Sue Fangel M’09, ’19 knows Saint Mary’s from pretty much every angle: graduate student, nontraditional undergraduate student, undergraduate parent, and alumna. And now she’s using her knowledge — and her vast career experiences in nursing administration — to prepare Saint Mary’s for the students of tomorrow.
Her introduction to Saint Mary’s came while her eldest son, James ’08, was enrolled as an undergraduate on the Winona Campus. At 48, she decided to enroll in the university’s M.A. in Health and Human Service Administration program at the Twin Cities Campus and fulfill a long-standing educational dream.
Deciding on Saint Mary’s started with a web search. “Saint Mary’s was more affordable, convenient, and it resonated with me when I looked at the curriculum,” she said. “It was geared toward what I was looking for, and had a broad spectrum of classes.”
She admits that going back to school again, after 14 years away from the classroom, wasn’t always easy.
“I’ll be honest, my first class was a communication class,” she said. “And if not for that professor, I don’t know if I would have stuck it out. She told me, ‘Don’t worry about it; your experiences in life are going to carry you through this whole program. I’ll teach you how to write’, and she did, and I enjoyed it. I really liked the diversity of the program and the diversity of students in my classes. It was interesting to work and get perspective from social workers, other nurses, and law enforcement.”
Ten years later, when she was 58, Fangel was told a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree was a requirement of her position as VP chief nursing officer for Saint John’s and St. Joseph’s hospitals in the Twin Cities.
Again, she turned to Saint Mary’s. “I thought, ‘Why would I even doubt where I’m going to go?’ I began the online RN to BSN program the spring of 2018 and did the full program in three semesters.”
She recalls it was an “enlightening” experience. “It’s a good program, and it’s very doable,” she said, adding that she promotes the program within her organization and was honored to serve on the RN to BSN advisory board.
Her eldest son James graduated from Saint Mary’s in 2008 and her second son Andrew graduated in 2011, both in biology. “They had great experiences and they received a great education,” she said. “They were really set up well. James loved taking genetics from Dr. Dick Kowles M’67, and Dr. Jeanne Minnerath was very instrumental in helping James find his career direction in cytogenetics at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.”
Andrew also started his career at Mayo Clinic and now works at Minneapolis Children’s Hospital as a lab safety and education specialist.
Both James and Andrew met their wives at Saint Mary’s. James’ wife Sophie (Harrison) ’13 studied psychology and currently works for Mayo Clinic, and Andrew’s wife Abby (Lough) ’13 studied education and works for the South Saint Paul School District.
With Sue’s encouragement, James, Andrew, and Sophie followed in her footsteps and also graduated from Saint Mary’s M.A. in Health and Human Service Administration program.
“Saint Mary’s became part of our landscape,” she said.
So when Fangel was asked to be part of the Nursing Advisory Board as Saint Mary’s initiates a B.S. in Nursing program on the Winona Campus this fall, she agreed and is bringing a wealth of career knowledge with her.
As the VP chief nursing officer, she oversees all nursing operations at two hospitals. “All nursing directors and managers report to me, from a gamut of nursing units from the emergency room to maternity to the NICU,” she said. “A lot of my focus is on finance, customer experience, employee engagement, and well being, quality, and patient safety.”
While her job entails everything from inspections, to meeting the changing demographics of her patients, she said everything she does revolves around ensuring the hospitals are providing safe, high quality, and compassionate care to their patients.
Her main goal for Saint Mary’s pending nursing program is, in a nutshell, that it’s successful. “I saw the curriculum, and it’s so exciting that there’ll be another nursing program in the state,” she said. “I love that students can have the whole college experience and be on campus, and that they will be enrolled in the nursing program right away their first year. Saint Mary’s will develop ethically strong and well educated nurses who will come and work in our communities. There’s always a need, particularly in rural healthcare.”
And, as a new member of the Board of Regents, the advisory board of the Schools of Graduate and Professional Programs, she’ll extend her advisory role. “I hope Saint Mary’s will continue to build and grow,” she said. “The university is adding several programs, which is exciting, especially some bachelor’s completion programs. There are a lot of unconventional learners, like I was, out there,” she said.
“This is how I can give back to the university that has given me the opportunity to do the job I’m doing — in the position that I’m in — and for what my sons and their wives have gained in their careers and their lives. It’s just a blessing.” •