Whitman students interested in bettering the Walla Walla community can look to recent graduates Dana Matsunami '17 and Mitchell Cutter '17 for inspiration. They both were Community Fellows last year, working at local organizations and gaining invaluable professional experience in the process. This year's Community Fellows will be announced in the coming weeks and a reception for them will take place at 4 p.m. on Sept. 19 in Sherwood House.
Matsunami (featured in the video above), a history major, compiled a history of the YWCA Walla Walla.
"I was able to examine all of the different services the YWCA has provided in the past 100 years and how that work has evolved as Walla Walla and community needs have evolved," said Matsunami, the current resident director of Lyman House.
"The YWCA does such important work in our community," she continued, "supporting underserved women and families, offering programs for children, working with domestic violence survivors and providing counseling and career opportunities to women."
Cutter's Community Fellowship took place at the Blue Mountain Land Trust (BMLT) during his senior year after having interned there as a sophomore. As a Community Fellow, he planned, scheduled and organized sponsorship for the organization's Learning on the Land series of education events.
"BMLT is widening its message from one based solely on conservation [to one] ranging from education to recreation, while still centered on the tangible natural resources around us in this region," he explained.
The Community Fellow Program, now in its sixth year and run by the Whitman's Student Engagement Center, places juniors and seniors in part-time, paid fellowships at prominent organizations in Walla Walla. This year's Community Fellowship Fair took place on Sept. 5 in Reid Campus Center and featured local 12 partners, including the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Children's Home Society of Washington, Fort Walla Walla Museum and BMLT. About a dozen Whitman students will tackle some of Walla Walla's social, economic and cultural challenges and opportunities as participants in this year's program.
The fellowships are win-win, explained Assistant Director of Internship Programs Victoria Wolff. They support the community, provide a means for Whitties to explore career options and "complement students' curricula while providing them a chance to apply classroom knowledge and test theories and concepts," she said.
Cutter, a biology major who will soon start working at local firm Sapere Consulting, said that his experience at BMLT may influence his career choices. "I want to work for an environmental NGO or nonprofit later in life, ideally located in a more rural setting and focusing on community solutions and outreach," he said.
For Matsunami, her fellowship with the YWCA influenced her decision to apply to work at Whitman.
"My current position as resident director of Lyman House incorporates many of the lessons I learned about myself during the Community Fellow Program," she said. "I need to do work I am passionate about, I want to work with people and on teams, and I want to do work that is oriented around helping people."