History Matters at MATTER

Posted on April 12th, 2017 by

Katie Schlangen with Gustavus History Profs. Greg Kaster and Kate Wittenstein at MATTER, St. Louis Park, MN, January 2017.

Since graduating from Gustavus with a History major in 2014, Katie Schlangen has gone from teaching English in Korea to traveling to the African nations of Mali and Togo in her current capacity as International Hospital and Clinic Program Coordinator for MATTER, a Twin-Cities based international NGO. As Katie notes, MATTER “is starting a movement to expand healthcare access to 10 million people over three years. We are going into our second year of this goal, and are 34% of the way there.”

“Studying History,” Katie says, taught me how to think and how to learn, and those are extremely valuable lessons that I build upon every day. I didn’t study African history, so when I started at MATTER, I felt overwhelmed by my lack of knowledge about that part of the world. However, I did know the history of other developing countries, the struggles they overcame, and learned how to put those countries’ problems in context with themselves and the rest of the world. I also know how to research and learn and that is exactly what I am doing now, reading and asking TONS of questions. Nothing beats meeting people in person, having a discussion and gaining that new perspective. Gustavus and History taught me the importance of those perspectives and [recognizing my own] bias. Breaking stereotypes and opening yourself to understanding the story beneath the narrative is vital to getting at the root causes of problems that will eventually lead you to successful solutions.”

Mali (photo by Katie Schlangen)

Mali (photo by Katie Schlangen)

Well said, Katie. You are living the Mission of both the Department and Gustavus!


Greg Kaster
Professor of History


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