July 8, 2009

9 students work in honorary fellowship

By Frank Lee, July 4th, 2009

Not all learning takes place inside the classroom.

This summer, nine students from the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University are working on community service projects that build leadership skills and social development.

The students are part of the Marie and Robert Jackson Fellows program, which was established in 2008 through an anonymous donation made to St. Ben’s in St. Joseph.
“What the fellowship does is allows students to do full-time work that would not be ordinarily compensated,” said Matt Lindstrom, associate professor of political science at CSB/SJU and director of the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement.

The students attend six to eight seminars throughout the summer where they focus on leadership skills, philanthropy, public speaking, grant writing and other topics.
The goal of the program is to improve community life by engaging in both political and community service activities.

“A long-standing tradition at St. Ben’s, St. John’s has been the Benedictine influence of giving and civic work, so this Jackson fellowship continues the tradition of a holistic education where students are not only exposed to classroom theories and ideas but apply them,” he said.

The program is open to students of all majors and includes a highly competitive application and selection process.

The summer work sites vary by degree of leadership and interest from each Jackson Fellow.

“The anonymous donation to St. Ben’s provides funding for nine students, and it’s proven to be quite successful last year, and we’re hoping to expand the program,” said Lindstrom, who directs the fellows program along with Marah Jacobson-Schulte, CSB/SJU service-learning coordinator.

Throughout the summer, students in the program will also learn from each other’s experiences and take part in a reading curriculum intended to develop leadership, entrepreneurial and civic skills.

“We were looking for students who are willing to take risks, who want to do something beyond just sort of building their resume. We wanted students who have been leaders throughout their campus as well as community, or have traveled internationally or volunteered,” Lindstrom said.

More than 40 students applied to be in this summer’s program. They were then narrowed down to a pool of about 15 who were interviewed for the nine spots that would receive a $4,000 stipend.

“The idea is that we want to pay them a wage that allows them to work full time and not have to worry about working two or three other jobs, so they can focus their entire summer on their community involvement and for that reason it’s growing in popularity,” Lindstrom said.

“A lot of students are very qualified and interested in working the public sector or working in politics, public policy or community service, but they simply can’t afford it. Very few people can.”

The Jackson Fellows for this summer are:
Christen Beckstrand, a German and music double major. Beckstrand is working for the St. Cloud Symphony developing a curriculum template for the fourth-grade school outreach program, executing an educational music program for children 7-12 at the St. Cloud Public Library and writing a grant.

Emily Bina, a communication major. Bina is working for the Midday show with SJU graduate Gary Eichten on Minnesota Public Radio News in St. Paul. She is responsible for updating the Web site, writing scripts and editing audio.

Jacqueline Duchschere, a political science major. Duchschere is working for the Office on the Economic Status of Women for the Minnesota Legislature on an archiving project and on a pay equity project.

Catherine Hansen, biology major. Hansen is working for The Center for Cross-Cultural Health in Minneapolis, engaging the Somali community. Her work includes anatomy education for women and a study of interaction between patients and health care professionals.

Laura Huiras, a political science major. Huiras is working for Minnesota 2020 in St. Paul. Her duties are focused on keeping up with educational news, identifying problems and recommending tangible solutions to focus on the success of Minnesota’s educational policy.

Yesenia Murillo, sociology major. Murillo is working on a civic engagement project for Anna Marie’s Alliance in St. Cloud.

Ashley Ver Burg, a biochemistry and environmental studies double major. Ver Burg is working for 1000 Friends of Minnesota in Brainerd on conservation design development, natural resource protection and citizen involvement in land-use processes.

Michael Johnson, a political science major. Johnson is working for Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services in St. Paul as an intake screener, court courier and researcher dealing with cases in family, housing and benefits law while supplying legal services to the poorest in the community.

Brian Long, a communication and English double major. Long is working for PrideAlive through the Minnesota AIDS Project in Minneapolis, an outreach program that works to educate young gay men about HIV prevention, the risks of HIV and STDs.