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Why does Chelsea Putnam care about social justice?

Chelsea Putnam

"My goal is to help students learn the importance of social justice in a smaller community," Chelsea Putnam said, "because it's the first step to promoting social justice on a larger scale."

By Kari Plog '11

When Chelsea Putnam '12 thinks back to high school and her exposure to diversity issues, one word comes to mind: sheltered.

“I had no background or experience,” she recalled. “I just knew I wanted to make a difference.”

All that changed when she came to PLU.

Putnam was introduced to the Rieke Scholarship program, which is awarded to students who are committed to raising awareness about issues related to diversity, multiculturalism and social justice.

It was then that Putnam realized her passion.

“Being a Rieke Scholar absolutely opened my eyes to a world much larger than myself,” she said. For her, that meant becoming familiar with cultures and traditions that she never saw back home.


As a diversity advocate, Putnam’s job is to oversee the 40-plus Rieke scholars on campus, and help them find ways to grow, just as she has.

“My goal is to help them learn the importance of social justice in a smaller community because it’s the first step to promoting social justice on a larger scale,” she said.

Putnam said many students choose not to get involved because of the associations with the word “diversity.” Part of her job as a diversity advocate is to remind people that everyone is diverse – it includes everything from culture, sexual orientation, religion, and even economic factors.

“Diversity doesn’t mean you have to look different,” she said. “What we are trying to do is gather people who are diverse in much more complex ways than appearance.”

To see why other PLU Diversity Advocates care about social justice, click here.