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Dana Doll-Lautenbach '08

Academics / Departments & Programs / Global Development Studies / Careers & Outcomes / Alumni / Dana Doll-Lautenbach

Dana Doll-Lautenbach graduated from Calvin in 2008 with a degree in GDS. She currently lives in Grand Rapids with her husband and two children. Dana founded a non-profit organization called Treetops Collective, which focuses on helping refugee women in Grand Rapids. It aims to create a connected, creative community of women.

Describe your path since graduation

After graduating from Calvin I worked in Northern Uganda for a year with a small group of women who had been displaced by the war, doing business training and community development through Partners Worldwide. For the last six years I’ve done a number of things — I worked for Micah Challenge as an organizer, I started a business working with women in Uganda, I served as a volunteer and congregational outreach coordinator for Samaritas’ refugee resettlement program, and also worked for a private foundation. My interest and activities in Grand Rapids always centered around refugees and asylum seekers, which led me to starting a business and non-profit engaging this community.

What first sparked your interest in International Development?

I volunteered with a couple of different organizations after high school in Australia and East Africa for two years. Those important experiences gave me big questions to wrestle with, questions I didn’t have before. When I first saw the required classes for the GDS major, I knew it was the right fit — I was excited to take each class that was required.

How has your faith influenced your work in development?

I believe that God has truly created each of us with gifts to share and to strengthen our communities. This belief leads me to reject the narrative of fear and scarcity and instead recognize the wonderful gifts of immigrants of all kinds that are coming to Grand Rapids. Recognizing the image of Christ in those around us is a simple concept, but it has the power to transform both our work and our relationships if we let it.

What is your most memorable experience in the field?

From the Uganda ‘field,’ there are so many positive experiences I could write about the actual ‘work,’ but what stuck with me the most was about seven months in when I was struggling with physical sickness, mental fatigue, and wondering if I should go home early. I visited a couple of the women I had been working with in the village one evening and opened up about some of what I was struggling with. They cared for me like I was one of their own daughters that night and this new depth of relationship with them made the rest of my time in Uganda even richer.

In the Grand Rapids ‘field,’ it has been speaking with refugees about how wonderful it is to have freedom. It’s a constant theme and it reminds me of the millions who are still living under fear and persecution. As cliché as it sounds, it also makes me grateful that I have always lived in freedom.

What was your favorite aspect of your Calvin experience and what do you wish you had done differently?

I treasure the mentoring relationship with Professor Hoksbergen that continues to this day. I am so glad I took time off between high school and Calvin to be exposed to many different parts of the world. I entered the classroom with so much more curiosity and energy to dive into the material we were discussing, and my professors took my curiosity seriously. That being said, I was a transfer and commuter student and spent a semester in Uganda during my time at Calvin, so I missed out on a lot of the campus life that most people experience.

What advice would you give to current GDS students?

Follow your curiosities. Ask questions, befriend your professors, work abroad, but also recognize the opportunities in your own community to gain valuable experience. Don’t underestimate what you have learned in the classroom, but don’t overestimate what ‘answers’ you have before entering the field from the classroom. You are just getting started.

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