College of Saint Benedict Magazine Spring 2024

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Teaming up Community partnerships turn into research opportunities. Page 22 SPRING 2024 MAGAZINE INSIDE 10 In the Room Where it Happened: CSB at COP28 14 Climate. Change. 20 Putting the Environment at the Center 22 The Strengths We Have to Match

The College of Saint Benedict Magazine is published three times a year by the office of Institutional Advancement.


Greg Skoog (SJU ’89)


Kevin Allenspach

Ellen Hunter Gans ’05

Michael Hemmesch (SJU ’97)

Tommi O’Laughlin (SJU ’13)

Heather Pieper-Olson

Frank Rajkowski


Bennie seniors Savannah Supan and Kalli Anderson are studying the nutritional impact of wild rice in a project sponsored by our Institute for Native Nation Relations.


College of Saint Benedict Magazine

Institutional Advancement

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St. Joseph, MN 56374-2099

For address changes, please call 1-800-648-3468, ext. 1 or email

Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity

The mission of the College of Saint Benedict is to provide for women the very best residential liberal arts education in the Catholic and Benedictine traditions. The college fosters integrated learning, exceptional leadership for change and wisdom for a lifetime.

FEATURE 10 In the Room Where it Happened: CSB at COP28 14 Climate. Change. 20 Putting the Environment at the Center 22 The Strengths We Have to Match DEPARTMENTS 1 Message From the President 2 Worth 1,000 Words 4 News 26 I’m a Bennie 27 Class Notes 34 Bennie Connection 37 Generosity 20 10 22

Bringing strategic plans to life

As we roll boldly into the future together – courageously embracing ambitious new initiatives – it’s important that we’re all rolling in the same direction. That’s the power of clear and thoughtful strategic planning. That’s the impact we’re already seeing from our strategic planning process.

We began this process with so much valuable data – much of it coming from community listening sessions and our 18-stop alum road tour – that helped us strike balances and honor legacies while embracing today’s students. That led us to arrive at 13 new initiatives under three Strategic Directions: The Student Experience, Financial and Operational Excellence and Missioncentered Practice.

Today we’re off and running, making progress toward many of those initiatives. Looking for a few examples?

Our strategic plan calls us toward strategic academic innovation. A year ago we went through a challenging but necessary round of prioritization, all with the promise that we would invest in and innovate toward a more contemporary iteration of the liberal arts. Today we’re working with faculty in looking toward the future and playing to our strengths. We’re looking at new academic programs – but also at ways we can expand areas of study into interdisciplinary centers to better address the problems our world is facing. You can read about one of those potential centers on page 20.

Our strategic plan also calls us to increase equitable access to and participation in high-impact practices. The practices you read about in our Summer 2023 issue – things like internships, undergraduate research and study abroad – help set Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s apart. We know the outcomes of these experiences: connecting classroom learning to real life experiences; helping students better understand their place in the world; and building close relationships with faculty, staff or industry advisors. We’ve seen the way just one can ramp up a student’s engagement (potentially leading her to take part in a second, or a third…). What we need to explore though is what keeps some students from embracing these opportunities. In some cases, we need to find solutions to make sure finances don’t hold a student back from a life-changing opportunity. In other cases, we need to examine the ways we present, promote and market these programs to students – because their potential impact is incredible. On page 10, we’ll explore one of those opportunities that truly helps Bennies and Johnnies better understand their place in the world.

Our strategic plan calls us to build partnerships and community engagement. In many cases, this goes directly toward strengthening those high-impact practices. Strong relationships with local businesses and nonprofits lead not only to more internship and clinical opportunities for our students, but also to mutually reciprocal relationships. Relationships with our partners can enrich scholarship and research; model civic responsibility; and address critical societal issues. Partnerships can not only enhance student learning, but also improve the outcomes for our partners’ patients, customers and citizens. On page 22, you’ll learn about research and engagement opportunities Bennies and Johnnies are finding in some of our partnerships with White Earth Nation through our Initiative for Native Nation Relations.

Strategic planning isn’t a reinvention of our missions, it’s a reimagining of how we bring them to life. These exciting new initiatives are rolling out tremendous possibilities.

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Learn more about rolling out our strategic plan in this recent Saint Ben’s @ Home webinar.


In April, the ROTC cadets of the Fighting Saints Battalion (CSB, SJU and SCSU) got the chance for some UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter training up, over and around the St. Joe and Collegeville area, thanks to the Minnesota National Guard. Cadets Charley Sawicky ’25, Russell Aanenson (SJU ’25) and Emma Rand ’25 grabbed a selfie to remember the moment.

WORTH 1,000 WORDS 2 | College of Saint Benedict Magazine
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CSB and SJU remain strong in study abroad rankings

CSB and SJU are ranked among the top baccalaureate schools nationally for both mid-length study abroad and the total number of students who studied abroad according to Open Doors 2023, the annual report on international education published by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The 2023 report, which was released in November, found:

• CSB and SJU are tied for the No. 5 ranking among baccalaureate schools. The schools had a combined 212 students who took part in mid-length study abroad programs during the 2021-22 academic year, the most recent data measured by the IIE. The IIE defines mid-length study abroad programs as lasting one semester or one or two quarters. (Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s operate on a semester system.) CSB and SJU have routinely ranked in the top eight nationally in this category over the past 20 years.

• Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s are ranked No. 7 among baccalaureate schools with 324 students who studied abroad during the 2021-22 academic year. CSB and SJU have routinely ranked in the top 10 nationally in this category over the past 20 years.

Approximately 46.2% of CSB and SJU students studied abroad, according to the report.

“I’m delighted that Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s are, once again, being recognized for our commitment to study abroad,” said Kevin Clancy, director of the Center for Global Education at CSB and SJU. “As we rebuild from disruptions caused by COVID-19, this ranking illustrates the continued interest and excitement to engage globally.”

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A group of students from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University took a break from classwork to see the English countryside on a recent trip to the Clifton Suspension Bridge near Bristol in the United Kingdom.

CSB and SJU honored for undergraduate research

Undergraduate research has become such a focus at CSB and SJU that, just two years after the launch of the schools’ Office of Undergraduate Research & Scholars (OURS), the schools applied for and won perhaps the top honor liberal arts schools can receive in the sector.

The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) has presented CSB and SJU with the 2023 Award for Undergraduate Research Accomplishments (AURA). It honors exemplary programs that provide high-quality research experiences for undergraduates.

“As institutions, we are focusing on strengthening the student experience,” said Lindsey Gunnerson Gutsch, who was director of OURS at the time. “That is going to distinguish who we are, and our research program will be part of that. I’m thrilled about the investments we’ve made so far and, as we continue to make a name for ourselves, hopefully that will lead to even more investment from donors and friends excited to support the next generation of scholars.”

The Emerging Scholars Program, which pairs historically underrepresented students

with faculty mentors for a paid research experience during their first year on campus, has helped create a culture where anyone can participate in research. Higher percentages of students of color, firstgeneration students and those who are Pelleligible are now involved in research than the equivalent of their representation on campus. Further, all first-year and transfer students are placed in an asynchronous course, Experience Hub, that introduces them to research during their first semester.

Every student has an experiential learning requirement as part of their curriculum, which means engagement in undergraduate research can count toward graduation requirements. And more than 60 students participate in summer research on campus each year, earning compensation for a 10-week, full-time position at $6,500 plus room and board.

Spring 2024 | 5 NEWS
Savannah Supan, who is now a senior nutrition and pre-physician’s assistant major from Rice, presented research at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul during an event to celebrate scholars from private schools last February. Four students representing the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University concluded their work in the Innovation Scholars Program during spring semester last year. They include (from left) Ashley Zielinkski-Schloegel ’24, Maria Hassan ’23, Aretha McDonald ’23 and Elise Yeager ’23. Their mentor was Hashi Said (back), an MBA student from Augsburg University.

Military Honor Roll salutes Bennies who served

In January 2022, Malia Carson ’17 was interviewed as part of the Bennie Conversations initiative to gather and collect stories from Bennies through the years. That conversation raised questions, sparked action and created a passion project for members of the CSB Alumnae Board.

Today that project is taking shape – but now it takes action from everyone.

Carson served in the U.S. Army. She was deployed to Afghanistan in 2019 with a four-woman Cultural Support Team (CST) to serve alongside special operations units and work with Afghan women and children. She notes that, since the start of the CST program in the early 2000s, there have been only 125 women selected … and three have been Bennies.

Her story is fascinating. But it begs the question, why is there no College of Saint Benedict recognition for alumnae like Malia who have served this country?

For over 110 years, the College of Saint Benedict has been educating and inspiring women who serve. Bennies serve in their families, their communities and their chosen

fields. But some have worn a uniform and served in the United States military.

If that’s you, please use the QR code here to visit our Honor Roll and share your name, your class year and even your stories. Then let us know who else you know. Rolling back through history, who are the Bennies who have served in the Army? Navy? Air Force? Marines? Coast Guard? What about Bennies in the WAAC (Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps)? The WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service)? Even non-profit, volunteer organizations like the USO (United Service Organizations), serving in support of those who serve?

Help us build this collection of names and stories and honor the roles played by Bennies in our nation’s history!

Please use the QR code to visit our Honor Roll and share your name, your class year and even your stories.

Shannon Verly Wiger ’04 is 2023 CSB Entrepreneur of the Year

The CSB and SJU Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, presented annually by the Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship recognize the achievements of a Bennie and a Johnnie who best exemplify the ideals of entrepreneurship by starting and successfully managing one or more businesses in a way that demonstrates notable entrepreneurial characteristics and achievements while practicing Benedictine values in the workplace and in their lives.

