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Samantha Thompson calls on students to join her fight for global awareness and social justice

By Breanne Coats ’08

Although she stands only five feet tall, PLU senior Samantha Thompson ’06 – known as Samm to classmates, friends and family – stands out.

I want to bounce all over the globe the rest of my life. There’s a lot of work to be done, and I’m not opposed to getting down and getting dirty. - SAMANTHA THOMPSON’06

Thompson is a presence at the Pierce County AIDS Foundation where she volunteers. She’s an intellectual force in her classes, and an asset at the Wang Center for International Programs where she works. And she’s also played active roles as a United Nations intern and as a student advocate for PLU study abroad programs.

But one place that Thompson, 21, doesn’t like to stand alone is in her fight to increase global awareness and social justice, issues she hopes will inspire other PLU students to join her.

Thompson developed an interest in world affairs when she traveled to Uganda when she was 14. While there she quickly learned that, in her words, “not everyone loves Americans.” She also learned to ask questions of those whose societies she visited.

When the time came for her to choose a college, she wanted to attend a school that would allow her to study and travel to places outside of the United States. For Thompson, PLU was an ideal fit.

Having traveled significantly before arriving at PLU, Thompson was already more culturally aware than many her age, especially regarding international issues. But she insists she has a lot to learn from others, both locally and globally.

“I don’t want to put my position as superior to my peers because I have studied abroad,” she said. “I stay away from feeling more enlightened. I’m at PLU to learn.”

Thompson has taken advantage of the many opportunities offered by PLU to explore other cultures. For example, she enrolled in the International Core and has focused primarily on international studies and developing countries. She is on track to graduate in May with a double major in history and political science.

Thompson also devotes time and energy to the Wang Center, where she serves as a student advocate for study abroad programs in developing countries. Through the Wang Center, Thompson traveled to Geneva in 2004 to work as a United Nations intern. While at PLU, she also has visited Tanzania and in J-Term 2006 she studied in China.

“It really makes you take inventory of your life,” Thompson said of traveling abroad. For instance, in Africa Thompson observed that Americans like to have things happen quickly. But not so in Africa.

Thompson said she now tries to balance her habits of being a task-oriented American by keeping in mind a Kiswahili saying she learned in Africa, which is “haraka haraka haina baraka.” Translated, it means “if you hurry through life, you’ll heed no blessings or enjoyment.”

After graduation, Thompson said she sees herself working both globally and in the United States.

“I want to bounce all over the globe the rest of my life,” Thompson said. “There’s a lot of work to be done, and I’m not opposed to getting down and getting dirty.”

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© Scene 2006  •  Pacific Lutheran University  •  Spring 2006

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