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This story is part of our news archives, prior to July 2010.

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Making Work Meaningful

As part of Macalester’s first-year leadership program Lives of Commitment, geography major Lily Gordon-Koven ’11 (Newton, Mass.) taught English to immigrants and refugees, made close friendships, and learned how to apply her academic knowledge to real-life situations.



Even before she arrived at Mac, Gordon-Koven knew she wanted to help people in immigrant communities. “I’m fascinated by the process through which people simultaneously adapt to new communities while trying to hold on to where they came from,” says Gordon Koven. The perfect opportunity to start that work presented itself the summer before her first year when she found out about Lives of Commitment (LOC).

Gordon-Koven volunteered three hours a week at various sites and spent four hours a month in group discussion and reflection. She tutored people in immigrant and refugee communities, volunteered at the Jane Addams School for Democracy in St. Paul, and helped a Somali woman study for the citizenship test, picking up a few Somali words and customs in the process. She continued her work last year as a sophomore leader, teaching English to adult immigrants and refugees, helping them particularly with reading, writing, and communicating in specific real-life situations such as grocery store trips and medical emergencies.

The LOC program also helped Gordon-Koven herself integrate into her new college life. A pre-orientation retreat allowed LOC students to explore the Twin Cities and form friendships. But perhaps the most important thing Gordon-Koven learned was the idea of intentional community. “I really like the idea of trying to integrate your goals or values into your daily life, into the work that you do, and into the way you interact with others.”