In an October ceremony at the Metropolitan Club in Golden Valley, Shannon Verly Wiger ’04, the owner of Shannon Wiger & Co. and the director of business development at the Moss and Barnett law firm in St. Cloud, was announced as the 2023 CSB Entrepreneur of the Year.

She has played a key role in reimagining and preserving historical spaces, including such Central Minnesota projects as the Davidson Opera House and First

National Bank buildings in downtown St. Cloud and the historic Frank Timmers Saloon building in St. Joseph.

At the same ceremony, Dusan Kosic ’07, co-owner and managing partner of HTEC Group, was named 2023 SJU Entrepreneur of the Year. And Paul Williams ’84, former deputy mayor of St. Paul and current president and CEO of Project for Pride in Living, received the 2023 CSB and SJU Social Entrepreneur of the Year award.

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Bennies like Kimberly Kuhn ’89 have been serving in uniform for generations. Her service is now recorded in the Saint Ben’s Military Honor Roll. Hundreds of other Bennie’s who’ve served aren’t yet listed though!

Time to take them for a tour

The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University are making history as the first two colleges in Minnesota to be featured on the Amazon Prime TV series The College Tour. The episode is available now at and on our YouTube channel. It will be available for streaming on Amazon Prime on May 28.

“We believe this episode perfectly demonstrates the Bennie-Johnnie experience students have on our beautiful campuses – surrounded by a supportive community,” said Cory Piper, the dean of admission at CSB and SJU.

More than 30 students auditioned to be part of the cast of four Bennies and four Johnnies (as well as one recent alum of each school) who share their stories in the episode. Auditions were held last September. The film and production

Top-10 finishes for Saint Benedict Dance Team

crew of the program – which is now in its 11th season – arrived in early October, spending five days on the two campuses shooting interviews and footage for the 30-minute episode.

“From the moment I set foot here, all the crew talked about was how the hospitality is real – we definitely felt it.” the show’s host Alex Boylan said.

“We understand the expense of traveling to tour colleges can be a lot,” said Piper.

“Our episode on these platforms allows us to share our story with a wide range of families and students nationally and internationally who will be able to watch from their homes. Our hope is that they’ll love what they see and come visit us!”

Sharing the episode on your social feeds and with the students in your life is a tremendously valuable tool for helping recruit the next amazing classes of Bennies and Johnnies!

For the second year in a row, the College of Saint Benedict dance team brought home seventh-place finishes in its division in both the pom and jazz competitions at the Universal Dance Association’s College National Championship held at Disney World in Orlando, Florida in mid-January.

“We are so grateful for this team and the work they’ve put in this season,” team captain Trisha Gebhart ’24 said. “To our parents, families, choreographers and alumnae – thank you for your constant love and support!”

The program had a new head coach in former assistant Kate Dempsey ’20 and the roster expanded from 14 to 23, including 13 rookies (12 first-years and one sophomore) who were not with the team a year ago.

Yet seven seniors were still on hand to provide leadership and stability.

“It’s been a learning opportunity for me,” said Dempsey, a former CSB dancer herself, who took over when longtime head coach Anne Sumangil ’99 stepped down in the offseason to begin the doctor of education in educational professional practice program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

“But I have to give so much credit to our seniors, especially our captains (Gebhart and fellow senior Elise Sande). They’ve done so much work behind the scenes –answering emails, setting up fundraisers and organizing events. The leadership they’ve shown has been awesome.”

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Fiona Smith made history … again and

The College of Saint Benedict senior captured Saint Ben’s first cross country national championship on Nov. 18, winning the six-kilometer women’s race in a time of 19 minutes, 54.1 seconds at the 2023 NCAA Division III national meet held at Big Spring High School in Newville, Pennsylvania.

Her time was over a full minute faster than the second-place finisher. She is the first competitor in Division III history to run a six-kilometer race in under 20 minutes at the national meet.

Then in March, she defended her national titles in the 5K and 3K races at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track &

Together, we won!

When the whistle blew and the dust finally settled, it was time for some high fives. And alumnae, parents and boosters were at the front of that line celebrating a successful 2024 CSB Athletics Give Day.

Field Championship in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Her remarkable kick in the final 25 meters of the 5K race helped her to a winning time of 16:26:40 – just 35/100 of a second ahead of her nearest competitor. Smith and her Bennie teammates fought to finish as the nation’s 9th-ranked team overall.

again and again

As national champion in cross country and two-time indoor national champion in both the 5K and 3K, Smith – Saint Ben’s first national champion in any sport – is now a five-time national champion and has won 14 All-American honors.

The math major with minors in computer science and Hispanic studies – who maintains a 4.0 GPA – is currently running her final season of outdoor track and field for Saint Ben’s. Next year she will complete her college eligibility running for North Carolina State while pursuing her Master’s in mathematics.

They were followed by soccer, softball and volleyball.

On one busy day in February, a record-breaking 815 donors rallied to contribute a new-high total $106,632! Cross country and track & field led the way with an amazing 165 donors.

“Beyond the total numbers, it’s our community of supporters, our real MVPs, who are the champions,” said Athletic Director Kelly Anderson Diercks. “Your unwavering support, and belief in the power of CSB Athletics, is what propels us forward.”

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Mother-daughter duo

has shared in Durbin’s 1st and 1,000th games

When longtime basketball coach Mike Durbin coached his 1,000th game at Saint Ben’s on Feb. 3, it was a special milestone for the entire Bennie basketball community – a celebration of 38 years of tradition and bonds for generations of players, coaches and fans.

But it was an especially poignant moment for CSB sophomore Megan Morgan and her mother Rita Miller ’90. That’s because Miller was a first-year player during Durbin’s first season with the Bennies (then Blazers) in 1986-87.

So she was there for his first game at CSB and her daughter – who started all 26 games this past season and averaged 9.5 points per contest – was there for his

1,000th. They are the first mother-daughter combination Durbin has coached.

“It’s kind of crazy to think about,” said Rita, who was a junior on the 1988-89 squad – Durbin’s first to win an MIAC championship. “But it’s a really special thing to have that connection.”

Megan grew up a fan of CSB basketball. Both she and her older sister Mary – who now attends Purdue – came to camps on campus growing up when their mom would return to help coach. And the Winona natives were always on hand when CSB traveled there to face St. Mary’s each season.

She also played high school basketball at Winona Cotter for longtime head coach Pat Bowlin, whose own daughter Devin went on to play for Durbin from 2007-11.

“I looked at other schools, but I knew this was where I wanted to be,” Megan said. “My mom raised us as Bennies. I felt really comfortable here.”

“I made her look at other schools because I wanted her to know what else was out there so she could make her own decision,” added her mother, who has gone on to a long veterinary career. “But in the end, I was super-excited about her choice. She’s a Bennie. Her personality just fits this place.”

Megan said she and her mother occasionally trade stories about their experiences playing for Durbin, who both say has changed a bit over the years.

“It’s a little different now because he’s been coaching so long,” Megan said. “When he coached my mom, he wasn’t much older than his players. So I think his coaching style and a lot of the things he does have evolved over the years.”

But Rita notices some important things haven’t changed at all.

“One of the things I’ll forever give Mike credit for is that his priorities have always been in order,” she said. “I was a chemistry major at Saint Ben’s, and my junior year I went to him to tell him I didn’t think I could keep up with my schoolwork and still play basketball. I didn’t want to quit, but I felt like I had to. And he told me we’d make it work.

“I missed a lot of practice time that year, but he never had an issue with it.

Now Megan is an (exercise and health science) major who sings in choir. So she’s had to miss practices and he’s taken the same approach with her. That’s really important. Wins and losses matter, of course, but what matters more is playing for a coach that has their ethics in order.

When you’re a Division III athlete, school has to come first. Mike has always approached things that way.”

Spring 2024 | 9 LOOK AT HER GO • #BENNIENATION and



A few months ago in Dubai, the world gathered. The occasion: the COP28 United Nations Climate Change Conference, an event of monumental significance that extended for 12 days, with final negotiations going into overtime. COP stands for “Conference of the Parties,” with the parties reflecting nearly universal global participation. The decisions made there will affect, quite literally, the entire world. At COP28, in-person attendees included heads of state, leading figures in the climate change arena, policymakers – and students from Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s.

The conference yielded an agreement that COP28 president Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber hailed as an “historic” achievement. The agreement signaled a collective commitment to transitioning away from fossil fuels and toward a greener, more sustainable future.

The significance of that agreement can hardly be overstated. Proponents have been working toward this moment for decades, and this is the first time climate talks have elicited such a sweeping collective response.

And our students were, quite literally, in the room where it happened.


COP28 was a massive step forward, but celebration must be tempered by why it’s so important. “The world is united in its desire to break with fossil fuels, something scientists say is the last best hope to stave off climate catastrophe,” said Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber during the plenary session. In other words, many see this as a do-or-die scenario. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and that means the work is nowhere near done.

The hope of a true finish line for the fossil fuel era hinges on COP28 being a starting line for more decisive action. This agreement is going to have to be the first step in a long journey toward a more sustainable future. “It’s a reminder that we all have a role to play in addressing the climate crisis.”

The COP28 participants from Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s took that message to heart, using the experience as (sustainable!) momentum fuel. The chance to be part of history is not lost on the Bennies and Johnnies who attended. While the conference was central to their sense of awe, the trip was even bigger than that. For many, this was a world-tilting chance to step far outside their everyday lives.

But how did we get here? How did CSB and SJU secure this kind of access for undergraduate students? And what led us to pursue it?


