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Critical Perspectives of Volunteering

Wednesday, March 6th, 2019

3:40-5 p.m. | Scandinavian Cultural Center

To mark the 3rd anniversary of PLU’s Peace Corps Prep Program, there will also be a panel presentation by PLU and Peace Corps Alumni – Lucas Gillespie ’16, Jihan Grettenberg ’12 and Colton Heath ’14 – on the topic of Critical Perspectives on Volunteering from 3:40-5 p.m. in the Scandinavian Cultural Center.

Lucas Gillespie '16

Lucas Gillespie '16

  • BA in Environmental Studies with minors in Global Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies
  • PCV in Senegal (2016-2018)

Lucas Gillespie ’16 served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal (2016-2018). During his service, he worked in the Agriculture sector as a Sustainable Agriculture Extension Agent, working with rural farmers, families, and agriculture groups to develop and implement improved technologies and agricultural practices to increase the yield of vegetables, fruits, and field crops. He also worked with women’s organizations to develop economic opportunities and plans to stimulate the local economy and fund their projects.

The highlight of Luke’s service was the opportunity to find a shared humanity with people that live such different lives, something he had never thought would be possible. When he first arrived in Senegal, he never could have imagined how comfortable he would feel within his community, how close he would grow to his host family and friends, and how much reciprocal knowledge was shared between himself and others.

He describes this experience as humbling, enlightening, and a privilege to experience. Luke currently works for IREACH (Initiative for Research and Education to Advance Community Health), a division of Washington State University, where he is a Research Study Assistant for three research studies that pertain to community health within American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Pacific Islander communities. He aspires to get a Master’s Degree in Global Health or International Development. At PLU, Luke majored in Environmental Studies with minors in Global Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies.

Jihan Grettenberger '12

Jihan Grettenberger '12

  • BA in Environmental Studies with minors in Social Work and Spanish
  • PCV in Panama (2014-2016)

Jihan Grettenberger ’12 served as Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama (2014-2016). During her service, she worked in the Community Environmental Conservation sector, focusing on waste management and environmental education in an elementary school and with community members. Her work also included teaching English to youth, leading exercise classes for women, facilitating reproductive health seminars to teens, and using Ultimate Frisbee as a means of youth empowerment and development.

The highlight of her Peace Corps experience was fully immersing herself in the Panamanian culture and building lifelong relationships with community members. Jihan has her Masters in Education for environmental education and is currently working in Olympia as an environmental educator at the wastewater treatment plant. At PLU she majored in Environmental Studies with minors in Spanish and Social Work.

Colton Heath '14

Colton Heath '14

  • BA in economics with minors in math and sport psychology
  • PCV in the Republic of Georgia (2014-2016)

Colton Heath ’14 served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Georgia (2014-2016). He served as a Community and Economic Development volunteer, working for a small NGO that focused on social engagement projects with youth and vulnerable elderly communities. His work also included helping to run a LIFE Camp, a leadership and fitness education camp for teenagers. The highlight of his Peace Corps experience was the relationships that he formed with his host family, coworkers, and fellow volunteers and then the fact that anything could happen on any day. The latter led to many stories (and he loves stories!).

Colton is currently working as a “real time energy trader” for a company that does portfolio management for utilities and energy companies. He is interested in staying in the energy industry because it’s a complex space that is rapidly changing as more renewable energy comes on the grid. At PLU, he majored in economics with minors in math and sport psychology.

Elizabeth Hopper, MN, ARNP

Elizabeth Hopper, MN, ARNP

  • Director of Health, PLU Health Center
  • PCV in Nepal, (1987-1989)

Elizabeth Hopper served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal from 1987-89. Having completed her BS in Nursing just prior to applying for the PC, she was assigned to work under the Community Health Volunteer Training program, a program developed to train rural village women as Community Health Workers. Through the two years she lived in a rural far western Nepal hill village, Elizabeth worked with local government health post workers to improve sterile procedures and use of antibiotics; developed a health and science fair with the local school and teachers; taught basic health concepts to village women; and worked to improve access to and availability of childhood immunizations.

The highlight of her service, which she shared with her husband, an Appropriate Technology Volunteer, is common to many RPCVs. It was the opportunity to be invited into and become immersed in a culture drastically different than the one she knew in the US. The area in which she and her husband lived was very undeveloped and they lived without electricity and running water for their 2 years of service. She described this as one of the most interesting, challenging and fulfilling experiences of her life, and it reinforced a desire to serve culturally diverse and underserved populations in her work as a nurse and nurse practitioner.

Upon return from PC service, Elizabeth completed her Master in Nursing at the University of Washington and has been practicing as a family nurse practitioner for the past 25 years. She has been Director of the PLU Health Center since April, 2017.