovation and vocation, and the chance to begin defining who they are, where they are from, and where they will go.”
Ellie Anderson & Kate Rau Troy ’00 Office of Head Start US Gov’t
“This experience was one of my best with St.Olaf. Not only did I learn a ton of new things, but also old things that I already new were ingrained that much more and my understandings grew deeper. Another thing I took away from this experience was how wonderful the St. Olaf alumni community really is. For the rest of my life I will go out of my way to help other Oles because that is how I have been treated. These unbelievably successful people went out of their way to help us and show us something that we had not seen before. Going into this trip I was confused and extremely worried about what I was going to do after college. After this trip I have clarity on the subject, not an absolute plan, but clarity nonetheless. Going into this trip I was extremely frustrated with the way I thought non-profits worked. After this trip, my faith was renewed and I had a rush of energy to continue to invest in non-profits and bring my own innovational ideas to them. Going into this trip I had no idea how the government really worked or how I could work within the governmental system and after this trip so many of those questions have been answered. Considering that all of the things that I just mentioned are things that are in the core of what I will be doing some day, I would say this externship has been unbelievably important to my growth as an individual as well as my education. I truly hope that this opportunity is offered continuously every year. It is one of those things that gives St.Olaf a special leg up. It is one of those things that make this college and its students great.”
Leon Clark & Barbara Bowles-Biesecker ’79
National Institue of Health
Center for Genome Research
“My experience with the academic externship in Washington D.C. was life changing. Giving a small group of students the opportunity to go to the nation’s capital and meet people from a variety of different fields make me further understand how everyone is interrelated and contributing to this country’s progress in some way. I learned a lot about not only what I want to do when I graduate, but also about how I see myself being involved in this global community. This experience puts what I learn during the school year into a broader context.”
Dan Murphy & Lindsay Dahl ’04 Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families
“I believe that all St. Olaf students should have a trip like this. I don’t think students really understand the importance of community and the wonderful network of alumni that St. Olaf has. It was an experience that as a senior has really inspired me to be excited about the future. I think in person exposure to alumni is also important. This trip gave me the opportunity to establish relationships that can foster my vocational aspirations in a way that emailing or talking on the phone cannot do. To see first hand what others are doing for the good of the public and to see you as possibly being a part of that good is something that academics simply cannot do. The amount of personal benefits that I got out of this trip is unparallel to any classroom instruction. I strongly believe that this program should continue in the future if St. Olaf continues to see the importance of experiential learning.”
Maria Ward & Mary Sotos ’07 World Resources Institute
Elizabeth Berard ’99 USAID
“I feel the D.C. externship was enormously valuable for me both personally and professionally. I feel more secure having connected with the strong St. Olaf alumni network and having spent time with professionals in many different sectors and positions. I think I have a much better and more realistic understanding of what it is like to work in D.C. and that I am much better equipped to face the world beyond the hill. I feel extremely blessed to have had this opportunity and hope St. Olaf can extend externships like this to as many students as possible.”
Gabe Rysdahl & Shannon Steene ’93
Good Shepher Housing & Family Services, Inc.
“I was humbled by how interested alums were in talking with our group and also by how much time each alum gave us. Hours were spent each day talking with our group and taking real interest in our futures. Ultimately, this kindness from the alums is what made the trip such a success. We were welcomed and connected with these gracious alums and individuals.
This externship was very valuable and I believe it should be offered in the coming years. We met with amazing people and visited interesting places but the best part of the trip was our exposure to the Ole network that exists off the hill. I felt honored to be an Ole after meeting with so many interesting people. I also learned the importance of networking with others.”
Rebecca Carlson & Dick Rotvedt ’69 Foreign Agriculture Services
“Seeing what opportunities exist out in the ‘real world’ really broadened my horizon, especially in light of graduating in a few months and entering it myself. Opportunities I never knew existed in fields I am really passionate about presented themselves. Especially in a world where the value of networking is emphasized, I feel we got a real heads up, and perhaps even head start on pursuing my vocation. The lessons we learned couldn’t be taught, they can only be experienced, and I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to partake in this externship.”
Kai Hanson & Peter Slen CSPAN
“This externship seems to be an extremely promising program. The chance for St. Olaf students to leave campus and develop themselves professionally has an importance that cannot be overstated. While St. Olaf has earned accolades for its study abroad programs, and there are a number of opportunities for students for students to visit other locations, a coordinated externship with introductions to alumni and the details of their professions is invaluable. Things went very smoothly, and more time with which to develop contacts and programming can only help this externship improve and become an essential part of the St. Olaf experience for students looking to push things forward in any number of sectors. The St. Olaf entrepreneurial program is already extremely supportive and progressive in empowering students to develop an idea and see it through to creation, and with the Innovation Scholars Externship added to the list of experiential programming, it will continue to improve its already substantial ability to meet the needs of its most creative students.”
Frances Xin & Kathryn Wahl ’87
Molecular Interfaces & Tribology Section – US Gov’t
“Overall, this was a very worthwhile trip. The experience allowed me to re-evaluate the compatibility of my interests with particular professional fields, and it allowed me to consider ways in which I can best prepare myself for the transition from college life to the professional world. In addition, this trip also highlighted the importance of expanding our network of professional contacts. Even though the benefits of networking may not be as apparent to us now, networking has the ability to lead to unlisted job openings and other resources that may not be publicly available. Contacting alumni made the networking experience less intimidating, because we were comforted by the fact that our contacts were eager to answer any of our questions and help provide us with a greater sense of direction regarding our career paths.
I thought it was important to meet with alumni in professional fields that we did not think we would have any interest in. Especially with the increasing trend of merging historically separated academic disciplines into current fields of work (very common within scientific research), it is nice to see how different jobs may complement each other. I feel as though a liberal arts education can prepare a student for this sort of interdisciplinary environment extremely well because we leave college with a much broader understanding of a variety of academic disciplines and not just an understanding in one specialized area of study. With this very well-rounded skill-set, it is no wonder that St. Olaf graduates have become so successful in the professional world.
Kristine Amundson, Ben Mahler ’03 and Kyle Sheldon ‘03
DC United Marketing
“This unique experience is invaluable. Through shadowing and engaging with professionals in Washington, I have learned more about myself as it relates to my future professional career than can be learned in a classroom. Learning where my interests truly lay within the marketing field and being able to network with professionals has been crucial to my immediate career decisions. This experience will also affect my future career as I reflect on all the information I have gathered. To say the least, a program like this is beneficial for the development of future Oles and I encourage the college to continue pursuing opportunities like these to enrich our community further.”