Since COP21, which took place in Paris in 2015, Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s have been granted annual formal observer status, a privilege that allows students to access both the Green and Blue Zones of the COP. While the Green Zone is open to the public, the Blue Zone is a highly restricted area, and it’s a distinct honor for our students to

students, and Macalester College also provides access to undergraduates.

“The Blue Zone is where real change can be made,” says Jalayna Smith-Moore, a senior environmental studies major from Richfield, Minnesota, who was among 20 students from Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s who ventured to COP27 last year in Sharm elSheikh, Egypt. “It’s awesome to be there.”

As Associate Professor of Environmental

This year’s Bennies and Johnnies Chloe Anderson ’24, Jalayna Smith-Moore ’24, Lauren Sitzman ’26, Mason Voshell (SJU ’24) and Cassie Johnson ’24 (clockwise from left) enjoyed a trip to Khor Kalba Mangrove Forest Reserve. The host nation often provides free excursions for COP participants to highlight local environmental and climate-related sites and activities. In this case, the students visited a protected coastal mangrove forest near Dubai. The first of two delegations from CSB and SJU to Dubai gathered for a photo on the first day of events.

“Her research was on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is an international body of scientists,” remembers Grosse. “And so she was attending these annual COP conferences and had insider knowledge on how to go through the process. It’s accessible to anyone, it’s just complicated and she navigated that paperwork.”

One other key factor, Grosse notes, is that most colleges and universities who have access prioritize graduate students. So undergrads finding this sort of opportunity is fairly rare. There’s also an advantage to our uniquely integrated relationship with Saint John’s. “We get to take more students than other institutions,” Grosse says, “because we are two institutions.”

Professor O’Reilly was instrumental in the COP program at CSB and SJU, but she wasn’t the first person from our campuses to be interested in COP. In 2009, a group of intrepid students organized a trip to COP15 in Copenhagen. Without formal observer status, they were relegated to the Green Zone – but it was still an electric experience and laid the foundation for the relationship between our schools and this renowned international event.


It’s cliché, but the experience really is life changing for many of the students who attend. “Seeing them present their findings in our community is always a bright spot for me,” says Grosse. “They embrace that we need to share the privilege of having been able to do this with our local communities –tell people what’s going on.”

On a practical level, the COP experience can change the trajectory for a student. “Depending on what stage they are in college,” says Grosse, “it prepares them to get a job. This is a very special experience to be able to talk about with a potential employer. I’ve seen many students go into fields that are directly related to their research.”


Brigid Mark – who graduated Egregia Cum Laude from Saint Ben’s in 2020, with degrees in biology and environmental studies – can speak firsthand to the way COP attendance can impact a student’s path forward. In fact, COP attendance impacted Brigid’s path before she even arrived at Saint Ben’s.

“I’m not sure where my mom (Paula Cutter Mark ’84) found out about it, but she mentioned that Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s were sending students to this conference and it would be a really cool opportunity,” she recalls. “That was certainly one of the reasons I chose to come to this school.”

Growing up, Brigid had always been interested in “nature.” But her COP experience changed the way she thought about environmental problems. “I grew up thinking of nature as animals and trees and all that and, you know, it’s terrible that people are cutting down trees and killing animals.

“So kind of a simplistic understanding. But going to COP23 in Bonn (in 2017) helped me understand the connections between myself, my school … even my country … and the world system. And that made it quite tangible how people are being affected by climate change.”

Brigid remembers being influenced around this time by the poetry of Kathy

“Depending on what stage they are in college, [the COP experience] prepares them to get a job. This is a very special experience to be able to talk about with a potential employer. I’ve seen many students go into fields that are directly related to their research.”
- Corrie Grosse, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies
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Associate Professor Corrie Grosse, along with Bennie and Johnnie students at COP25, Dec. 2019, in Madrid.

Jetnil-Kijiner of the Marshall Islands, writing about how her islands were being subsumed by sea level rise. “I began to understand my position in a country in the Global North, which is predominantly responsible for the emissions that are causing climate change and are affecting people who did not contribute the majority of emissions in the Global South,” she says. “I realized that as somebody living in the Global North with a lot of privilege, I could make a tangible impact on these emissions.”

So she decided to go to graduate school and study the social causes and effects of climate change. “It (attending COP) really changed the way I thought about environmental problems,” she laughs, looking back.

Today, Brigid is a doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado in Boulder. She explains, “My interests are primarily encapsulated by the idea of climate justice – how people in power tend to contribute the most to climate change. And then people who contribute the least to causing climate change are the most affected by it.”

“Going to COP23 in Bonn (in 2017) helped me understand the connections between myself, my school … even my country … and the world system. And that made it quite tangible how people are being affected by climate change.”
- Brigid Mark ’20

She’s grateful for the support she found and the experiences she had at Saint Ben’s beyond COP – studying abroad in Guatemala, becoming a finalist for a prestigious Truman Scholarship and collaborating with her mentor Professor Grosse – for helping develop who she is as a scholar, an activist and a citizen. She and Grosse first collaborated during COP25 in Madrid (yes, Brigid was able to attend two COP conferences) in 2019 on a co-authored paper based on in-depth interviews and participant observation. At the time, Brigid noted, “I just really want to emphasize how out-of-the-ordinary it is to have a professor take a student to a U.N. conference, take them step-by-step through the research process, and produce a peerreviewed article.”

Their paper, “A Colonized COP: Indigenous Exclusion and Youth Climate Justice Activism at the United Nations Climate Change Negotiations,” was printed in the December 2020 special issue of The Journal of Human Rights and the Environment.

The pair have gone on to publish several papers since.

Looking ahead, Brigid is beginning to see a path toward paying it forward. “Mostly (my Ph.D. program) is preparing people to become professors and stay in academia,” she says. “I thought going into grad school that I would hate teaching, but it’s been one of the things that’s given me the most joy. I’ve been a teaching assistant and, to watch students go through that process of realizing things about the world is just so fulfilling versus doing research by yourself. And I’ve been able to use some of the things I’ve learned from COP in my teaching, which is really cool.

“Participating in a forum like COP not only shapes CSB and SJU students’ lives, but each student carries what they have learned about diplomacy and the importance of sustainability into their future workplaces and communities, to teach others.”

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This Saint Ben’s alumna is on the front lines, combatting climate injustice in The Bahamas.




The Bahamas produces less than Of the world’s total global carbon emissions.

And yet, they’re in the thick of the global battle against climate change.

Spring 2024 | 15

2022 Saint Ben’s graduate Tamia Francois Is

on the front lines.

A double major in environmental studies and history, Tamia hails from The Bahamas and now works as a sustainable development goals unit officer in the Office of the Prime Minister in her home country.

Every day, she works to reconcile a horrific paradox: despite being a minor contributor to the problem, The Bahamas is reeling from the devastating effects – and constant threat – of catastrophic climate events. They lack the infrastructure and resources that larger nations and major climate contributors have that could help bolster resiliency.

To risk a woefully inadequate metaphor, consider living in an apartment building where everyone on the floor above you overflows their bathtub. Your apartment is flooded, even though it’s not your tub, and

you weren’t the one to overflow it. Your landlord says it’s your problem. Your insurance says it’s your problem. You could give up. You could complain. (That’d be understandable.)

Or you could take action.

In The Bahamas, they’re taking action. Specifically, Tamia and her colleagues are taking action.

In December, Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s were profoundly honored to welcome the Hon. Philip Davis, prime minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, to our campuses to deliver the annual Eugene J. McCarthy lecture.

Prime Minister Davis emphasized the intensity and urgency of the problem, paralleled with the relatively tepid scale of global action – particularly when it comes to recognizing and supporting the disproportionate burden felt by the Global South and, specifically, small island nations like The Bahamas.

With just over 400,000 residents, The Bahamas has a slightly smaller population than the city of Minneapolis. Four years ago, another devastating chapter of the climate change saga arrived at their doorstep in the form of Hurricane Dorian. Bringing wind gusts of more than 220 miles per hour, the Category 5 storm killed hundreds and left more than 70,000 unhoused. That’s one in six people in the entire country. This one storm alone caused more than $3 billion in

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damage, and today, Hurricane Dorian and other recent storms have contributed to a whopping one-third of the entire national debt of The Bahamas. That’s horrifying enough, but the problem is far from over. It’s getting worse, with an unrelenting onslaught of threats and not enough time to breathe, let alone enough resources to recover in between.

Recently, COP28 (see article, page 10) resulted in a $700 million pledge from nations of the world to support a “loss and damage” fund to help countries like The Bahamas. Watching Prime Minister Davis’s historic, riveting speech, it becomes clear: gratitude is essential, but so is perspective. Prime Minister Davis acknowledges that every step forward is important, but the $700 million isn’t enough to cover the damages of one moderate storm in one developing country.

We have so, so far to go.

And we’re so proud to know someone helping move the needle.

Tamia was a student at Saint Ben’s when Hurricane Dorian hit her home country. It was shattering. She and other Bahamian students faced the paralyzing anguish of being 1,700 miles away from home, waiting and hoping to hear from loved ones. They

converged in the International Student Center in shared trauma and grief. The devastation was incomprehensible.

Tamia could have given up. She could have complained. Instead, she took action.

Tamia and her fellow students raised tens of thousands of dollars for relief efforts, which were sent to The Bahamas in the wake of the hurricane. Tamia joined the Climate Action Club on campus and jumped into marketing leadership, focusing on spreading awareness and developing FAQ responses to help spark a dialogue. “This was happening to us,” she says, “and we didn’t have the language to articulate it. We wanted to apply language to the climate injustices we in The Bahamas face as a small, island, developing nation.”

