During her time at Valpo, Grace Leuck ’15 has capitalized on every opportunity to hone her leadership skills while contributing to the greater good. As Valpo prepares students for fulfilling lives of leadership and service, Grace embodies the University’s mission to the fullest.

Grace is a double major in political science and global service with an emphasis in humanitarian aid and services. She was immediately drawn to Valpo’s campus and its inclusive academic environment fostered by students, faculty, staff.

Early in her undergraduate career, Grace was committed to absorbing as much as she possibly could from the University, a place that teaches students how to simultaneously lead and serve.

“My time here has provided me with a framework for seeking purposeful employment, prioritizing my vocational search through all four years,” she says.

And in that time, Grace has done just that — discern her calling and purpose. Along with being an active member of Alpha Phi Omega, Valpo’s service fraternity, Grace serves as secretary and treasurer for the Porter County League of Women Voters. And her commitment to service doesn’t stop there.

Last spring, she spent a semester in Washington, D.C., as part of the Lutheran College Washington Semester, where she worked for the National Peace Corps Association.

Following her semester, Grace spent the summer interning with the United Way of LaPorte County as one of the Institute for Leadership and Service’s inaugural CAPS Fellows. Grace says that, while she has had many life changing service-learning experiences through Valpo programs, this particular opportunity was dramatically different.

“During the summer, I was able to organize and facilitate community conversations focused on health, income, and education conditions,” she says. “I received hands-on service-learning while broadening my academic understanding of service theories, core issues, and components of service from the program’s reflections and mentor meetings.”

Throughout the program, Elizabeth Lynn, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Leadership and Service, was particularly struck by Grace’s passion and desire for growth.

“Grace really stands out to me as someone who understands the importance of leadership and service in every context, international, regional, or local,” she says. “As a student, she has engaged at all those levels — working with Peace Corps as an intern, with the United Way of LaPorte County as a CAPS Fellow, and with Our Greater Good right here in Valpo this semester.  And in every case, she brings warmth, passion, intelligence, and good humor to the cause.”

This fall, Grace took advantage of one more opportunity to coalesce service-learning theory and practice through a course called “Global Humanitarian Examined” offered by the Rev. John A. Nunes, Ph.D., Emil and Elfriede Jochum University Chair. During the course, Professor Nunes brought together classroom and community by challenging his students to create a humanitarian simulation designed for Lutheran middle school youth from the area. The simulation, which they called “Project Diakonia,” was co-sponsored by Lutheran World Relief.

“It allowed youth to learn about topics such as water security, food sustainability, disaster response, and infrastructure development through interactive learning modules designed entirely by the students in Professor Nunes’ course,” Grace says.

When recalling the experience, Professor Nunes said he was thankful for students like Grace, who made the entire course a success.

“Having Grace in my Global Humanitarian course brought to mind the limits of the classroom experience,” says Professor Nunes. “Care for the vulnerable can be shaped into service, but no lesson plan can create compassion. My best teaching relies on leaders like Grace, investing her best self in the learning experience, letting her light shine in the classroom, across our campus, and in the world.”

Upon graduation, Grace hopes to continue pursuing her passion for service in a position with the Peace Corps, where she has applied to work as a community development advisor in Eastern Europe. She has also considered continuing her education with a graduate degree in public administration or community development. She says that Valpo has provided her with ample resources to succeed after graduation.

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