Category Archives: Student Profile

Student Profile: Will Lutterman, St. Olaf College

Will Lutterman is a sophomore studying Economics, Environmental Studies and Statistics at St Olaf College.  In his first year at St Olaf, Will wanted to pursue his passion for public policy through opportunities that would give him practical experience.  He explains, “I see my college education going hand in hand with community development work.  They are equally valuable to me.”  In exploring his options, he was connected to a city councilwoman who opened the door for him to get involved in many projects throughout the community.  Among the many projects Will was heavily involved in were Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), Northfield Downtown Development CorporWill Luttermanation (NDDC), Northfield Marriage Amendment Opposition, Northfield Anaerobic Digester, and an independent study on job creation in Northfield.  Will says, “[Public policy] is exactly what I want to do when I graduate. I’m using this to build a repertoire of passion, strengths, skills, and experience in order to tackle the larger world head on.”

Through all of his community involvement Will has taken on an incredible amount of leadership roles and pursued many impressive opportunities for civic engagement.  For example, through PACE Will was able to research and present a new style of energy retrofitting program.  He even wrote the Northfield’s documentation and designed the entire program.  Through NDDC Will built a database of local businesses, crunched data on the town’s industry profile and is now working to provide and analysis of the local economy to promote economic development.  He provided the City Council with information about the proposed Marriage Amendment and testified in opposition, which brought the council to approve a resolution to publicly oppose the amendment.  This fall, Will began to do research for an initial feasibility study of a proposed anaerobic digester near Northfield.  Currently, he is preparing for a J-Term independent study for which he plans to do a comprehensive job creation analysis of Northfield based on his previous work through NDDC.  This will ultimately serve an academic purpose as well as advise the city in regards to economic development.

Will has found that after only one year at St Olaf his civic engagement service has connected him with the community on a very intimate level.  He says, “I grew up in the Twin Cities, but Northfield is my real home. After living here only a year, I find joy coming back and I want to make a real and serious commitment to a place where I see people coming together and living their lives in the best ways possible.”

Student Profile: Pertesia Gadson, University of Minnesota, Rochester

Pertesia Gadson

As a student working towards obtaining my bachelor’s degree, it did not seem like there was much I could do for my community until I started volunteering. When I started volunteering, I learned about the needs of my community, and I got to aid in correcting the problems. For instance, I have been volunteering at the Salvation Army for the past two years. However, it is just recently that I had my most meaningful experience there. I was serving as a volunteer in the Social Services Department of the Salvation Army. My duties included ensuring that the clients presented their appropriate forms of identification and that they were enrolled in the appropriate programs.

This role allowed me to have contact alone with many people who were under resourced and who had physical and mental impairments. It was a meaningful experience because I felt a sense of wholeness by being able to provide people with help during the holiday season. One of my fondest memories of this position occurred when a gentleman who was visually impaired came to apply for services with his autistic child. The gentleman was living below the poverty line, yet he was happy and grateful for the small amount of services that the Salvation Army could provide him and his family. Before he left my office, he seemed to have thanked me at least six times. His happiness surprised me because his circumstances appeared really grim to me. However, his happiness showed me that by volunteering at the Salvation Army, I was actually meeting the needs of my community and my community was very pleased with the services that I was able to provide them through volunteering. Hopefully, once the visually impaired gentleman and his son left my office they were able to have a gratifying holiday season because the happiness they shared with me made my holiday much more enjoyable.

Lastly, being able to meet the needs of my community has always been an important guiding principle in my life. In the future I aspire to work in a career that allows me to do this because the wholeness I found after meeting the visually impaired gentleman and his child is something I want to experience each day going to and from work.


A Student Perspective on the Nobel Peace Prize Forum

Wow! I can’t believe it’s almost time for my fourth Nobel Peace Prize Forum. The NPPF is easily one of my favorite times of the academic year, and I can honestly say that the Forum has played an enormous role in shaping my life and who I am today. Starting my freshman year at Concordia College, I was encouraged to attend the Forum by one of my biology professors because the theme was focused on climate change. The opportunity to hear world-renowned speakers, former Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, network with non-profits and organizations from around the world, and spend time talking about pressing issues with other students did not really hit me until I arrived at St. Olaf College. Read more here.

From the Nobel Peace Prize blog, by Nathaniel Cook.

The Nobel Peace Prize Forum will held this year at Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota on March 1st-3rd. for more information, check out:

Student Profile: Adia Zeman,College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, Jackson Fellow

Adia Zeman

This summer I am work[ed] at Lyric Arts Company of Anoka. Lyric Arts is the only full-time, non-profit community theater in the northern suburbs. Their season includes 8 regular season shows, 2 “Mainly for Kids” shows, a 9 show concert series called “Music in the ‘Burbs”, year-round workshops theater workshops for ages 4 to adult, and a variety of other special events. My main duties this summer have included writing press releases for the upcoming season, planning and working at a variety of shows and events, creating and executing a marketing plan for an upcoming community mural project, writing a daily insiders blog, and updating and monitoring a variety of social media sites.

