Luther College's Social Impact Fellowship Program partners together one student studying social work and one student studying business to research a problem and develop a business plan for a solution. Italee Castellon, Luther College senior from Chicago, Illinois, and Lauren Voigt, Luther College junior from St. Louis Park, Minnesota, are working with nonprofit organizations in the surrounding Decorah area in order to better connect Luther College students with volunteer opportunities.
Castellon, the daughter of Joanna Castellon, of Chicago, is a 2015 graduate of Whitney Young Magnet High School. She is majoring in social work at Luther. Voigt, the daughter of Judy and Chris Voigt, is a 2016 graduate of St. Louis Park High School. She is majoring in accounting and management at Luther.
Castellon and Voigt are researching numerous nonprofit organizations in Decorah and their methods of advertising the needs they have. Their goal is to connect Luther students to local nonprofit organizations through a Luther volunteer webpage. They are also looking to create a student work-study position to oversee the volunteer webpage. Castellon and Voigt are working with Britt Rhodes, associate professor of social work; Brittany Cord, assistant professor of accounting and management; and Alexandra White, assistant professor of management.
The two students are pioneers in this endeavor on campus and there isn't existing structure, so they are finding they have to adapt the project to fit their changing needs as work is continued.
Through their research, Castellon and Voigt have learned not just about nonprofit organizations but more about the Luther community, its connection to Decorah and how each entity benefits from the other.
"There is a communication divide between Luther students and the Decorah community and it seems as though Luther is in its own bubble. Giving students easier access to information about volunteer opportunities gives them a reason to go outside of this bubble and become a part of Decorah while also working to better it," said Castellon.
Voigt added, "I am someone who underutilized the services available on campus and now I’m starting to realize how valuable they are as we are having conversations with the staff on Luther campus. This collaboration theme is also showing through my work with a social work student as our different perspectives have lead us to greater ideas."
Castellon and Voigt's collaboration is one of 30 summer student-faculty research projects funded through Luther's College Scholars Program and Dean's Office. The Student-Faculty Summer Research projects provide students an opportunity to research topics of interest alongside Luther faculty. This program is one of a wide selection of experiential learning opportunities that are part of Luther's academic core and intend to deepen the learning process.
A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,050, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college's website: http://www.luther.edu.