Saint Ben’s was already at the forefront of discussions on climate change, but Tamia wanted to ensure that the conversations not only included but highlighted the Global South. The Bahamas is second only to the United States in terms of countries represented among Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s graduates, with more than 1,600 graduates in total. So if not here, where?

Tamia titled her environmental studies capstone thesis “Into the Storm: Climate Anxiety in a Caribbean Nation.” Her original

title was “Hurricane Madness.” Both feel applicable. To the best of her ability, Tamia articulated what her country was feeling. That’s a daunting task, and it was just one element of an ambitious effort that still informs her work today. Tamia’s environmental science and history studies allowed her to craft a truly intersectional, impactful narrative.

“Saint Ben’s has an exceptional environmental studies department,” Tamia says from Nassau City. “Their framework and interdisciplinary approach is very strategic. I don’t know that I would have experienced that range if I had gone somewhere else.”

Tamia almost did go somewhere else. She originally planned on attending another school, but that fell through. Her best friend Alexandria Armbrister ’22 suggested that she consider Saint Ben’s instead. She decided to jump in, sight unseen.

Spring 2024 | 17
Hon. Philip Davis
Hurricane Dorian By the Numbers $3 billion In damage Left more than 70,000 unhoused Killed hundreds Wind gusts of more than 220 mph
Prime minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, speaking at SJU at the conclusion of the 2023 McCarthy Lecture.

Tamia was only vaguely aware of the Bahamian presence at Saint Ben’s, having attended a send-off celebration for students headed to Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s. She was pleasantly shocked to discover the “huge Bahamian contingent” upon arrival. “I also said, ‘Is this a castle?’ when I first arrived for my orientation tour,” Tamia says with a laugh. She discovered after arrival that she had an aunt who completed an extension program through Saint Ben’s in Nassau.

All these threads kept Tamia feeling connected to home despite the distance. Then Hurricane Dorian hit, and the threads simultaneously thickened and tangled. Tamia had been aware of climate injustice through her studies, but this catastrophe quite literally drove the point home. It was impossible to ignore the cavernous gap between how much The Bahamas suffer from the effects of climate change and how little it’s talked about. “Hurricane Dorian is when it clicked for me – just how much the climate crisis affected us.”

Tamia’s on-campus efforts were just the beginning for her. She completed an Optional Practical Training (OPT) year following graduation. She knew she ultimately wanted to return home and take a hands-on role in addressing the climate crisis and its effects on The Bahamas. She applied for the role a few months before returning home. She felt it might be a stretch, but “the worst they can say is no.”

They said yes.

Today, she’s actively tackling the United Nations 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development. She and her colleagues are working to promote and advocate for economic prosperity and social inclusion in The Bahamas. That means engaging with public and private stakeholders, NGOs, governmental bodies, scientists and the community. Tamia’s background at Saint Ben’s has proven to be deeply relevant to her work. “At Saint Ben’s, we studied advanced research methods, statistical

“I’ve become aware of how different communities – culturally, ethnically and even racially – are impacted. Everything is very intersectional and interconnected. It’s a multidimensional problem that is disproportionately impacting those at the cracks and intersections of society. But everyone will have to deal with it.”
Tamia Francois

analysis, qualitative/quantitative analysis, gender and the environment, humans and the environment, environmental anthropology… Today, in my field, there are a lot of environmental scientists, but the social, economic and human aspects sometimes get left behind. Those elements must be developed in tandem. Thanks to my background, I’m able to understand how all these elements interact.”

Tamia credits her double major in history with giving her historical context for the crisis, plus the critical thinking skills that “genuinely show” in her work.

Tamia feels fortunate to be in this role. She says awareness of climate injustice has elevated significantly since she started studying the issues, but there’s so much work to do. And it will take all of us.

“I’ve become aware of how different communities – culturally, ethnically and even racially – are impacted. Everything is very intersectional and interconnected. It’s a multidimensional problem that is disproportionately impacting those at the cracks and intersections of society. But everyone will have to deal with it.”

As if the climate crisis isn’t enough of a foe, Tamia and her colleagues are also up against a measure of nihilism. “People panic, but then feel, if this [crisis] is inevitable, why take action?” One of the most potent antidotes to nihilism is education. Tamia recalls wishing she could instantly impart all the education she received at Saint Ben’s to everyone, hoping to arm them with hope and an action bias. While Tamia can’t make Saint Ben’s education universally accessible, she’s doing the next best thing by helping spread awareness.

“Hope” and “action bias” are two descriptors that unequivocally apply to Tamia. Her role is tasked with sustainable development goals, which are already incredibly ambitious, but Tamia is aiming even higher. “I hope a sustainable society can be developed,” she says. “Whether that’s in my or my niece’s lifetime, we can lay the groundwork and establish methods of adaptation and mitigation for that to happen.”

With Tamia on the job, it feels possible.

18 | College of Saint Benedict Magazine
“I hope a sustainable society can be developed. Whether that’s in my or my niece’s lifetime, we can lay the groundwork and establish methods of adaptation and mitigation for that to happen.”
Tamia Francois Bahamian Prime Minister Philip Davis toured the Multicultural Center at Saint Ben's during his visit in December, connecting with Bahamian students as well as with Assistant Director of Multicultural Student Services Sydney Robinson '19.




For years, Larson and colleagues like John Geissler (SJU ’99), Saint John’s Abbey land manager and director of Saint John’s Outdoor University, have been advocating for the development of a center for the environment at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University. “We had a concept for

a center for the environment clear back in 2005,” he points out. But discussions have been going on in earnest now for at least three years. And, with the development and implementation of a new strategic plan for Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s, it seems like the time may be right.

The first obvious question when considering a center for the environment is: What is a center for the environment? “If you have an area where you want to put emphasis and increase programming, you need to have a substantial chunk of money,” says Larson. “A ‘center’ is intended to align with an institution’s strategic priorities.

“So this center, we envision being a programmatic hub. It will be a catalyst and an organizing point and a collection of resources, with a strong physical presence on both campuses. That would mean things like programs, scholarships, support for faculty and staff, events on both campuses … opportunities to engage people around sustainability and the environment.”

In this particular community, a unique center for the environment will be a distinctly natural fit. “We’re liberal arts colleges. We’re not going to be a research institute,” says Larson. “We’re not going to be inventing new plastics here. But there are two things that we do very well here: Undergraduate education and dialogue.”

So one clear focus here will be on creating opportunities for students. Another will be on the center as a catalyst for conversations around challenging environmental issues. “This goes straight to our Benedictine traditions,” Larson continues. “Listening and stewardship and the ecumenism that’s so strong here. Let’s bring people together and talk about solutions, instead of just yelling on social media.”


• Students will experience the center as a source of course offerings, programs, research opportunities, scholarship and career exploration. With strategic investment into high-impact practices like internships, undergraduate research, participation in the annual U.N. climate conference and environmental education abroad, the center will expand access to all students.

• Faculty and staff will experience the center as a campus partner for professional development opportunities and for improving the sustainability of campus operations. Fellowships will help faculty in diverse fields develop new environmental content for their courses. All campus stakeholders will be invited to partner with the center in sponsoring events, speakers and activities related to its purpose.

• Alums and community members will experience the center as a partner in learning, conversation and leadership related to the environment and sustainability. Through public events, local initiatives and collaboration on projects that benefit partners and advance student learning, people (locally, regionally, nationally) will encounter CSB and SJU faculty, staff and students contributing value.Those interactions will build the reputation of our campuses as hubs of environmental engagement.


• Expanding and improving opportunities for students

For example, each year Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s send students to the annual U.N. climate change conference. (See article, page 10.) Each year there’s a search (and sometimes a scramble) to find donors to support those students with scholarships to fund the trip. A stable, endowed center will clarify and solidify that funding – perhaps expanding the pool of students who are comfortable applying.

• Elevating our brand on a national stage “A center is going to not just create dialogue and research and educational opportunities. It’s going to establish Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s nationally as places where these things happen,” says Larson.

• Improving new-student recruiting

“Gen Z has a strong commitment to sustainability, because they’re growing up in a world of climate change,” notes CSB and SJU Dean of Admissions Cory Piper. “Programs like our environmental studies major and minor and our climate studies minor are distinct and relevant. And the increased focus and programming of a dedicated center is going to attract and serve interested students.”


Strong, successful centers like the Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship, the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy & Civic Engagement and the Mark and Teresa Fleischhacker Center for Ethical Leadership in Action are proud programmatic leaders on our campuses. And a new center for the environment on both campuses meshes with our institutional learning goals and syncs with our strategic plans. Everyone’s on board. So let’s go, right?

“As this process has gained momentum, it gets more and more exciting,” Larson says, smiling. “But the advice of a colleague really sticks with me: ‘Don’t do it too soon. Don’t go out and announce this thing until you actually have enough resources to do what you’ve promised.’”

So the discussions and the fundraising continue. And, for now, we’ll keep speaking in future tense about our (lowercase) “center for the environment.”

“We’re not even completely locked in on the name,” says Larson. “‘Center for the environment’ is a little narrow. There’s a lot that we want to get in there. Maybe, like, a ‘center for the environment, stewardship & sustainability’…?”

We’ll keep workshopping that. And fundraising.

If you’d like to learn more about contributing toward an endowed center for the environment and sustainability at Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s, reach out to Senior Principal Gifts Officer Chad Marolf at 320-363-5402 or

Spring 2024 | 21


The Initiative for Native Nation Relations (INNR) at Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s was created in 2021 to draw on strengths of the schools to engage with, collaborate with, and serve Native Nations.

