The Foundation for Giving Back
Volunteering is a top priority for recent graduate JT Kruger. It’s a natural fit for someone who earned a double major in French studies and global studies (with emphases on human rights/justice and Europe). Kruger’s liberal arts education connected him with the global community and got him thinking about ways that he can help others. To him, volunteering is an obvious choice.
“When it comes to volunteering and getting involved, I have only seen benefits,” he says. “You give your time, and you are able to see that your time has an impact. You see people learning what you’re teaching them. There’s no better time to start those activities than now.”
A firm foundation
Kruger credits part of his passion for volunteering to the nine months he spent studying abroad in the south of France. Being immersed in another culture expanded his worldview and helped him to see connections he had to people who might initially seem very different than him.
Upon returning to the University of Minnesota for his senior year, Kruger worked as the study abroad program’s representative to UMN students. He would share his experiences, answer questions, encourage students to apply, and support them during the pre-departure process. In addition to working as a study abroad representative, Kruger volunteered his time to create a student guide for the practicum final project.
Kruger felt comfortable investing his time promoting the Montpellier program not only because it had been a life-changing experience for him, but also because he had confidence in the French and Italian department’s ability to support students who study abroad.
“The French program allowed you the freedom to study how you wanted to, especially when you study abroad. It definitely allows you to select your courses, and there are amazing faculty both here and abroad; you really are getting the best out of your education and focusing on what you want to study, rather than just checking the boxes.”
Since graduating in 2015, Kruger has found other outlets for his volunteerism.
He jumped at the chance to teach social studies at Open Door Learning Center, a section of the Minnesota Literacy Center that offers literacy classes to adults, often from immigrant populations. Kruger spends several hours each week teaching adults who are seeking their GEDs. In this role, he makes ample use of problem-solving and communication skills honed during his time in the French program. He adds that “learning to communicate across a language barrier has been immensely helpful.” His background in both French and global studies gives him a strong foundation with which to comprehend and explain complex systems covered in the curriculum, and also to empathize with and relate to the people he works with.
It’s no surprise that as a proud alumnus Kruger also volunteers with the College of Liberal Arts’ Alumni Society, a group that engages with alumni of the college after graduation, and offers volunteering and social networking events to its members. For Kruger, his involvement with the group serves as “a way to remain connected to the University, and as a way to give input and feedback on what the University’s goals and initiatives are.” Kruger meets with the alumni society once or twice a month to network with other CLA alumni and current CLA students, giving soon-to-be graduates the opportunity to build relationships and get advice from those who were once in their shoes.
Most recently, Kruger volunteered at History Day, an annual event sponsored by the Minnesota Historical Society for students in grades 6-12, who develop practical skills through researching and then presenting about a historical topic. Kruger volunteered as a judge for projects submitted by high school juniors in hopes of receiving a UMN scholarship.
Set-up for success
Kruger wants to give back to the University that helped him become the person he is today.
“I am a firm believer that a liberal arts education sets up students for great careers where they can have a large impact, or find a career that is very fulfilling for them,” he explains. “The biggest thing that CLA taught me is who I am and how to interact with other people. And if you know how to interact with other people the world is your oyster.”