Category Archives: College of St. Scholastica

Five Questions for: Diane Tran

Diane Tran, Project Manager at Grassroots Solutions, College of St. Scholastica alumna

1)     What about your college experience influenced where you are today?
In my current community and professional work, I work to advance policy and social change through advocacy and education. It was during my time at The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, MN that I was able to practice and develop insight into a great deal of the skills I now employ daily – understanding systems, building coalitions, and utilizing collaborative leadership skills. The Benedictine values of community, hospitality, respect, stewardship, and love of learning provided practical grounding for me as I pursued my academic studies and, I believe, were the most important part of the education I received as part of my undergraduate studies.

2)      What is the most exciting thing that you do in your job?
I’m a project manager with Grassroots Solutions, a Minneapolis-based consulting firm specializing in grassroots strategy, training, organizing, and evaluation. We work with a variety of national, statewide, and local clients including nonprofits, government and associations, corporations, and candidates. My team works on both electoral and advocacy projects and I’ve been fortunate to engage on issues like promoting the clean energy economy, protecting antibiotic efficacy for human health through changing industrial farming practices, and preserving medical care for the poorest of the poor in Minnesota. I’m lucky to work with great people on behalf of important causes.

3)      What book should everybody read, and why?
The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy, by William Strauss and Neil Howe, was published in 1997, and details the researchers’ theory of American history as a series of recurring cycles. As a student of history, it is fascinating to consider their proposed understanding of people and cultural shifts as part of larger archetypes and natural systems. As a citizen concerned by the partisan divide and political gridlock that seems today’s norm, it is comforting to take the long view that the current political and economic challenges we face are neither unprecedented nor new to the human condition. As they purport, “In nature, the season that is about to come is always the season farthest removed from memory. So too in American history, past and present.”

4)      Who or what is inspiring your work these days?
Minnesota has a nationally recognized civic tradition and I’m proud to be a part of contributing to that trend. We Minnesotans vote and volunteer in record numbers and we are concerned about the well-being of our communities. I have served in recent years on the boards of directors for the Citizens League, Kids ‘n Kinship, National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP-MN), the Minnesota Public Health Association, and the Minnesota Women’s Consortium. I volunteer with youth and direct service programs at my church, teach courses on active citizenship for emerging leaders, and am pleased to be a part of the civic infrastructure of our great state.

5)      What are you passionate about?
I’m the founding blogger for Minnesota Rising and am engaged in work to build relationships, trust, and a shared vision for the rising Millennial generation in Minnesota. Having been a youth, student, and community organizer, I recognize that young people do not have to wait for some appointed time upon which we can assume the mantle of leadership. If our generation is able to come together now because of our common experiences and a shared admiration for and commitment to Minnesota, we have that much more opportunity to continue our state’s historic legacy of educational attainment, economic vitality, and healthy communities. I invite any and all young Minnesotans interested in joining the discussion to contribute to the “Our Minnesota: Building A State of Trust,” cascading conversations tour and to work with us to develop the collective capacity of this generation for impacting Minnesota’s future.

We’re starting a new type of blog post, asking alumni of Minnesota Campus Compact member institutions about their civic experiences and reflections.  If you have people you’d like to hear from or questions you’d like to ask, please let us know — or ask someone questions yourself and send us the results to share.  Thanks!

Rachel Thapa & the Grant Community School Collaborative: College of St. Scholastica’s Presidents’ Community Partner Award Recipient

Rachel Thapa

Rachel (Westbury) Thapa began her involvement with the GCSC began in the Fall of 2003 when she was a work-study student from the College of St. Scholastica, providing the program support, volunteer  coordination,  and youth leadership that made possible a rich array of Arts, Science, and  Cultural Enrichment programs for 100+ children from Grant Elementary School located in Duluth’s most diverse and lowest income neighborhood.

After Rachel’s graduation she has served as the  Volunteer Coordinator with the Reading Corps program, and currently holds the position of  Enrichment Program Coordinator for the GCSC.  In this capacity, Rachel recruits and trains community instructors and volunteers who teach in the after-school and summer enrichment programs with over 300 children.
Her connections with the college campuses and community result in providing exceptional service-learning experiences for students and individuals across generations.

Beyond being exceptionally capable and dependable in her work, Rachel exudes appreciation for the human qualities that make each person she comes in contact with unique.  She is a peacemaker, a community-builder, an optimist, and an inspiration to hope.  In all that she does and in who she is as a person Rachel reflects the mission of our organization  “To foster strong partnerships that expand opportunities for positive Youth Development and  school, family, and community involvement  promoting lifelong learning and appreciation of our diversity.”

Campuses to Address Food-Related Issues through STEM Service-Learning

By John Hamerlinck

Folks in Duluth and Northfield can plan on efforts to get them eating a whole lot healthier. Students at The College of St. Scholastica, University of Minnesota, Duluth, St. Olaf College and Carleton College will all be engaging in multiple service-learning projects focused on food-related concerns.

The campuses and their communities are all benefitting from grants recently awarded by a Midwest Campus Compact consortium established to increase service-learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses. The consortium was made possible through a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service through the Learn and Serve America Program.

The program focuses on multi-campus collaborations organized to address local food security and related issues. In Northfield, Classes in biology, environmental studies, and other disciplines from both colleges will work with two local elementary schools and local nonprofits, to develop and facilitate food and nutrition-related activities, with a special focus on children at higher risk of obesity and nutrition-related illnesses.

The Duluth campuses are partnering with the University of Wisconsin, Superior on projects designed to strengthen and sustain community commitment to the production, distribution, and consumption of regionally and locally-produced food; and increase the amount of nutritious foods individuals consume, in an effort to reduce the Body Mass Index numbers of people that are overweight.

Congratulations to these campuses for their grant awards. Be sure to check back here for future progress reports on these innovative projects.