Her path to service

Jamie Polahn

Jamie Polahn (Champlin, MN) moved with her mother to the United States from Liberia, Africa, in the early 2000s, not long after the second Liberian Civil War began in 1999.

Soon after they arrived, Polahn’s mother began to pursue a degree in nursing. Today she works as a nurse and even began an effort to ship basic medical supplies that go unused by her employer to hospitals in need in Liberia.

“She had the same goal as me,” says Polahn. We came here and she realized, "‘Oh wow, we can actually aspire to be something here, and I can be someone who helps other people get well.’”

Now 22, Polahn applied a little late for college, hesitating on whether to apply for a two-year or a four-year program. So she applied for schools offering each. Her first response—a letter of acceptance—came from the University of Minnesota Morris.

“It looked like a good, affordable program,” she says, and with her mom’s blessing, her decision was made.

Four years later, she’s graduating with a degree in biology and plans for both medical school and a graduate program in public policy. She aims to become a pediatrician, working with multicultural and underprivileged children.

“I was always interested in the sciences, how humans are getting sick,” says Polahn. “And we have to go out and help in the ways that we can, especially in the fields that we’re interested in.”

Polahn got an opportunity to expand her horizons in the summer before her senior year when she was accepted into the Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute at the U of M Humphrey School. The program takes place at just a few universities, among them Princeton, Berkeley, and the U of M.

Polahn says studying at Morris gave her opportunities that set her apart in the program’s application process.

“Getting a liberal arts degree allowed me to dabble in different things—I want to be a pediatrician who also wants to do policy—that’s a lot,” she says. “But liberal arts opens doors for you. ... You can get a bigger picture and use that broad learning in the world.”

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities