Three Rivers, Michigan
Lives of Commitment, Hmong American Partnership
Off-Campus Student Employment, Planned Parenthood
Rachel Farris cites her “constant search for space and place” as a force in charting her vocational choices. “My time at Macalester helped lead me to those places,” suggests Farris, who is currently the operations administrator at the Jeremiah Program, a Twin Cities nonprofit that provides supportive housing and other services for single mothers pursuing additional education. Farris worked and volunteered in a number of community organizations as a student, including work with immigrant and refugee populations through Lilly’s Lives of Commitment (LOC) program and, as an off-campus student employee, with Planned Parenthood.
Her first year on campus, Farris worked with the Hmong American Partnership within LOC. The following year, she delved even more deeply into LOC, serving as a student facilitator for reflective discussions. Her final two years included off-campus work for Planned Parenthood, experiences that led directly to her first full-time position with that organization after graduation.
"Rachel was never one to settle for the easy, glib answers to life's big questions. Her probing mind plunged into the most baffling issues she encountered. Her easy humor reminded all of us that, at its core, life is ultimately grace, joy, and hope." -Lucy Forster-Smith, Associate Dean and Chaplain
“When I was at school, I thought about having a purpose and goals in the long term, in big letters, for one cause. Now I view purpose and values in smaller, more immediate terms, with work holding meaning on a daily basis that is balanced with a vibrant personal life.”
Farris’s emphasis on the constancy of living out values on a daily basis meshes with her advice to current students. “From my bird’s eye perspective, Mac students could veer toward less angst about the purpose and meaning of life and fully enjoy just being there, to learn to lighten up. It’s possible to balance fun with an intentional, deep exploration.”
Off-campus experiences stand beside the ongoing leadership programs Farris participated in on campus. She led small group discussions for the Lilly programs, points of reflection in a busy student career. “Leading those discussion groups was an interesting way for me to learn about leadership,” she says. “It took the idea of reflection and discussion into a new strata, added a new spin.
“The Center for Religious and Spiritual Life programming at Macalester tends to be quiet and off-the-radar for most students, but it was one of the most important and positive components of my experience. Having regular time and a dedicated space to be quiet or thoughtful or reflective or spiritual, whatever you want to call it, grounded me in a way that almost nothing else did during my four years. It was an amazing counterweight to the academic challenges and the exhilarating, exhausting business of becoming an adult person in college.”
Looking back, Farris gives credit to the school. “It’s not always easy to see how one thing in life flows to the next, but the Civic Engagement Center really eased our journey, showing us how the world works. As a model, Macalester does well.”