A Gustie Charts Her Path to Global EngagementHow Caroline Southworth '24 used her time on the Hill to see the rest of the world.
Posted on May 22nd, 2024 by

Caroline Southworth '24 will study Farsi in Tajikistan this summer before heading to Johns Hopkins' International Relations graduate program.

—Written by Brian Lucas

 For Caroline Southworth ‘24, the journey to this weekend’s Gustavus graduation has never been a straight line. Over the last four years, Caroline has crossed the globe seeking new perspectives, experiences, and adventures. Luckily, she found mentors at the College who supported her dreams and helped unlock her potential.

“My Russian Language professor, Annalise Rivas, along with Pamela Kittelson, my Fellowships Director, have been incredible sources of inspiration for me,” Caroline said. “They helped me identify my own path, finding programs and opportunities abroad and helping me apply. They’re like my moms. I consider them to be, honestly, some of my best friends here.”

From an early age, Caroline has been focused on making a difference in the world. Her parents attended the Air Force Academy and helped Caroline develop a sense of duty, an understanding that your choices should mean something. Their perspective drove her to learn about other cultures and languages and also inspired her passion for travel.

Caroline applied to Gustavus because she was interested in studying Russian. After she was admitted but before she made her decision, she received a full-tuition merit scholarship, making it an easy choice to head east from her Helena, MT hometown and become a Gustie.

At the start of her college career, Caroline briefly considered pre-med, but she quickly decided instead to pursue an individualized major. She created a program called, “International Political Economics and Diplomacy” that combines elements of psychology, political science, and economics. (Caroline is also a Russian and Eastern European Studies major and a Russian language minor.)

In addition to her academic work, Caroline has dived into a variety of activities on campus, including serving as a Collegiate Fellow residence hall adviser and a member of the College’s Curriculum Committee. She’s also active in Model UN and the Eastern European Club. “People say that Gusties are always over-engaged everywhere, all the time, and that’s really true,” she said. “It can be challenging, particularly when things overlap, but it does encourage this exploration of yourself that I don’t think you would get any other way.”

As immersed as Caroline has been when she’s on campus, her passions have also taken her around the globe. With the help of her mentors, she has found numerous opportunities for international study. Caroline completed a State Department internship in Vienna, Austria. She was awarded a coveted Boren Scholarship to study Russian in Kyrgyzstan and has received two U.S. State Department Critical Language Scholarships. The first enabled her to study Russian in Tbilisi, Georgia. The second will take her to Tajikistan this summer to learn Farsi.

Caroline’s unconventional path through Gustavus has tested her organizational skills. She had to develop a color-coded spreadsheet to keep track of all her graduation requirements. Her advisors helped her along the way while also encouraging her to pause and enjoy this unique time in her life. “There have been many, many moments where they have said, ‘Just enjoy yourself. Go outside and smell the roses. You’re doing great,’” Caroline said. “They believed in me, sometimes more than I have believed in myself.”

Looking past Commencement Day, Caroline will attend the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Relations, where she will pursue her master’s degree with a focus on security, statecraft, and strategy. After completing that program, she will fulfill a one-year requirement working in national security as part of her Boren Scholarship. She says each of these steps will take her toward her eventual goal of engaging in policy around Russia, Eurasia, and the Middle East.

No matter where her future endeavors take her, Caroline said she will always be thankful for the support of her mentors at Gustavus. “I know I can always go back to Annalise or Pam or the people in the Provost’s Office, or to the Registrar and ask for advice,” she said. “I spent a lot of time working with them as I was doing all these crazy things, and I know they’ll be there for me when I need them.”

Caroline’s Gustavus experience might have been somewhat atypical, but she says it prepared her for success. As graduation approaches, she finds herself looking back on how far she’s come. While much of her Gustavus journey was spent traveling the globe, Caroline says the relationships and experiences in Saint Peter have helped ground her, and having such diverse interests and a non-traditional path exposed her to a wide variety of people and perspectives that will help shape her next chapter. “When I was a freshman, there were some people who were seniors that I was very interested in knowing how they got where they are,” she said. “And now I’ve become that person. I’ve had those experiences and I’m ready to go out into the world. It feels very full circle.”


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


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