How do you match your craft with your purpose?
Kate Parsons came to Calvin with a love of writing and an interest in making a difference in the world but little idea about how the two could be connected. It took two majors, a semester abroad, and a job offer for her to discover how her craft and her purpose fit together.
Step one: Explore subjects you love
As a sophomore, Kate’s interest in justice issues came alive during an intro class to international development studies (IDS).
“The professor for one of my core classes saw the interest I had in international issues and encouraged me to take an IDS class. I did, and I loved it. It taught me what it means to move beyond good intentions and work towards real systemic change alongside—and not just for—people who are suffering.”
That intro class compelled Kate to add a double-major in international development studies. And even though her interests were expanding, her love for English continued to grow. This is especially true for when she saw how closely it connected to her growing passion for justice.
“In my English classes, I was invited to explore what it means to tell true stories. I wasn’t just taught to write, I was taught to think about whose stories I was telling, and how,” Kate reflected. “In ‘Creative Nonfiction’ with Professor Rienstra, I learned about the power of voice. Professor Naranjo-Heubl’s literature classes invited me to engage with voices that are often excluded from the white cultural narrative.”
Step two: Make connections
It wasn’t until her semester abroad that Kate fully appreciated how well her two majors could complement each other.
“We were living with Honduran families and witnessing how systems of injustice were perpetuating violence and inequality in these communities,” Kate explained. “But for the first time, I was also seeing organizations working on the front line against injustice.”
One such organization is the Association for a More Just Society (AJS), which was cofounded by Calvin professors Kurt Ver Beek and Jo Ann Van Engen.
“It turns out, these organizations need writers!” Kate continued. “Kurt and Jo Ann read the essays and reflections I had written during the semester. And they encouraged me to come down after I graduated to work for AJS full-time.”
After graduating from Calvin, Kate moved to Honduras to work for AJS as a communications and research fellow. After a year, she was hired as the director of communications for all English-language communications.
Justice through storytelling
Some of the skills Kate uses to communicate the programs and mission of AJS are the practical writing skills she picked up at Calvin.
“At Calvin I had to write—a lot. The number and variety of classes I had to take for my writing major prepared me well for my job. By the time I graduated, I had already studied journalism and written nonfiction, fiction, and academically.”
And beyond knowing how to communicate ideas clearly, Kate is using what she learned about storytelling to shed light on truth.
“The people I communicate with often have preconceptions about Honduras because of how we talk about Central America in the U.S.,” Kate shared. “In my job, I get to tell stories of what Honduras is actually like in a way that’s realistic but also dignifying, hopeful, and true.”