Gift Paves Way for Students to Audition Career Aspirations

Jeremy Shapiro

An English major at Grinnell College, Betsy Wolcott ’75 estimates she’s had 40 different jobs — some simultaneously — since she graduated.

“I figured it out as I went,” she says. “The one that has carried through is I do psychic readings and medical intuitive healings. Obviously, that’s not something you can learn at a college. But what you can learn at a college is who you are and what you want to do.”

A regular donor to Grinnell, it occurred to Wolcott a few years back that because she had experienced a nontraditional career path, she would like to help others do the same. Thus, the idea was born for the Betsy Wolcott ’75 Fund for Social Change and Career Exploration.

“The CLS [Center for Careers, Life, and Service] is incredibly open and helpful about making connections,” Wolcott says. “We figured out what was the best way to help students experience things that they couldn’t necessarily get on campus. I’m a firm believer you have no idea what you like until you try it. Go figure it out first to see if it’s really what you want to do.”

Wolcott wants to encourage donations to the fund from like-minded alumni or parents.

The fund awarded grants to 17 students over the past three summers. It has provided funding to students interning in ovarian cancer research, graphic design, and interfaith sustainable development, among other fields.

In 2022, Luca Blankenship ’23 interned with Rebel Bread in Denver. With an interest in food and film, he learned how to be a professional baker and produced a comprehensive educational video. Meanwhile Nick El Hajj ’24 completed an internship with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper.

“I would not have been where I am today without the constant shower of support I have received from people generous and caring enough to invest in my life experience,” El Hajj says. “I will carry the priceless skills the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette taught me and the memories I made in the beautiful city of Pittsburgh forever. I hope Betsy knows that her contribution has made an impact and helped change the life of a wide-eyed and passionate aspiring journalist.”

A Denver native with active parents and four siblings, Wolcott wanted to go to college somewhere where she wouldn’t be known as someone’s daughter or sister. “I got permission to be who I was at Grinnell,” she says.

Wolcott was on the College’s first volleyball team. “There weren’t tryouts or uniforms; there was barely gym practice time,” she says. Nonetheless, a volleyball coach and referee later became two of the 40 jobs Wolcott took on. She recently made a gift to Grinnell’s current volleyball team in support of a course-embedded trip the squad will take to the Netherlands and Belgium in May.

Wolcott also has been an active volunteer for the College, serving two stints as the class of 1975 class agent and helping plan several reunions.

“As a class agent, I like hearing what Grinnellians are doing,” she says. “I’m totally aware that our world needs all the help it can get. I think it’s people like Grinnellians who are going to make the difference. They are smart, active, not afraid to speak their minds, and not afraid to say if the way we have been doing it doesn’t work, let’s try something different.” 

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