Global Grant Scholar 2014-15
While originally from New Mexico, Lara Palmquist now considers Northfield, Minnesota her official hometown. Lara was first introduced to Rotary International as a student at Northfield High School, where she attended classes in the company of a number of Rotary Youth Exchange students from around the world. The insight and experiences these students shared directly contributed to her early interest in international relations and cross-cultural dialogue, and ultimately inspired her to attend a college that upheld the importance of service and study abroad.
Lara was able to fulfill this aim as a student at St. Olaf College, where she majored in American Studies and Biology. As a sophomore she spent a month in Israel and Jordan, where she studied the region’s conflicts from a political, religious, and historical perspective. This multi-tiered approach revealed the complexity of violent conflict, and first ignited her desire to pursue a career in peace-building. In her junior year, Lara spent a semester conducting research in South India geared toward supporting the efforts of a local NGO to rehabilitate honey bee hives and train community members in the practice of beekeeping. The experience likewise proved highly influential, inspiring her to investigate the confluence of peace, human rights, and the environment.
As a senior at St. Olaf, Lara’s academic interests centered on effective strategies for organizing and defending human rights. Springing from independent research she conducted on activism in the United States, Lara studied the myriad ways in which peaceful action and creative strategies have historically brought about successful, positive social change. She is currently interning with the Center for Victims of Torture in St. Paul for the summer before departing for a year-long position with the Lutheran World Federation in Jerusalem.
Lara’s 2014-2015 Global Grant will build upon this year in the Middle East by allowing her to study the origins, dynamics, and resolution of violent conflict through peaceable means at the University of Uppsala. There she will complete a one-year master’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies while contributing to the university’s ongoing research of peace-building strategies around the world. In addition, she will employ her university education to assist unaccompanied, youth refugees as they seek asylum and integration into the community of Uppsala. Upon completion of her degree, Lara plans to volunteer for the Peace Corps and ultimately aims to work for an organization such as the U.S. Institute of Peace of the World Resources Institute.
She is deeply grateful to the Northfield Rotary Club for their ongoing support, guidance, and encouragement, and to District 5960 for an opportunity of such incredible scope. She looks forward to the many lessons, connections, and friendships to come, and to eternally upholding the spirit of service above self!