Maren Gabor’s journey through college has focused a lot on learning how she can best help people. “I viewed volunteering and being involved as important as getting an A in a class,” she says.
As a biology major from Algona, Iowa, who chose the health field as a way to help people, she adds, “Getting an A doesn’t mean learning the material—they’re separate things. I would apply myself in my courses and do the best I could. I would read my textbooks and study hard, but in my free time on the weekends and at night when I needed a break from studying, I would spend that time in my organizations or volunteering. I wasn’t going to take a trip to Rochester when I could volunteer at the Vesterheim.”
As a student, Gabor averaged about 25 hours of service per week—on top of a full course load. Among other things, her involvement, which was broad and included a lot of leadership roles, encompassed Student Senate (campus betterment chair); service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega (pledge-trainer); child-mentoring program PALS (treasurer); and intergenerational-friendship program GrandPALS. Within her sorority, Tau Delta Gamma, she organized lots of volunteering opportunities with Winneshiek Gift of Life’s breast cancer awareness events.
In part through volunteering, she says, “Decorah became my community. And it was exciting to see the programs I was involved in helping the Decorah community, which was my community. It was really special to me. Luther is in Decorah, and we help each other. I really found that through my volunteering.”
Gabor also focused her efforts on campus. Through her position in Student Senate, she worked to address the equity gap by helping draft letters to the administration about course and housing policies related to international students and students of color. She also helped articulate student expectations regarding COVID-19 and the school returning to in-person operations. In addition, Gabor served as student liaison on Luther’s Curriculum Committee, where she advised a group of professors and administrators on curriculum changes and development. Serving in these roles, Gabor says, was how she felt she could have the most impact on the student body and the administration toward the kind of change she wanted to see on campus.
But in working to improve Luther and Decorah, Gabor also saw a change in herself. “It’s something I started to strive for because I felt good about volunteering and it made me feel good about myself. It’s like getting an A on an exam, that really proud moment you have—you did your best. I also felt that after I’d volunteer and see a job done or after I cleaned up a stretch of highway or mentored a child. I felt that after doing these things in my community.”
Reflecting on the end of her time at Luther, Gabor says, “I did as much as I could to see change in myself and change around me.”