22 | College of Saint Benedict Magazine

“I don’t think it’s that big or complicated an idea,” says Ted Gordon, INNR director, visiting assistant professor and holder of the Joseph Farry Endowed Professorship at the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy & Civic Engagement. “But it seems every other college or university out there that has a program centered on Native communities, it always starts out with what the school is interested in.

“And they ask, ‘Where’s the Tribal partner who wants to be involved in our project?’ What we’re doing is the inverse of that. What are we hearing from the Tribes? What are their goals and challenges? Now what are the strengths we have to match that?”

So INNR has become the hub for a disparate collection of projects, with Gordon reaching out to faculty members across the academic spectrum, facilitating and making connections.

“For example,” he begins, “one of the issues the White Earth Nation has is that they don’t actually own much of the land on their reservation. So there’s a lot of industrial farming by large corporations. And, being on a reservation, it’s a bit of a regulatory no man’s land.

“The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources doesn’t have jurisdiction to enforce state environmental regulations on the reservation. But the Tribe passes its own environmental regulations and a company will say, ‘You’re a Tribal organization. You can only apply your regulations on land you own on your reservation – not land we own on your reservation.’”

Recently, this regulatory gray area has resulted in a lot of pink overspray that appears to be drifting pesticides coating homes and schools on the reservation. This unfortunate situation provided an opportunity for the Tribal community to co-design a strategy with CSB and SJU to address the gap in regulatory authority and resources.

“If this was happening in St. Joe, the state would come in, do the research and say ‘stop it,’” observes Gordon. “Instead our chemistry faculty and students stepped in to do real-world research monitoring air quality and analyzing test results to identify the substance, providing our partners with the information they need to protect their citizens.


Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Corrie Grosse did her doctoral research on climate justice movements and resistance to fossil fuels. Since moving to Minnesota, she has studied Native nations and their resistance. Not long ago though, when she began asking Native mentors what she should look at next, they encouraged her to explore solutions.

“It’s nice to change your focus from the bad to the good,” she notes.

Currently on sabbatical, Grosse is interviewing Native leaders in the renewable energy sector, trying to understand the barriers to renewable energy and discover ways it can be used to advance self-determination.

“I’ve interviewed Gwe Gasco from an organization called 8th Fire Solar on the White Earth Reservation,” Grosse says. “They’re building solar thermal panels, which are simple, low-tech black boxes that can be put on the south side of a house. And it can really reduce your electricity bill in winter. They’re putting them on low-income Tribal houses.

“I’ve also talked with Solar Bear – the only Native-led solar company in Minnesota – and with Native Sun Community Power Development, which is a nonprofit dedicated to advancing Tribal clean energy. And they’ve been responsible for putting solar panels on Tribal buildings on the Red Lake Nation.

“There are Tribes all over the country that are pursuing their own control over renewable energy. It’s really important for them to be able to have that control and self-governance and to create jobs and reduce their carbon footprint – which is very much in line with the cultural values of most Native American Tribes,” she concludes.

Grosse has been gradually working on background research for this project for several years. This semester, with a sabbatical and some funding help from INNR, she has the time and resources to begin fleshing out that research with more of this interview-based work.

There are Tribes all over the country that are pursuing their own control over renewable energy. It’s really important for them to be able to have that control and self-governance and to create jobs and reduce their carbon footprint –which is very much in line with the cultural values of most Native American Tribes.”

Spring 2024 | 23


Associate Professor and Chair of the Nutrition Department Emily Heying co-taught a popular course on Native food sovereignty with Gordon. Through class discussions on Indigenous foodways and traditional food sources for nourishment, handharvested wild rice came up consistently.

“Nutritionally, it’s a whole grain,” she says. “It’s going to be higher in fiber, vitamins and minerals than other refined grains, yet is still a carbohydrate that provides energy. So at some point I remember having this conversation with Ted and beginning to wonder how wild rice compares with some of these other grains when it comes to blood sugar (glucose) response.”

It turns out there weren’t many research studies on the consumption of handharvested – as opposed to cultivated commercial – wild rice.

“We began wondering about the nutritional differences between the two,” Heying explains. “And, knowing that Type 2 diabetes is more prevalent in Indigenous

populations in the United States, is this an opportunity for an Indigenous traditional food source to play a role in diabetes management or prevention?”

She designed a laboratory for the introductory nutrition students in that Native food sovereignty course, and the results were intriguing. There could be something there. To find out, she turned to Bennie senior nutrition majors Kalli Anderson and Savannah Supan. Savannah was already active as a student research assistant with INNR, so she jumped at the opportunity. Kalli was intrigued as well.

With Heying serving as a research mentor, Kalli and Savannah began their official research study into the impact of handharvested wild rice in a diet. Their testing had subjects eat set amounts of different types of rice, including hand-harvested wild rice, then measured both their blood glucose responses and their satiety responses.

“It’s worth noting,” says Heying, “that our participants were healthy college-aged adults, not adults with pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes. Eventually we would love to do that, especially focusing on Indigenous

communities – but this is a strong start. Ted and I were very careful in starting this research to be as respectful and transparent as possible with the Tribe and make sure this project had their blessing.”

Kalli and Savannah presented their findings on campus in April at Celebrating Scholarship and Creativity Day. They will present in May at the Minnesota State Dietetics Conference. And they hope for publication. Most importantly though, they plan to share their results this summer with White Earth Nation.

To Heying, this is an issue of sustainability, public health and equity. “I think any time you have a community that can produce culturally relevant foods that are important to them and can impact their economy, their health and their nutrition in a positive manner – that’s a form of sustainability.

“I would love to do more research on this. If our work can bring about more resources and visibility to this so that there’s another good grain out there, helping more people? There are many ways you can prevent chronic disease, and this is a small thing that we can do.”

24 | College of Saint Benedict Magazine
Associate Professor Emily Heying served as research mentor for Bennie seniors Kalli Anderson and Savannah Supan in their work with hand-harvested wild rice.
I felt like I could contribute a lot with my CSB and SJU education – understanding how important wild rice is from a nutrition standpoint to protect against a lot of major health concerns that Native American populations face. In order to protect this good resource, research needs to be done and work needs to be put in to help protect it for future generations.”
Adrianna Warden ’22


In the Summer 2021 issue of Saint Benedict Magazine, we introduced Adrianna Warden ’22, who was just about to begin a summer of undergraduate research in support of White Earth Nation’s efforts to secure listing on the National Register of Historic Places for a number of wild rice harvesting sites. As a first-generation White Earth descendant, it was work that held special significance for her.

Adrianna said at the time, “I’m looking forward to a summer of growth both through research and relationship building within a community to which I hope to gain closer connections.”

So how did it go? And what’s the latest?

“My main focus through the summer of 2021 was the cultural and economic benefit of wild rice,” she recalls. “I worked with White Earth Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Jaime Arsenault and worked off of a database that was originally compiled by Maija Eickhoff (’21).”

She spent a lot of time sifting through newspaper archives and historical documents, and a lot of effort facilitating interviews with Tribal elders – since those were key elements that had helped Tribes

in Michigan in their successful efforts a few years earlier.

“Wild rice is in our creator story,” says Adrianna, explaining the significance of protecting the sites. “We were meant to ‘go find the food that grows on water.’ That’s an ingrained story I’ve always been told growing up.

“This research was right up my ally as a nutrition major and I felt like I could contribute a lot with my CSB and SJU education – understanding how important wild rice is from a nutrition standpoint to protect against a lot of major health concerns that Native American populations face. In order to protect this good resource, research needs to be done and work needs to be put in to help protect it for future generations.”

That work continues at White Earth. It’s a slow and deliberate process.

Adrianna, in the meantime, has graduated but continues to feel the ripples from this experience. Today she is a diabetes health program technician for the Indian Health Board of Minneapolis.

“I check in with patients and help plan events for our diabetes group,” she says. “We have roughly 40 to 60 patients I know quite well from helping them with their insulin goals, their A1C levels and general community health and wellness.

“It’s really important to me to help give back to my community because, as a descendant who grew up off the reservation, I like to do the best work I can to reconnect and to help with the education background I have.”

Wild rice is in our creator story. We were meant to ‘go find the food that grows on water.’ That’s an ingrained story I’ve always been told growing up.”


Warden ’22

Spring 2024 | 25 strengths



Chelsey Jo Huisman graduated from Saint Ben’s in May 2007. In January 2008, she applied for a Master’s program in developmental studies through the political science department at Uppsala University in Sweden (with a little help from some CSB and SJU connections). She was accepted in April, began her Master’s program in Sweden in September 2008, and has never moved back. “I thought I’d like to get a sense for the work environment in Sweden,” Chelsey Jo recalls.

In 2016 she committed to a doctoral program and a research position in the Department of Business Studies at Uppsala University, where she was hired to do a project at the intersection of the construction industry and innovation. “I knew nothing about either of them,” she says, “but they saw something in my application that told them I was capable.”

Because she already lived in Kiruna (the northernmost city in Sweden), she got a front-row seat to studying one of the world’s most ambitious city development projects. Her doctoral research mission focused on the

relationship between the municipality of Kiruna and the iron ore mining company LKAB. Due to years of underground mining operations, the foundations of the 100+ year old city have begun to destabilize. So it was decided between the municipality and the mining company that the city has to be relocated.

“My research focused on that relationship,” Chelsey Jo says. “How they are negotiating. How they’re collaborating. What are the tensions that arise when their different logics and goals don’t align? How do these two organizations work together to navigate those tensions for the future of the community?”

Then, just to add a layer of complexity, city officials asked Chelsey Jo to serve as a researcher and follow an innovation process within the municipality. “And I thought, well, it will probably help open some doors for my doctoral studies. So I began a second, concurrent project as a following researcher. I would observe their process and lift up some of the patterns and dynamics I was seeing so that we could reflect on

and discuss them together and learn what was facilitating and hindering innovation,” she says.

