Our Stories

Expanding World View: Student Wins Ambassadorial Scholarship

From interviewing Nicaraguan young people about the biggest problems in their community to tutoring elementary school students near the Willamette University campus, Lindsay Mumm '08 has made service an integral part of her college experience -- and she's traveled far and wide to do it.

When she graduates in the spring, she'll travel for yet another service opportunity. Mumm received a prestigious Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship, a program of Rotary International that places young people as "goodwill ambassadors" in various countries. These ambassadors do service activities, immerse themselves in language study and participate in academic coursework.

Mumm will travel to Chile, where she plans to study at the University of Concepción, located south of Santiago.

"I want to be in a place where you can connect with a smaller community," she says. "If I was in Santiago, a big city where everyone is running around all the time, I would just be another international student. It's important for me to get to know the community I'm working in."

Mumm, who is double majoring in Spanish and politics, hopes her future career will be in the area of international development, possibly working with a nonprofit organization. Working on immigrant advocacy in the U.S. also appeals to her.

Much of her exposure to underprivileged communities came through her participation in Take a Break, an alternative spring break program through which Willamette students travel to sites across the country for community service. Mumm worked on a Native American reservation in Nevada, did community improvement projects in Jonestown, Miss., and built houses and worked with schoolchildren in a Texas town near the Mexico border.

Her interest in Latin American culture was cultivated during the fall of her junior year when she studied abroad in Nicaragua. She initially considered going to Spain to hone her Spanish skills, but chose a Latin American country because she felt the area was crucial to future international development issues.

Through the School for International Training, Mumm participated in a program called Revolution, Transformation and Civil Society. "That really appealed to me because Nicaragua had a Socialist revolution in the '70s and wars in the '80s, and then had a successful Democratic transformation in the '90s. They're one of the few countries in the world that's been able to do that."

Mumm's final project for the program examined youth development issues in the small town of Estelí, north of the country's capital. She wanted to investigate the impact of a local youth network organization that addresses issues such as political participation, sexual health and community involvement. So she interviewed two different types of young people -- those who were involved with the organization and those who weren't.

She asked them two questions: what they thought were the biggest problems faced by their community and what they felt were their greatest influences in society. She found the contrast in their answers fascinating. "Those who were involved in youth organizations were much more elaborate in their views of the problems. They saw the problems as a means to a solution, whereas the youth who weren't involved said, 'Well, the politicians are corrupt and nothing's going to change.'

"Those who were involved really saw everything as a process and saw potential for change. It was really enlightening to see the power of youth organizations in giving these people ways to get involved."

For information on this scholarship and many others, contact the Student Academic Grants and Awards office on the second floor of Putnam University Center.