I grew up performing in shows at Lyric Arts and never realized how fortunate I was until coming back to work here. Community theaters of this caliber rarely exist in communities outside of the Twin Cities. Lyric Arts not only provides a venue for artistic creation and expression, it also provides the community with a place for meeting and working together. In a time where arts programs continue to be cut from our education system due to lack of funding, Lyric Arts strives to fill in these gaps and teach the community the valuable lessons that the arts provide: self-confidence, creativity, and team work are among these. Lyric Arts is truly a theater for the community and by the community and it has allowed me to see how important it is for a community to have a place that they can call their own.

As a Communication major, we often talk about the different skills involved in communicating however, it is actually quite difficult to put them into practice. This Fellowship has provided me with an opportunity to learn the tangible skills that I will need in the “real world.” I am much more confident in myself now that I will be able to handle any job thrown my way. I have also learned not to underestimate my abilities. Working at Lyric Arts has also affirmed that entering the communications field, in whatever capacity that may be, is the right choice for me. I have also had the privilege of re-discovering why I love the theater and the arts. There is so much joy that comes from being a part of a place like this. That joy is something that I know I will want to have in my future career.

At the beginning of my Fellowship, my supervisor handed me a blank calendar for the summer and told me to fill it in and create the marketing plan for a huge community event that we are hosting in August. I was shocked. I had never done this before! I wasn’t capable! I didn’t know how! What if I failed!? In the beginning, I tried to convince her that it would be better if she created the plan and I assisted in carrying out tasks, but she insisted that the project needed to be mine. It was then that I realized that even though I had only been at Lyric Arts for a few weeks, she already had more faith in me than I did. I began to realize how often I told myself I couldn’t do things because I was afraid of failing and I realized that I was far more capable than I had ever given myself credit for. This fellowship has taught me that not trying at all is even worse than failure and that I can do anything that someone asks of me. It may not be perfect the first time, but trying and failing is often the best way to learn.

Ridgewater College and Habitat for Humanity: two student perspectives

My name is Troy Anderson and I am enrolled in the electricians program here at Ridgewater College of Willmar MN.  This program has been one of the best educational experiences I have had as a student.  It has given me the tools to jump into the field and feel confident about what I am doing.  Lee Floren and Keith Olson’s teaching styles complement the program bringing many years of experience in different areas of the field and applying them to their teachings.

The hands on class rooms allow you to get a feel for actual job situations and applications.  Knowing the components and process for installation is key to success in this field.  Working with the Habitat for humanity program in Willmar has been a great experience.  It has given me a chance to work directly on a new construction project from start to finish.  Learning the processes for installation, inspection and finishing work.  The people have been great to work with and know that what we have done is going to a worthy family.
The Electricians program here at Ridgewater College will give you want you need to succeed.


My name is Kyle Hoffman and I am currently a second year electrician student at Ridgewater College in Willmar, Minnesota. During my years of schooling at Ridgewater, Habitat has built two houses and asked our electrician program if we would be interested in wiring up those houses.  Right from the start I knew that it was a great idea and that it would give all of us students a place to dig in and learn how construction projects work and the different people you have to work with during those projects.  After finishing the first house I realized how great of an opportunity it was working with Habitat for Humanity and helping out a local family in need.

While working on the Habitat house I was able to practice my skills of the trade and learn what to do and what not to do in different situations.  I think it was a great learning opportunity for the whole class and there were quite a few lessons that I normally wouldn’t have received in traditional schooling.  I believe that Habitat for Humanity is a great organization to be a part of and is very rewarding in the aspect of giving back to your community.

Some of the electrician program’s work at the Habitat for Humanity house:

Student Profile: Tiffany Vang,College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, Jackson Fellow

Tiffany Vang

Through the College of Saint Benedict Jackson Fellowship I have been able to secure an intern position at TakeAction MN with the Hmong Organizing program. This summer has been an amazing experience. I have been privileged to work with so many  people from all kinds of organizations with a progressive agenda. I am currently working with the  Veterans Committee in partnership with the Special Guerrilla Unit Veterans and Families of U.S.A., INC. on getting Hmong veterans who fought in the Vietnam War era to benefits.

Being awarded the Jackson Fellowship has set a standard for me to be a leader with integrity and morals, and a positive agent of change. By being a Jackson Fellow, I see that people immediately expect something great out of me, and with those high expectations, I’ve started to see myself in that way.   Through the various leadership workshops and inspiring speakers we are able to meet, my definition and perception of leadership and followership has changed, and has empowered me to become a better and well-rounded leader. During this summer, the Jackson Fellowship has put a different lens in front of me where I see that I matter and can make great changes.

This fellowship has exposed me to many things that have changed the way I viewed my future career. I’ve become more focused and realistic about what I can do and have time for in my life rather than spreading myself too much on everything I care about. One of the most important things I learned from the fellowship is that first impressions matter and that you have to present yourself in a way that you want to be viewed. The exposure to the workshops and professional tips has helped me a lot during my fellowship and will continue to help me throughout my career.

I think grant writing was particularly informing and useful. I learned many things I didn’t know of and I find it to be incredibly important skill and knowledge to have especially if you plan to go into the nonprofit sector.

Student Profile: Katia Vantries, University of Minnesota, Morris, Students in Service member

Katia Vantries

U of M Morris student, Katia Vantries, won Miss Morris Community Award in part because of her work through Students in ServiceCheck out the story here.