Last year, after seven years of study, her work came to a close. “What I saw through it all,” she says, “is that we view bureaucracy and innovation as two separate things. Innovation and transformation are sexy, but maintenance and bureaucracy aren’t so attractive. But what we need to recognize is they’re both necessary and interconnected.

“They represent paradoxical tensions. And employees and practitioners won’t solve those tensions. But we can navigate and manage them. What I saw through this all is that there is a way of bridging bureaucracy and innovation where we can cultivate a both/and mindset to reframe the question to ask, ‘How can I use both bureaucracy and innovation to improve the situation?’”

Learn more about the relocation of Kiruna.

First-year residence hall Corona

Favorite class

I don’t know if it’s a favorite class, but it was one of those that pushes you and makes you recognize you’re capable of things you don’t believe you’re capable of. I took a computer science course with Professor Imad Rahal, and he really walked beside me to help me think in another way.

Favorite professor

Ron Bosrock held the Myers Chair in Management. And he had such an appreciation for the world around him, travel and cultures and understanding international politics.

Favorite Bennie memory

I loved working for (long-time family friend and current Director of Alumnae Relations) Marcia Mahlum ’96 in Campus Recreation. She gave me a lot of creative space to do things around health and wellness for the community.

26 | College of Saint Benedict Magazine I’M A BENNIE


1980 Mary Voight worked as a copy editor of 22 essays from around the world for the book, TEXTile Manifestoes, and held a book launch at the Czech Center in New York City in Sept. ’23. Mary studied Asian art history and international business at CSB, which launched a career in teaching Mandarin Chinese.



president of Illinois College, is the recipient of the Credo 2024 Courageous Leadership Award. This award is given annually to a higher education president whose vision and dedication have made an indelible impact on their institution, their community and the students they serve.

1985 Michelle Villaume Driscoll Gallery was voted the 2023 Gold Best Art Gallery in Minnesota by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Nov. ’23.

1986 Brenda Piette Kyle was a featured panelist for a discussion on workforce development and talent management hosted by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, Dec. ’23.

1988 Kelly John accepted a position as a clinician and assistant professor at Des Moines University College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery, Dec. ’23. Kelly is a board-certified podiatric physician and surgeon.

1990 Margaret Murphy, CEO of Bold Orange, was a panelist for a Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal seminar titled “Insights from Minnesota’s Top-Growing companies,” Feb. ’24. The Journal earlier ranked Bold Orange #2 among fastestgrowing private companies in the Twin Cities Metro-Area, Oct. ’23.

1993 Colette Peters was interviewed by 60 Minutes on the topic of the United States federal prison system. Colette is employed by the U.S. Department of Justice as director of Federal Bureau of Prisons, Jan. ’24.

1995 Megan Cassidy Meuli was promoted to VP strategic partnerships at Dress for Success Twin Cities, Jan. ’24.

1997 Corie Dumdie Barr y was featured as a headline speaker for the Consumer Technology Association’s Leaders in Technology dinner at CES, Jan. ‘24.

1997 Amy Fredregill was elected as a board member for Nortech, Nov. ’23. Nortech Systems provides design and manufacturing solutions for complex electromedical devices, systems, assemblies and components.

1999 Robyn Ruschmeier Courchane officiated the NCAA Division I championship volleyball match (Texas vs Nebraska), Dec. ’23.



was promoted to principal of the Michaud Cooley Erickson (MCE) Mission Critical and Value Added Services (VAS) Team, Minneapolis, Jan. ’24. The VAS team is comprised of fire protection, fire alarm, technology systems, lighting and commissioning.

2004 Desiree Murphy has installed a public art installation titled “Stepping Up” inside St. Cloud (Minnesota) Tech High School, Dec. ’23. She has been designing clay pieces for over 25 years.

2005 Greta Burgett Bjerkness accepted a new role as the lead city attorney for Baxter, Minnesota, Oct. ’23. Greta is a shareholder of the law firm LeVander, Gillen & Miller in Eagan, Sept. ’23.

2007 Shea Tomich has been awarded Educator of the Year at Jefferson Middle School (San Antonio, Texas), Jan. ’24. Shea currently works as the dance teacher and elective coordinator, where she oversees multiple programs.

2008 Nritya Sultana was inducted as a Lifetime Member for HER Network Europe in recognition of her contributions toward women’s health, Aug. ’23. Nritya is the co-CEO and co-founder of Agni Core Corporation. 2010


accepted a new position as the director of refugee services at the International Institute of Minnesota, Nov. ’23. ’10


wrote and published a children’s book titled The Kindness Booth, Jan. ’24. She has written over 100 nonfiction books for young readers. ’11

2012 Margaret “Maggie” Gregg was promoted to the rank of major in the Minnesota Army National Guard, Dec. ’23.


was honored among 2023 Notable Women in Law by Twin Cities Buisness, Oct. ’23. Allison specializes in real estate and corporate transactions at Henson Efron. ’12

2015 Kathryn Jacobson completed a Ph.D. in agricultural and biological engineering with a focus on biotechnology from Purdue University in Aug. ’22 and is now a NRSA post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania department of neurosurgery, studying traumatic brain injury.



was awarded the prestigious F31 grant from the National Institutes of Health, Dec. ’23. This grant will support research to explore genetic drivers that control insulin secretion. ’20

Spring 2024 | 27 CLASS NOTES
’81 Share your key moments and milestones with your classmates
friends. Email us at KEEP US UP TO DATE!


1976 Ann Grundman to Rodney Theisen, June ’23

1988 Teresa Kuhn Beacom to Kevin Montplaisir, Oct. ’23

1992 Anne Bunkers to Michael Wilhelmi ’92, July ’23

1995 Anna Gallagher to Tad Lee, Dec. ’23

1998 Sarah Spychala to Raymond Marstein, Feb. ’23

2000 Katie Larkin to Michael France, Jan. ’23

2012 Erin Berrisford to Brian Gerhan, Oct. ’22

2014 Graci Gorman to Joel Newman, June ’22

Karly Queenan to Brian Wagner, July ’23


2016 Makenzie Krause to Jacob Lanthier, Oct. ’22

2017 Amanda Baloun to Tanner Locke, Sept. ’23

Karly Betterman to John Vogeler, Oct. ’23

Rachel Boever to Drew Jensen, March ’23

Morgan Espelien to Garrett McAdams, Sept. ’22

Kendyl Folska to Joseph Zeidler, April ’23

Abagael Gerdes to Kyle Brault, Dec. ’23

Sophi Gorman to Rohit Hazra, Nov. ’22

2018 Gabrielle Horsford to Alec Janning ’18, Sept. ’23

2019 Emma Backes to David Franta ’18, Feb. ’24



2019 Rebecca Franta to Tanner Bock, Dec. ’22

Anna Garrison to Evan Wirtz, Dec. ’22

Bree Gibis to Kyle Busta ’19, July ’23


Hannah Moen to Brent Andries ’19, May ’23

Danielle Perry to Zachary Rustad, Oct. ’23

Megan Schroeder to John Fink ’19, May ’23


2020 Isabella Haeger to Jack Vermedahl ’20, June ’23

Jessica Kelley to Brady Erdmann, Sept. ’22

Jocelyn Metz-Orenstein to Jacob Erkens, Sept. ’22

Emily Nelson to John Hicke ’20, Sept. ’22

Katherine White to David Bedford ’20, July ’23

2021 Lindsay Will to John Mahowald ’21, May ’23

28 | College of Saint Benedict Magazine CLASS NOTES


2008 Mallory Lundeen Swierk & Justin Swierk ’08, girl, Penelope, Feb. ’21 & boy, Milo, June ’23


You raised your hand then to serve your country. Will you raise it again now to help us celebrate your service and honor the sacrifices of Bennies through the years? Visit the Saint Ben’s Military Honor Roll today at or using the QR code. Add your name if you’ve served, then spread the word to other Bennies in the military.

Thanks for your service!

Spring 2024 | 29 CLASS NOTES BIRTHS /

2009 Julie Walter Bohlman & Jeff Bohlman ’10, boy, Gus, Dec. ’23

Abby Milton Turbes & Ryan Turbes ’09, boy, Cooper, Dec. ’23

2010 Jennifer Tong Kroll & Chase Kroll ’11, girl, Tallulah, Dec. ’23

2011 Katherine Hansen Nazari & Brandon Nazari, girl, Amira, Oct. ’23

2012 Madison Armstrong Liebherr & Jon Liebherr, boy, Jack, Sept. ’23

Alexa LaPatka Michaletz & Peter Michaletz, boy, Leo, Dec. ’23


2013 Meghan Simmet Hermes & Daniel Hermes ’13, girl, Claire, Oct. ’23

Samantha Lloyd King & Nathan King ’13, boy, Aiden, April ’23

2014 Katherine Murnane Korte & Matthew Korte, girl, Wren, Oct. ’23

Kendra Coleman Peeters & Ryan Peeters, boy, Noah, Dec. ’23

Abby Lundeen Rosenthal & Adam Rosenthal, girl, Ren, June ’21 & girl, Rory, Jan. ’23


Let’s start the conversation now, so your voice can carry on through generations. A legacy gift of any size pays exponential returns. It’s an investment in ambitious, promising women – women who will honor your legacy with transformative, world-changing impact. Make a bequest through your will or trust, name CSB as a beneficiary, or establish a charitable gift annuity.

Email us at or call 320-363-5307 to learn more.

