The Whitman College Magazine Online
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Inside Cover

May 2002

 

Whitman graduate nurtures roots of education in developing countries

“If you've got energy and ideas to spare, helping others just seems like the right thing to do,” says Michelle Mathieu Rubesch, ’92. She herself spends at least five hours a week working for nonprofits, directing her energy especially toward a charitable organization called Deep Roots, Incorporated, which provides scholarships for young people in Namibia, Zambia, and Guatemala.

Deep Roots is an entirely online charity. Located at www.deeproots. org, it uses the Internet to attract potential donors, build support for its cause, and facilitate donations. At least two-thirds of its scholarships are dedicated to women. While Deep Roots creates educational opportunities for those who are unable to pay minimal school fees, “at a more fundamental level, there’s a little girl over there who wants to learn. We make it happen,” says Rubesch.

“Deep Roots believes that education invested in women reaps rewards not only for them, but also for their children and their society.

“As I look for a way to improve the lives of people in disadvantaged countries, I believe that the place to start is by empowering the next generation of leaders. The way to do that, I truly believe, is through education. This is especially important in developing countries. Schools provide opportunities, safety, regular meals, and HIV awareness programs.”

Rubesch, who is director of investment management for Fiduciary and Investment Services with Perkins Coie, LLP in Seattle, has been a board member of Deep Roots since its inception in 1999.
She helped draft Deep Roots’ bylaws and mission statement, and now, as treasurer, handles finances in addition to conducting fund-raising activities.

The charity attracted Rubesch initially not only because of its commitment to education but also because of the caliber of the people involved. “This is an organization founded by returned Peace Corps volunteers, passionate folks with big hearts and strong convictions,” she says. With many fine qualities, but little financial acumen, they needed her help, and her leadership has given Deep Roots a solid financial foundation. While this has been rewarding work, Rubesch finds satisfaction most of all in “helping young people accomplish their goals and realize their dreams.”

Rubesch majored in economics at Whitman and studied international politics and economics at the Institute for European Studies in Freiburg, Germany. A Chartered Financial Analyst, she is treasurer and a board member of the Seattle Society of Financial Analysts. Her volunteer work extends to PONCHO (Patrons of Northwest Civic, Cultural and Charitable Organizations), Middle Eastern Arts International, Seattle’s Bailey-Boushay House, and Whitman College, where she is this year’s 10th reunion fund chair.

An “entire side-career” — as a professional belly dancer — balances her philanthropic projects and the world of finance where she spends her days. “This began as a hobby six years ago and has turned into an integral part of my life,” she says. “It provides friendship and sisterhood, connects me with a fascinating and historic culture, is great exercise, and, I must say, the costumes are spectacular!”

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