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Senior futures: Saint Paul and the great big world beyond

It may be a well-known stereotype that humanities and social science majors cannot find opportunities post-graduation, but many seniors will prove the naysayers wrong when they graduate this May. Macalester is rooted in a strong history of humanities and social sciences and the Class of 2017 is no exception when it comes to following this tradition.

Rachel Tan ’17 will head home to Singapore for a one-year position at Yale-NUS College, which was established in 2013 as a partnership between Yale University and the National University of Singapore. Tan is a Latin American Studies and Political Science double major whose experiences at Macalester have fostered her interest in teaching. Over the past few years, she has served variably as the Civic Engagement Center’s Refugee and Immigrant Area Coordinator, an International Student Programs mentor and a teaching assistant for Professor Paul Dosh’s Comparative Politics Class.

As a Chuck Green Fellow during the second semester of her junior year, Tan worked with Burmese Karen refugees between the ages of 18 and 24 at a school in West Side St. Paul. The experience solidified her interest in becoming an educator, she said: “I wasn’t an Education Studies major and I had very little experience in education, so I thought this would be a great time for me to explore what I could do as an educator.” She developed a curriculum which combined English learning with drama, dance, creative writing and storytelling. “It was my first time writing a curriculum and teaching it every day to four different classes. It was so fun,” she recalled.

Tan will build upon these experiences as a Dean’s Fellow at Yale-NUS, the first liberal arts college in Singapore. She will wear multiple hats during her time there serving as a mentor, guide and Resident Assistant to a group of upperclass students. “I’m super excited about being in a liberal arts college back home in Singapore, because ever since I decided I want to become an educator, a lot of my experience has been based on the fact that my educational experience at home was so different from my experience at Macalester,” she said. Although she is nervous to leave Macalester and return to the more conservative and traditional Singapore, she is enthusiastic to be part of such a monumental moment in Singaporean education. “It will be really exciting to guide Singaporean students through a liberal arts education,” she said.

Dagmara Franczak ’17 will also leave the United States following graduation, but her path leads to a Master’s in Public Policy at University College London (UCL). A native of Poland, Franczak is an International Studies and Russian Studies double major with a concentration in Human Rights and Humanitarianism and a minor in Political Science. Her academic experiences were instrumental in developing her interests in public policy and migration, but her internships with Governor Mark Dayton and with a Polish member of the European Union ultimately sealed her interest in helping people through public policy. This latter experience was particularly formative, she said: “I fell in love with Brussels and the EU and realized that despite a lot of the struggles that it’s been dealing with, such as Brexit and the French Presidential elections, I still am very hopeful and I still feel very strongly about the EU.” She is well-equipped for a career in diplomacy and public policy, as she speaks French, Spanish and Russian in addition to Polish and English.

Franczak expects the transition to life in London to be fairly straightforward, thanks to the city’s large community of Macalester alumni. Heading to UCL right out of college, she is ensuring that she is competitive in the European job market, where obtaining a Master’s degree is more immediately necessary than in the United States. Franczak is also ready to leave the liberal arts education model behind. “I really appreciate that I learned many things and I discovered that I wanted to learn Russian or be interested in migration, but I’m also ready to be more focused and I’m excited for the program,” she said.

Jhader Aguad ’17 will also leave the United States behind when he heads to Geneva to attend the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, following in the footsteps of many Macalester alumni, including Kofi Annan. Aguad is from Peru and has a double major in International Studies and Political Science, along with concentrations in Human Rights and Humanitarianism and International Development. Aguad also completed two internships in the Twin Cities: one at the International Institute of Minnesota, where he supported newly arrived refugees in the resettlement process, and one at Neighborhood House Association, where he served as a research assistant. His study abroad experience at The Hague in the Netherlands was especially formative, he said: “I realized that living in Europe was something that I really wanted to do.”