30 | College of Saint Benedict Magazine CLASS NOTES LET’S
The choice is yours. Your legacy is in good hands.

Anna Luke McCue & William McCue ’15, girl, Millie, Nov. ’23

Bridget Cummings Michaelis & Ryan Michaelis ’15, girl, Maeve, Jan. ’24

2016 Meghan Carter-Johnson & Nathaniel Johnson ’16, boy, Carter, Aug. ’23

2019 Erin Eikmeier Galligan & Hunter Galligan, girl, Lucy, Dec. ’23

2021 Claudia Behrendt & Sean O’Riley, boy, Thomas, Dec. ’23


1935 Jean McKinnon Hough, Oct. ’04

1943 Ruth Zitur Heipley, Jan. ’24

Lousie Kremer Kawecki, Jan. ’24

1945 Marie Seifert Morrow, Oct. ‘23

1948 Mary Gaida Brown, mother of Frances Brown Povolny ’75, Oct. ’23

1949 Irene Gleesing Borys, Jan. ’24

Mar y Jane (Georgene) Cournoyer, OSB, Dec. ’23

Joyce McMahon Friebe, Jan. ’24

Dorothy Hebert, Jan. ’24

1951 Ramona Vorgert, July ’23

1952 Patricia Jackson Hackert, mother of Teresa Hackert Johns ’83, Nov. ’23

1953 Stanley Hansen, spouse of Elizabeth Eischens Hansen, Jan. ’24

1953 Dolores Elsbernd McLean, Jan. ’24

Irene Hauer Moser, Jan. ’24

Joan Thomes Urbanski, Nov. ’23

1954 Michael Donahue ’54, spouse of Mary Davis Donahue, father of Kathleen Donahue ’77 & Margaret Donahue ’82, Feb. ’24

Colleen (Joanne) Haggerty, OSB, Jan. ’24

James Kuffel, spouse of Jeanne Gnifkowski Kuffel, Dec. ’23

1955 William McNamara, spouse of Ruth Altmann McNamara, father of Louise McNamara Neeser ’91 & Anita McNamara Sonnek ’95, Aug. ’23

Jo Ann Mowr y Sulla, Aug. ’22

1958 John Foley, spouse of Kathryn Schmit Foley, Feb. ’24

1959 Jacob Balda ’48, spouse of Rita Anderson Balda, Oct. ’23

Dianne Bormann Mahoney, mother of Mary Beth Mahoney ’82 & Colleen Mahoney ’85, Jan. ’24

1961 Charlotte Kunkel Klose, Nov. ’23

Mar y Lynn Werner Payn, July ’22

1962 Nancy Koenig Haag, Oct. ’23

Robert Praus ’62, spouse of Sally Hackenmueller Praus, Dec. ’23

Susan Dirkswager Quispe, Oct. ’23

1962 William Wallenta ’58, spouse of Judith McCarty Wallenta, father of Jill Wallenta Risteau ’93, Nov. ’23

1963 Rita Budig, OSB, Dec. ’23

Rita Phillips Waletski, Nov. ’23

1964 Virgil Voigt, spouse of Kay Kruger Voigt, Dec. ’23

1966 Bion McNulty, spouse of Anita Wertish McNulty, father of Maureen McNulty Stoesz ’95, July ’23

1967 Eileen Edmunds Fider, Jan. ’24

Telan Hu, OSB, Dec. ’23

1968 Owen Lindblad, OSB, Nov. ’23

Theresa Lodermeier, OSB, Oct. ’23

1971 Richard Lemberger, spouse of Jeanne Hensel Lemberger, Dec. ’23

Tanya Reyerson Shorter, Dec. ’23

1972 Susan Fasnacht, Nov. ’23

Donna Koeller, Nov. ’23

1973 James Mancini, son of Elizabeth Nystrom, Jan. ’24

Loretta Domino, mother of Kathleen Domino Ohman, Jan. ’24

1974 Cynthia Loehr Jameson, Nov. ’23

Carolyn Law, OSF, Dec. ’23

1975 Dorothy Dietman, mother of Linda Dietman Arnold, Jan. ’24

Spring 2024 | 31
’15 2015

1975 Dolores Stolpman, mother of Jean Stolpman Carlson, Jan. ’24

Darlene Beaudr y McDonald, Jan. ’24

1976 Kelly Bitzan Zittlow, daughter of Eileen Bitzan, Dec. ’23

Michael Rieland, spouse of Mary Sullivan Rieland, father of Meghan Rieland Brown ’06, Nov. ’23

1977 Ann Pribyl Mattson, Dec. ’23

Margaret Relf, mother of Catherine Relf & Margaret Relf Prentice ’80, Nov. ’23

Sharon Woods Smith, Nov. ’23

1978 Mary Torborg, mother of Barbara Torborg Melsen, Karen Torborg Morris ’83 & Lynn Torborg Rothstein ’88, Jan. ’24

1979 Matthew Michaletz ’10, son of Gail Angulski Michaletz, Oct. ’23

1980 Marjorie Canning, mother of Patricia Canning Crane & Colleen Canning ’82, Dec. ’23

Kevin Gannon, spouse of Diane Hall Gannon, father of Natalie Gannon Peterson ’15, Nov. ’23

Patricia Gray, mother of Gretchen Gray Larson, Oct. ’23

John Roeder, father of Tracy Roeder, Marcia Roeder ’84 & Janet Roeder ’88, July ’23

1980 Sandra Kartheiser, mother of Karen Kartheiser Schaaf & Kathleen Kartheiser-Paal ’81, Oct. ’23

1981 William Miller, spouse of Debora Huff Miller, March ’23

Mar y Catherine Tadich, mother of Mary Tadich, Jan. ’24

1982 Arnold Rohe, father of MaryJane Rohe Kalina, Sara Rohe King ’85 & Anne Rohe Holmberg ’99, Nov. ’23

James Meyer, father of Camille Meyer, Oct. ’23

1983 Shirley Esoph, mother of Michelle Esoph, Nov. ’23

Suzanne Beal Hauer, Dec. ’23

Evelyn Stapf Lorenz, Sept. ’23

Jane Jaeger, mother of Sarah Jaeger Youngblood & Amy Jaeger Clancy ’85, Oct. ’23

1984 Rick Pilon, father of Ann Pilon McGarry & Laura Pilon Muetzel ’12, Dec. ’23

James Vogel, father of Joan Vogel Skluzacek, Jan. ’24

1985 Aurelia Kohorst, mother of Therese Kohorst Ghyzel, Oct. ’23

1986 John Wolfe, father of Teresa Wolfe Bird, Nov. ’23

1986 MaryAnn Deziel, mother of Teresa Deziel Boser, Nov. ’23

Jeri Wischmann, mother of Ann Wischmann Glasoe, Nov. ’23

Dennis Lanz, father of Lynn Lanz Talen, Nov. ’23

1987 Joseph Buermann, father of Kimberly Buermann Krutchen & Kristy Buermann Heying ’90, Dec. ’23

Mar y Krause, mother of Sharon Krause Puchalski, Aug. ’23

John Swenson, father of Susan Swenson, Jan. ’24

1988 Mary Karppi Cyr, mother of Olivia Cyr Fitzpatrick ’15, Nov. ’23

Janet Roeder, Oct. ’23

Carol Stahlke, mother of Shelly Stahlke, Nov. ’23

Warren Warmka, father of Shelly Warmka Viskocil, Nov. ’23

1989 Jack Loso, son of Patricia Palmquist Loso, Dec. ’23

1990 Mary Gray, mother of Shannon Gray Beskar, Dec. ’23

Janice Roering, mother of Amy Roering, Dec. ’23

Mar vin Cook, father of Margaret (Anne) Cook Walker, Jan. ’24

Establishing a named annual scholarship at Saint Ben’s lets you impact the life of a Bennie.

• Name yours in honor of someone who inspires you.

• Set general criteria for the students you want to support.

• Get started for as little as $2,500/year for a three-year commitment.

Learn more about named annual scholarships today from Interim Executive Director of Major and Planned Gifts Tara Maas Tessmer ’14 at or 320-363-5078.

32 | College of Saint Benedict Magazine

1991 Gerald Schlichting, father of Kimberly Schlichting Butler, Nov. ’23

Bernard DeLaRosa ’84, spouse of Catherine Condon DeLaRosa, Dec. ’23

Michael Drake ’68, father of Rachael Drake Hedquist, Nov. ’23

Judy Seleski, mother of Jill Seleski Miller, Jan. ’24

Eleanor Kegley, mother of Janice Kegley Sieg, Dec. ’23

1992 Willard Bauer, father of LeAnn BauerStaiger, Nov. ’23

Carol Kjesbo, mother Melissa Kjesbo Duffy, Oct. ’23

Linda Huston, mother of Robin Huston, Sept. ’23

Lois Mazanec, mother of Michele Mazanec, Dec. ’23

Jean Short, mother of Terri McCargar, Jan. ’24

1993 Patricia Gardner, mother of Jennifer Broin Beutz, Nov. ’23

Richard Lindmark, father of Jennifer Lindmark Callahan, Nov. ’23

Patricia Oberstar Chamberlin, Dec. ’23

Joseph Riordan, father of Erin Riordan Edwards, Jan. ’24

19 93 Kathleen Kline, mother of Deborah Kline Nolan, Dec. ’23

Gladys Tupy, mother of Cynthia Tupy, Nov. ’23

1994 Nicholas Anders, son of Scarlett Sepulvado Anderson, April ’23

Roderick Lee, father of Kathleen Lee, Dec. ’23

David Fleming, father of Meredith Fleming Shanahan, Oct. ’23

1995 Eldora Sheldon, mother of Tricia Sheldon Dalton, Nov. ’23

John Hungelmann, father of Angela Hungelmann, Nov. ’23

Thomas Lahn, father of Molly Lahn, April ’23

Loren Jilek, father of Renee Jilek Lehman, Sept. ’21

Karla Pallansch, mother of Bethany Bierscheid ’21, Nov. ’23

1997 John Borgert, father of Nicole Borgert & Jessica Borgert Rhodes ’02, Oct. ’23

1998 Mary Ann Clark, mother of Amanda Peloquin LaCasse, May ’23

1999 Susan Shawley, mother of Robin Koopmeiners Kremer, Jan. ’24

Carol Wolney, mother of Jessica Pavia Wolney, Jan. ’24

2000 Joseph Sweeney, father of Kelly Sweeney Schwartzbauer, Dec. ’23

David Zamjahn, father of Christine Zamjahn Ziegler, Jan. ’24

2004 Ken Krtnick, father of Angela Krtnick Complin, Nov. ’23

Mar y Heitzman, mother of Janelle Heitzman Loehlein, Dec. ’23

2005 Sharon Braegelmann, mother of Corinne Braegelmann Dawson & Carley Braegelmann Castellanos ’11, Dec. ’23

Randy Petterssen, father of Melissa Petterssen Kaiser & Elizabeth Petterssen Renstrom ’12, Oct. ’23

