This “Household Words” column appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of Macalester Today.

By Brian Rosenberg

One of the more insidious effects of crises is their power to attenuate our appreciation of many things that remain good and important. Certainly this is true of the current economic crisis, which has, for compelling reasons, left colleges and universities chiefly focused on their financial stability and made it more difficult to devote appropriate attention to the wondrous accomplishments of our students. I want to make sure this does not happen at Macalester. Even as we work diligently to safeguard the college’s financial future, we need to remind ourselves why that future is worth preserving by applauding the fruits of the education we provide.

So let us take a momentary pause from the grinding work of balancing budgets to commend the efforts of Macalester students.

We should applaud the work of the students who have participated in the Projects for Peace program, funded through the generosity of Kathryn Wasserman Davis. Among these is Dara Hoppe ’10, who during the summer of 2007 traveled to the Brazilian Amazon, where she encouraged sustainable economic development and independence by training women in handicrafts production and distribution. Zainab Mansaray ’09 and Arthur Sillah ’10, both from Sierra Leone, traveled home last summer to rehabilitate a primary school destroyed in the recent war and implement youth community service projects on malaria prevention, HIV/AIDS awareness, and environmental sustainability.

We should honor the achievements of student scholars such as Michael Waul ’09, who will use his Rhodes Scholarship to pursue a two-year degree in medicinal chemistry at Oxford University; Cris Ramon ’06, who is using his Fulbright Scholarship to explore immigration law and workers’ rights in Spain; and Hector Pascual Alvarez ’08, who is using his Watson Fellowship to study the role of community-based theater in Latin America, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.

We should appreciate the dedication of Lilly Fellows such as Emily Cohen ’09, Hannah Pallmeyer ’09, and Hannah Emple ’10. Cohen worked with the St. Paul Area Council of Churches on interfaith engagement among Muslims, Christians, and Jews; Pallmeyer worked at the International Institute of Minnesota on refugee settlement and support; and Emple worked with Minnesota International Health Volunteers on issues relating to breast cancer among Somali women.

Jenna Machado ’12 started a suicide prevention nonprofit in Colorado with the goal of preventing teen suicide by sending trained peer-mentors into the school system. She plans to create a similar program in St. Paul.

Phillips Scholarships are awarded to students who strive to improve life in Minnesota communities; Elizabeth McCreary ’09 used her scholarship to develop artistic and educational activities for homeless children. McCreary’s work has also been recognized by the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Partnership Foundation.

The efforts among Macalester students to develop a higher level of environmental awareness and responsibility are almost too numerous to count. Timothy Den Herder-Thomas ’09 developed Summer of Solutions, a program for students from around the country created and run by students at Macalester. For two months last summer, these students gathered on our campus to learn how to foster our transformation to a more sustainable society, and during the coming summer the program will expand to include up to 10 additional cities. MacCARES, our student environmental organization, has worked with Facilities Services staff and others to change how we live on campus, saving us money in the process.

I could expand this list to fill an entire issue of Macalester Today. Students at Macalester in every year, from every field of study, and with a wide range of interests and priorities are combining their dedication to learning with a passion for improving life on campus, in our local community, and beyond. They have the skills and motivation to take up the many challenges we currently face. They are the reasons we must, in the near term, overcome those challenges and ensure that the critically important work of education, at Macalester and throughout the world, moves forward.