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Not Every Journey Starts with a Map

Everybody loves it when a plan comes together, but Minda Dettman ’18 might tell you it’s even better when you’re surprised how well things work out without one.

Dettman came to Earlham ready to find and follow her interests wherever they took her, but not necessarily with an idea of where those interests might lead. A liberal arts education at Earlham would give her the opportunity to pursue multiple subjects and activities. And she did just that, taking up everything from Indonesian gamelan ensembles to translation work to studying geology to learning about museums.

Surprisingly, she puts it all to use in her role as coordinator for international relations at Murote UNESCO Geopark with the Japan Exchange and Teaching program, better known as JET.

“I was very startled when I ended up in a Geopark, a placement that combines my geology, museum studies, translation/interpretation, disaster education and community relations interests,” she says. “I wasn’t sure how they were going to pull together.

“It feels as if, in this job, I’m pulling on every opportunity and experience I’ve had. Making those connections between my current work and past experiences, and having this foundation of experiences and knowledge is extremely helpful.”

Dettman is one of only a few international relations coordinators located at a Geopark, which she describes as being similar to a U.S. National Park.

“I was placed in the Murote UNESCO Geopark,” she says. “Technically I’m with the Muroto City Department of Tourism, but I work at the Geopark Center. I’m doing lots of different things, all relating to international relations.” Responsibilities include a lot of translation and editing work, interpreting and communications.

“One of the most exciting things about my job though, is that I’ll be going along with people from the Geopark to the UNESCO International Geopark conference, which is in Italy this September, to translate for them,” she says.

Part of her childhood was spent in Japan.

“The first year we lived here (Japan), when I was in first grade, I was really helped by the assistant English teacher at my school,” she says. “I was having trouble adjusting to being in a different country where I couldn’t speak much of the language. The teacher was there on the same program I’m on right now, the JET program. It’s because of that experience that I’ve been interested in JET since around middle school.”

While at Earlham, Dettman worked at the Joseph Moore Museum for three years, interned at the University of Arizona Museum of Natural History and at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, presented at an annual meeting of the Geologic Society of America, performed in Earlham’s gamelan ensemble, researched tsunami preparedness, and served as a Kenlee Ray Fellow at Earlham’s Lilly Library.

“As for the Kenlee Ray experience, I enjoyed a lot of the projects we did, but probably my favorite part was visiting the public libraries in Richmond and Indianapolis and getting to talk to all the people working there. It was fun to see how passionate people were about their jobs.”

Dettman was a Geology major and Museum Studies minor at Earlham.

“I can only participate in the JET program for up to five years,” she says. “I don’t know how long I will stay here, but after this, I want to get a masters and then work in a job that hopefully involves some combination of geology, museum studies, and maybe translation, perhaps national parks or even a Geopark.”

Minda Dettman

Minda Dettman 2018

Hometown: Tucson, Arizona

Major at Earlham: Geology, Museum Studies minor

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