Featured Alumni


Chamee Vang ’19

Chamee Vang ’19 will be a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Thailand during 2019-20. She has had extensive coursework and experience teaching English to students from the primary level to the college level. She wants to gain a global perspective on education — and as the daughter of parents who fled Laos to live in the Thai refugee camps and arrived to the U.S. with little to no formal education, she would like to start in Thailand. As she grew up gardening with her mother, she is interested in starting a farming club to share gardening tips from the U.S. and to learn new techniques in Thailand. Upon her return to the U.S., she plans to teach full-time as an English as a Second Language teacher in Minnesota for a few years, then continue to teach English abroad. At St. Olaf, Chamee earned her K-12 ESL license and TEFL certificate; she majored in English with concentrations in educational studies, race and ethnics studies, and linguistics studies.

maret_wilsonMaret Wilson ’03

Maret graduated from St. Olaf in 2003 and received a Master of Arts degree in Speech and Language Pathology from the University of Minnesota.  During graduate school, Maret completed an emphasis in Bilingual/Multicultural issues in Speech-Language Pathology.  She is Spanish- English bilingual.  She currently works as a Speech and Language Pathologist for The Speech Pathology Group in the San Francisco Bay area, where she specializes in issues of linguistic diversity in the field of speech-language pathology, particularly assessment of children coming from bilingual/multilingual backgrounds. Maret is an advocate for use of alternative assessment means in order to differentiate language disorders from language differences. She also conducts bilingual assessments in the public schools and provides clinical supervision and support to school-based SLPs.  She is grateful to have had the opportunity to cultivate her interests in linguistics, second language learning, and vocal music at St.Olaf. These experiences prepared her very well for her current work, which she loves.

Phil Nervig ’94

From Phil: After graduating from St. Olaf in 1994 with a double major in Economics and Russian language, I moved to Moscow for about 18 months where I taught English and worked at the American Embassy as a locally hired staffer, putting my Russian to use daily.  I continued my international focus after returning to Washington, DC in 1996 – working at a development consulting firm until 1998 when I returned to school to get my master’s in international finance at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.  After graduate school my language skills languished as I worked in domestic infrastructure finance in New York, but in 2004 I joined the U.S. Foreign Service, and have been working in multiple languages since.  In addition to dusting off my Russian for a tour in Kyiv, Ukraine, I learned Lao and some very basic Nyanja for tours in Vientiane, Laos and Lusaka, Zambia.  I am currently working at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, where I use my newly acquired Bahasa Indonesia skills on a daily basis.
And it all started with Basic Russian I with Irina Walter!

erik swenson

Erik Swenson ’93

From Erik: I graduated in 1993 with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish.  I have to say that majoring in Spanish was a very wise decision, as it has awarded me with numerous job offers and opportunities that someone who was not bilingual would have enjoyed.  I can also use my Spanish in the community to help people who do not speak English bridge the communication gap.
My current assignment is a Spanish Immersion Educator, and I work as a 4th grade Compañeros teacher in the Northfield Public School district.  I hold a Master of Education degree in Second Languages and Cultures with Immersion Certification from the University of Minnesota, and I absolutely love my job.  As an immersion educator, my job is not only to teach the 4th grade curriculum according to district and state standards, but to incorporate the Spanish language and culture into my instruction.  I take brief pauses from the curriculum, taught in Spanish, to focus on key features of the language I want my students to notice or be aware of.  For example, I may be teaching a lesson in Social Studies about American History, but may pause to reflect on key academic vocabulary in Spanish or point out a verb conjugation in the past or imperfect tense.
For many years I have also worked as a professional interpreter and translator.  In 2002 I started a home-based business named “Accent Custom Translations”, in which I translate documents and interpret for various business, legal, and medical settings.  An interpreter is one who translates from one language to another orally, and a translator works with written documents.  To gain credibility as an interpreter/translator, I attended a code of ethics training course through the Minnesota State Court Administration and Minnesota Court Interpreter Training and Certification Program, and I am listed as a roster interpreter for the state of Minnesota.  I mainly work with two agencies who contract me to work in various medical and legal settings.