International Compassion and Service: Kendra Rinas ’05

Uganda, Ghana, Chad, Nairobi, Nepal, and Malaysia. The list grows as Gustavus Alum Kendra Rinas travels around the globe serving others.
Posted on June 19th, 2018 by

Kendra Rinas '05 (right) briefs U.S. Embassy, United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and Congress officials at a refugee camp in Nepal.

Most people can count on one hand the number of countries they’ve been to. For Gustavus Adolphus College alumna Kendra Rinas ’05, however, that is not the case. Her list of countries grows as she continues her career with her newest position: The International Organization for Migration (IOM)’s Chief of Mission to Malaysia, where she helps aid the safe migration of immigrants. Though Rinas can now be found on the other side of the world, her story as a world-traveler started when she arrived at Gustavus in Saint Peter, Minnesota as an undergrad.

A native of Manchester, Maine, Rinas majored in political science and religion with a minor in peace studies. The course of study, she says, “helped formulate my desire to help serve the greater world and work for justice, either directly with individuals or on a policy level.” This spark within her courses tipped over the first of many dominos that brought her to where she is today.

Rinas prepares to board a charter plane with Bhutanese refugees on their way to Nepal.

“I loved the entire political science and religion faculty at Gustavus,” said Rinas. She points to political science professor Richard Leitch as being particularly thought-provoking on issues such as U.S. homelessness, international relations, and voting demographics. Making the most of her Gustavus resources, Kendra continued exploring her interests by leaving the U.S. and studying abroad. “By spending a semester abroad in Uganda I was opened up to wanting to learn more, explore more, and take my knowledge and experiences to create positive change in the world,” Rinas explained. Her departure from the U.S. only enhanced her deep desire to make a difference in the lives of those across the globe.

This increased motivation was obvious in Kendra’s work as a Gustie. “In the classroom, Kendra was a strong student who was willing to take risks by signing up for challenging courses that were outside of her majors. She was not afraid of hard work,” Leitch said, pointing out that Rinas took the senior thesis course in both of her majors in the same semester. “She was passionate about learning, both inside and outside the classroom.”

Rinas left Gustavus not only with a degree, but also an avid enthusiasm for making a change in our world. Jumping into her career, Kendra worked as an International Anti-Hunger Policy Fellow at Bread for the World in Washington D.C. “My first job was a great opportunity to learn about Washington advocacy, lobbying, and ways to apply my education to help shape just, fair, and transparent policy,” Rinas said.

Fast-forward to now — Rinas just finished working in Nepal with The International Organization for Migration (IOM) on the U.S. refugee Resettlement Program. She moved to Malaysia to take on her new role as chief of mission last month. “I’m excited to continue to work with IOM in all capacities as we work with refugees and vulnerable migrants to promote orderly and safe migration and protect the dignity of migrants,” she said. “I’ve benefited in numerous ways, learned a lot, and hope I can continue to help others also benefit from safe and dignified migration.”

Rinas made the most of her time at Gustavus. Now, she is making her life count as she travels the world expanding her career and serving others along the way.

“Every faculty member has students who will be forever memorable, whose careers are admired from afar, and to me Kendra is one of those students,” Leitch said.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


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