2006 Lindsay Krieg Block, Nov. ’23

2007 Lawrence Scherer, father of Jessica Scherer, Dec. ’23

2010 Amy Suek Wivell, Nov. ’23

2012 Sandra Schommer, daughter of Martha Strabala Schommer ’85, Jan. ’24

2014 Thomas Gorman, father of Graci Gorman & Sophi Gorman ’17, Nov. ’23

2016 Gregory Hansmann, father of Michelle Hansmann, Nov. ’23

2021 Rick Wensman, father of Courtney Wensman, Nov. ’23

2022 Pamela Wolf, mother of Megan Wolf, Dec. ’23

Young Alumnae President’s Circle

The Young Alumnae President’s Circle is a collaborative community of women who show their impact by sharing consistently.

Becoming a member has never been easier or more inviting for young alumnae! It’s a clear and affordable path to leadership giving. Take the next step and visit to discover how easy it is to empower the women who follow in your footsteps.

Your gifts make a big impact!

Come see the new circle!

Spring 2024 | 33 CLASS NOTES

1 Gina Koshiol Bartell ’95 hosted a meeting with Elise Sande ’24 (a current student mentee) and Haley Hubbard ’21 (her recent graduate mentee). The Bennie Mentor program is a great way to make employment connections, have great conversations and learn about new experiences and opportunities.

2 Sami Noble Decker hosted some Bennie friends from the class of 2010 at the lake and invited neighbor, Barbara Brandes (CSB and SJU Common Board member) to join them. Front row (L to R): Alissa Burg Gunderson, Theresa Kerr McCombs, Alex Tansom Stanton, Sami Noble Decker, Erin Herberg Sinner and Molly Bray Yunek. Back row (L to R): Barb Brandes, Sarah Hund Solberg, Alison Schallock Stefonowicz, Erin Moore Smith, Emily Plunkett, Callie Harp Koehler and Catherine Webber.

3 The Class of ’90 (and a few others) turned up to provide alum support to the CSB Basketball team, Feb. ’24. Left to right: Nikki Denne Gross, Jennifer Schreiner Ridgeway, Betsy Olson, Julie Mayers Benson, Brenda Thurmes, Megan Morgan ’26, Rita Miller, Jean Skluzacek Noack, John Noack, Therese Van Tol Shreve and Dayna Rethlake ’91.

4 The Women in Leadership Institute, hosted by Credo and the American Association of Colleges & Universities, in Greensboro, North Carolina, was well represented by higher education leaders Kaitlyn Ludlow-Broback ’17, Barbara Edwards Farley ’81 and Kathryn Enger Enke ’05, Nov. ’23.

5 The Rochester (Minnesota) chapter of the CSB and SJU alum associations hosted a service event at Channel One Regional Food Bank, Nov. ’23. Front row (L to R): Martha Byron Buntrock ’91, Angie Pearson Sandersen ’85, Ellen Newkirk ’13, Dennis Schreiber ’73, Danielle Anshus and Mark Reider. Back row (L to R): John Archbold ’85, Scott Torborg ’96, Jim Sandersen, Amy Donahoe-Anshus ’81, Mary Machulda ’86, Mike Rysavy ’99, Lisa Brewers Walther ’81 and Karen Twohey Sheehan ’84. 5 2 1 4 3

34 | College of Saint Benedict Magazine BENNIE CONNECTION

6 Megan Schroeder ’19 married John Fink ’19 and they were joined by numerous Bennie and Johnnie friends, May ’23.

7 Formed in 2005 as a book club, this group has met continually for almost 19 years. Front row (L to R): Kristin Klinkhammer Gourde ’02, Katie Vandendriessche Cass ’02 and Brianna Royle Kopka. Back row (L to R): Briana Stanek Little ’02, Becca Miller Nelson ’02, Solena Vogel Fleming ’02, Krista Anderson Schlegel ’02 and Jana Viramontes Gaffaney ’02.

8 Sophie Kem ’13 and Ellen Newkirk ’13 got to catch up at a CSB and SJU Alum Pickleball Tournament in Minneapolis, Feb. ’24.

9 Approximately 65 people, all with CSB and SJU connections, attended the Mingling and Music event at St. Olaf Catholic Church in Minneapolis, Feb. ’24. 8 9 7

Spring 2024 | 35 BENNIE CONNECTION
Your words have POWER Give your support to help them make a CSB and SJU experience affordable while you help us fill our campuses with talented, ambitious students who can make our community stronger. We’re
on you to help us recruit an amazing group of new students
Referral Scholarship in play, those students are counting on you, too.
Think about the students in your life, then visit today and get started. ALUM REFERRAL SCHOLARSHIP
… and, with the Alum
The Alum Referral Scholarship is a $1,000 scholarship (renewable for four years, totaling $4,000) available to deserving prospective Bennies and Johnnies. And all it takes to qualify is your recommendation.

Respect for the past and gifts for the future –United

“Having a sense of community and purpose and being able to give back have always been important to me,” says Gretchen Adelmann Korf ’00. “This was really amplified during my time at Saint Ben’s.”

Gretchen came to Saint Ben’s from Farmington, Minnesota, with the help of scholarships she received. That generosity triggered a strong sense of responsibility in her to pay things forward. But the community she discovered during her time at Saint Ben’s shaped that into something more.

“It does all point back to those Benedictine values,” she says. “The concept of serving others. I think that’s so important, and it was something that was really stressed during my time (at CSB).”

She graduated with a degree in accounting and spent six years at Ernst & Young. “I always assumed I would one day find a role with a nonprofit where I could use my financial expertise. Then the opportunity with (UnitedHealth

Group) came up and that role focused on community engagement and impact.”

That opportunity led to 14 years at UnitedHealth Group, working primarily in corporate affairs and philanthropy. In 2022, she got the chance to join the Minnesota United Football Club of Major League Soccer as the team’s chief financial officer. Last November, her role was expanded to executive vice president, chief administrative officer and chief financial officer, as she now has oversight responsibilities for human resources and IT.

“Now I have some of the same opportunities (for community impact and engagement) with Minnesota United. Go to Allianz Field on any given game day and you’ll see how we engage with the community and our fans.”

Now I have some of the same opportunities (for community impact and engagement) with Minnesota United. Go to Allianz Field on any given game day and you’ll see how we engage with the community and our fans.”

She’s right. A match day at Allianz Field has a distinct, inclusive, welcoming feel (well, except perhaps for opposing players) that could almost be described as Benedictine. Gretchen’s excited to contribute to that.

She’s also excited to contribute toward scholarships at Saint Ben’s. She always has been.

“It was important for me to give back to CSB right after graduation, as I received scholarships to attend as a student,” she recalls. “At that time, I wasn’t able to give much, but giving a little was better than nothing. One way we were able to maximize our giving was to utilize my employer’s matching gifts program. I was able to double the impact to CSB.”

As her career has progressed, Gretchen’s ability to give increased. And scholarships at Saint Ben’s have remained important to her. “Education has been a philanthropic priority for us. And based on the impact Saint Ben’s has had on me, keeping CSB at the top of our list has been key.”

As a chief financial officer, Gretchen has a keen eye for a sound investment. And Saint Ben’s has always been that for her. “The opportunities provided to students while on campus are diverse: Bennie athletics, the Saint Ben’s Senate, arts and culture programs, service projects, study abroad, clubs, internship opportunities, etc. There’s also the small class sizes and the access to faculty that are critical to student success. All these opportunities provide greater impact for the students. And that means a strong return on my investment.”

You can learn more about leadership giving toward scholarships at the College of Saint Benedict by contacting Tara Maas Tessmer, Interim Executive Director of Major and Planned Gifts, at or 320-363-5078.

Spring 2024 | 37
56374 CHANGE SERVICE REQUESTED NONPROFIT ORG U.S. POSTAGE PAID TWIN CITIES, MN PERMIT NO. 93723 YOUR TIME IS COMING JUNE 21-23 CLASSES ENDING IN 4 AND 9 DON’T MISS YOUR SHOT! Your class reunion will be here soon. Mark your calendar and plan to reconnect with Bennie and Johnnie classmates and enjoy the campuses in the summer. Learn more and register today at COLLEGE OF SAINT BENEDICT | SAINT JOHN’S UNIVERSITY 2024
South College Avenue
Joseph, MN

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