Sometimes you just can’t wait for things to happen, but instead you have to create your own opportunities by being bold, asking for what you want, and just going for it. That’s how senior biology major Erin Clark ’14 obtained her January internship at the non-profit World Altering Medicine.
Clark was sitting in Christ Chapel during a Daily Sabbath service in mid-November as alumnus Dr. Dan Dewey ’93 was recognized with the Gustavus Adolphus College Association of Congregations and Alumni Service Award. Dewey co-founded World Altering Medicine (WAM), an organization dedicated to providing low-cost, high-impact medical and educational interventions in an effort to save lives and improve the quality of life resource poor areas of the developing world, most notably the Southeastern African country of Malawi.
“I have felt an interest in international medicine for a while now, and have looked and looked for an organization that I could work with that I felt was making a difference and using incoming dollars ethically,” Clark said. “Hearing Dr. Dewey talk about WAM’s work and his own personal path to where he is today really resonated with me.”
Clark approached Dewey after his recognition ceremony and the two hit it off. Clark asked if she could ever volunteer or be involved somehow and that’s when Dewey suggested an internship. Clark said her responsibilities this January include a hodge-podge of things including increasing WAM’s presence on social media. She has also worked to revise the organization’s mission statement and develop a tagline to summarize WAM’s mission on both Facebook and Twitter. She is combing through WAM’s website to identify areas that need to be changed or updated and has been in contact with schools and hospitals in Malawi that WAM works with. She is also helping to plan an upcoming fundraiser and is putting together a photo book as a thank you gift for key donors.
“I have learned so much about the value of being self-determined, and I love the freedom and creativity Dr. Dewey and Dr. (Kevin) Bergman have given me with this internship,” Clark said. “I came in brimming with ideas and they just said ‘go for it and do what you think you need to do to make it happen’ and so I have.”
Clark’s internship is an example of a Gustavus student taking the principles of a liberal arts education to heart. She is a biology major and a studio arts minor with plans to become a doctor, physician assistant or nurse someday.
“This is basically a marketing and communication internship,” Clark said. “I can now walk into my next job with that experience and what employer doesn’t want to hire someone with at least some experience in those areas?”
While Clark appears to have plenty of motivation and drive when it comes to her academic studies and future professional career, she credits several Gustavus professors for guiding her through her four years on the hill.
“I only had him as a professor for one semester, but Scott Bur has been a real encouragement to me whether he’s known it or not. Since I took Organic Chemistry from him I’ve talked to him about my next steps and he always has something wise or encouraging to say,” Clark said. “John Lammert has also had a big influence on me. He interviewed me when I came to campus to compete for a Presidential Scholarship before I even graduated from high school, and he’s been my advisor. He genuinely cares about your career at Gustavus and your career after Gustavus. As a professor and even on a personal level he isn’t afraid to challenge me and I’ve appreciated that.”
At Gustavus, academics, internships, and future job prospects are only half of the experience. Clark spent a semester studying in Florence, Italy, and calls that experience “life changing”. On campus, Clark is involved in the Choir of Christ Chapel, serves as worship coordinator for Prepare Ministries and works in the Health Services Office.
“My Gustavus experience has made me re-examine who I think I am. I’ve made friends I didn’t think I would make, started to pursue interests I didn’t know I had, and sifted through my own self-concepts to figure out what’s important to me,” Clark said. “I love how tight-knit the community is here. I love knowing so many people around me and I love feeling like I belong here. The friends I’ve made, especially within the Christian community, have changed my life. They’ve challenged me, prayed for me, called me out, encouraged me, and pushed me to want to know Jesus more.”
Clark has also developed a blissful sense of humor, although Gustavus probably cannot take credit for that.
“I also love the Caf’s Oreo pie. And to be honest, that’s what’s most important, isn’t it?”
To learn more about World Altering Medicine, go online to worldalteringmedicine.org.
Media Contact: Vice President for Marketing and Communication Tim Kennedy