The job of attempting to alleviate poverty and hunger in the United States and some 50 other countries throughout the world is by no means a small task. With that being said, those who know Mikka McCracken ’09 from her time at Gustavus Adolphus College say they wouldn’t want anybody else leading the fight.
“Mikka has been a passionate advocate for social justice since her first years at Gustavus,” Gustavus Associate Professor of Political Science Kate Knutson said. “Her vision for making the world a place where the voices of even the least powerful are heard and valued is coupled with extraordinary leadership skills. She is one of those people who really will change the world for the better.”
McCracken is now a Program Director for the non-profit organization ELCA World Hunger, where she is charged with planning and leading the implementation of the organization’s constituent engagement strategies, including relationships with synods, congregations, and individuals. The path she took to her current job is a winding one that highlights the importance of the student-faculty relationship at a small liberal arts college like Gustavus.
McCracken came to Gustavus from her hometown of Bemidji in the fall of 2005. She left Gustavus in the spring of 2009 with a degree in political science and peace studies. Her honors included being inducted into the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honors society Phi Beta Kappa, the national political science honors society Pi Sigma Alpha, and the Gustavus Guilds of St. Lucia and St. Ansgar. She was also invited to be a member of the Commission Gustavus 150 Global and Multicultural Initiatives Taskforce.
“I came to Gustavus wanting to major in the sciences and follow a pre-med track,” McCracken said. “After one semester of struggling to pass chemistry tests I realized it probably was not what I was supposed to be doing. I wanted to find a major where I could pursue my other passions and I chose political science.”
Knutson was McCracken’s advisor in the Political Science Department and that relationship turned out to be one that changed McCracken’s life and career path. After taking a class from Knutson, McCracken became her research assistant for two years.
“Together, Kate and I researched topics including religious interest groups, media strategies and mobilization, and women, religion and politics,” McCracken said. “Now the work I do today at ELCA World Hunger is member mobilization and engagement.”
McCracken and Knutson co-authored an article based on their research titled “Sharing the Faith: How Religious Groups Build Media Strategies.” The article was published in the May 2011 edition of the Journal of Communication and Religion.
“Kate was a fabulous professor, advisor, and research partner,” McCracken said. “Besides the research we conducted together, she also brought me to the Midwest Political Science Association Annual Conference were I was able to participate on a panel. She also advised me during the process of writing my senior thesis on religious interest groups and member mobilization.”
“My research with Mikka was a collaboration in the full sense of the word. She helped shape our research questions, collected and analyzed data with me, and coauthored major parts of the resulting conference paper and journal article,” Knutson said. “It was exciting to have the opportunity to work with a student who, because of her maturity, intellectual curiosity, and academic talent, was so similar to working with a colleague.”
During the summer between her junior and senior year at Gustavus, McCracken was able to secure an internship at ELCA World Hunger, which allowed her to get her foot in the door at her current place of employment. Now that she is working full-time at the organization, she has welcomed two other Gustavus students as interns, including Colleen Peterson ’12 and Allie Stehlin ’11. McCracken says that Gustavus’s five core values – Excellence, Community, Justice, Service, and Faith – fit in nicely with the mission of ELCA World Hunger.
“The team I supervise at ELCA World Hunger is very young with an average age around 25,” McCracken said. “We all want to be doing something that we know makes a difference in the world and that’s a value I got to explore at Gustavus.”
Mikka McCracken is an elected member of the Lutheran World Federation International Council. She is one of five North American representatives charged with carrying out governance and oversight of the LWF, which is present in more than 79 countries with 145 churches and 70 million members. She is currently working toward her Certificate in Nonprofit Management from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Urban Planning & Public Affairs. If you are interested in learning more about the work Mikka does with ELCA World Hunger, you can e-mail her at Mikka.McCracken@elca.org. If you would like more information about you can get involved with ELCA World Hunger, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org