Aguad cited his opportunities to do research in the Netherlands, Mauritius, and Peru as the most valuable part of his time at Macalester. “Having the opportunity to do field trips and field research has motivated me to go to grad school,” he explained. Before heading to Geneva, he will spend this summer in Washington D.C., completing a fellowship for international development at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. His two-year program at the Graduate Institute will culminate with a Master’s in International Affairs. He is particularly excited to be in Geneva, which is a host city to a wide variety of international organizations, from the World Health Organization to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. “It’s a really good place to be because of all the internship opportunities,” Aguad said. Looking to the future, he concluded, “I have a general idea, but I would like to go one year at a time. I definitely plan to be working around the world.”

Marta Vegdahl-Crowell ’17 will stay much closer to Macalester, working as a junior coach for College Possible Twin Cities following graduation. She is an International Studies major whose time at Mac has revolved around working with middle-school and high-school students from the Twin Cities. For the past two and a half years, she has worked at Pillsbury House & Theater’s after-school program.

“I love my work there, and the students I have are some of the most inspiring people I have ever met. It really made me want to work towards helping other phenomenal high school students get into college, despite all the barriers they are facing,” she said. The program played a major role in Vegdahl-Crowell’s decision to spend time in the college-access world post-graduation, and she worked with Macalester admissions last summer in order to get exposure to both sides of the application process. She first encountered College Possible in her sophomore year, and had been waiting to apply ever since. The program lasts for a year, and although Vegdahl-Crowell is not sure where the future will take her, she knows that she wants to continue working in the nonprofit world, likely focusing on college access or youth empowerment

Beenish Riaz ’17 has a similar passion for the nonprofit world. She will be heading to law school post-graduation. She’s leaning towards attending NYU, but hasn’t decided on a school yet. Riaz, an English and political science double major from Kenya and Pakistan, had been interested in becoming a lawyer since childhood, but her fascination with international human rights law came out of a course that she took with English professor James Dawes. The class read a book called Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story from Hell on Earth, which is the story of a UN human rights lawyer and two peacekeepers. “It’s not a very happy story,” she said, but it inspired her to consider a career in international law. She has developed experience in the legal world through internships with Planned Parenthood and several legal aid organizations. After law school, she hopes to work for an NGO and for the UN in postings around the world. “The scariest thing about being a lawyer is that you’ll have to deal with people who have suffered a lot and constantly, and without any support network, so that’s pretty stressful,” Riaz said. “But I think it would be really exciting to get to experience different cultures and different systems and learn how they work, and then figure out how to solve those problems.”

Sara Ludewig ’17 will stay at Macalester following graduation and work at the Macalester Archives this summer. She is a history major and anthropology minor who has worked at the Minnesota Historical Society for the past year as an Oral History and Digitization Intern. “My understanding of what I want to do with my degree has really evolved over the course of my four years at Mac,” she said. “I knew I wanted to be a history major, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my degree. I know I want to work in a museum or archives, but the resources available at Mac have helped me figure out what specific degrees are needed.”

Although thankful for her academic experiences, she was also critical of Macalester’s attitude towards humanities majors. “Macalester needs to remember to value all of its disciplines equally,” she said. “I know that the field I’ve chosen is not very lucrative, but I think the college should devote as much energy to developing careers and campus spaces for humanities majors as they do for economics or hard science majors.” Even so, she is grateful for the help and resources that she has received courtesy of her professors and the Career Development Center. Come this summer, she will be learning the best practices for archival work and assisting the Macalester Archivist, Ellen Holt-Werle, with any number of tasks. Looking to the future, Ludewig plans to get a Master’s in Library and Information Science with a focus on Archives and Special Collections.

Whatever their combination of majors, minors and concentrations, the seniors profiled in this article demonstrate the virtues of hard work and internships. Whether they are heading across the globe or staying right here in the Twin Cities,, they will bring with them the tools and experiences that they developed in their four years at Macalester.

April 7, 2017

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