Markim Hall 310
Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Lives of Commitment, Hmong American Partnership
Leaders in Service, Immigrant and Refugee Issue Coordinator, Hope Community Center, Hiawatha Lake Learning Center, Minnsota Internship Center Charter School
Council for Religious Understanding
“Teaching is a big, enjoyable challenge,” Luke Calhoun says after a long day teaching literature to high school students at Basis Charter School in Scottsdale, Arizona. “I didn’t expect it to be as much work as it is.” Calhoun’s review of his day might be explained by a Basis student’s comments on the online site ratemyteacher.com: “…His door is always open and filled with students either asking for help or looking for a place to hang out.”
"As we watched him grow over his years at Macalester, we knew Luke would make a different in whatever community had the good sense to employ him." -Lucy Forster-Smith, Associate Dean and Chaplain
Calhoun’s first teaching experience came long before his college days, when he taught chess to his brother. At Macalester, he formed Knight Moves, a chess club for students, and he continued teaching the game to others, including local elementary school children. But community volunteer involvement didn’t come naturally when he first arrived on campus.
“I was overwhelmed with studying,” he reflects. “I didn’t know many people and I certainly didn’t know the logistics of how to volunteer. If I was going to volunteer, it seemed important to do so with other people I knew, to be part of a familiar community in case anything happened.”
The Lives of Commitment and Leaders in Service programs gave him the opportunity and support he needed, and before long he was involved in working with immigrant and refugee populations. “Volunteering improved my academic focus, as I started to feel that I fit in on campus,” he says. “If I could do anything over, I would be more involved in my first year.”
Teaching as a career was always an option in Calhoun’s mind, but he first explored the vocation of college chaplain. Why a college chaplain? “The Center for Religious and Spiritual Life was a crucial component of my Macalester experience and who I am today. Whether I was going through finals, having an argument with a friend, or overextended, the CSRL provided a sense of calm reflection. The ability to take a moment to evaluate your goals, to ask the right questions, to allow yourself to rely on others for support are the lessons I learned through the CRSL that are so important to living a healthy and meaningful life today.”
He completed a Master’s of Divinity degree at Harvard Divinity School, specializing in religion and literature. While there, he participated in the Prison Education Project, each month mentoring prisoners who were pursuing a college degree while incarcerated. As part of his studies, Calhoun participated in a mock counseling session among students, an experience that altered his ultimate pathway. “Even though it was a mock session, it became deeply personal in what people revealed. I came to believe that I couldn’t counsel fulltime unless I desensitized myself to what people were saying, and I didn’t want to go there.” He completed the degree and returned to his original plan, teaching. Eventually the lure of returning to the Southwest brought him to Basis.
“As I’ve explored my purpose in life,” Calhoun says, “I’ve found that it hasn’t really shifted but rather that I can better articulate it. My purpose has always been about working with and for people, about being surrounded by people I love, whether it’s as a friend, coworker, brother, or son.
“What’s become more clear,” he continues, “is the relationship between what I feel obliged to do and what I love doing. If I could have understood that relationship earlier, it would have clarified my path. It’s something I suggest to current Macalester students: Focus less on what you might see as necessary and choose instead what you most love. That, I think, will best serve everyone.”