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Campus Connection

An update from the president to alumni and parents

Reindorf advocates for racial equality and inclusion

Reindorf advocates for racial equality and inclusion

When faced with adversity, Roberta Reindorf B’14, M’23 finds strength in the quotes she hangs on her office walls — quotes from African American role models like Michelle Obama, who once said, “You can’t make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.”

Or Michael Jordan, who said, “I failed over and over and over again, which is why I succeeded.”

As an immigrant, Reindorf has overcome numerous obstacles in her educational journey, and along the way, she’s suffered great personal loss, but — inspired by her faith, her family, a desire to help others, and the help she received from Saint Mary’s University, she persevered.

In June 2023, she earned her latest degree from Saint Mary’s, a master’s in Counseling and Psychological Services. She also has a bachelor’s in Human Resource Management. Now, she says, she’s considering a doctorate.

A native of West Africa, her family moved to London when she was a teenager, and then as a young adult she immigrated to the United States to further pursue her education … in vascular surgery.

Looking back, she said, she didn’t understand all the steps that would need to occur before she could even begin her studies in a new country, one with a very different educational system. And, she needed to uncover her true calling in life.

She also focused on family. She met her husband, a U.S. citizen, and they raised two children.

It was her father-in-law, who was a clergyman in downtown Minneapolis, who persuaded her to investigate Saint Mary’s, knowing she had been looking for a place where she would feel like she belonged. After learning how many immigrants were successfully studying at Saint Mary’s — and learning more about its affordability in comparison to other schools — she applied. “It became a second home for me,” she said.

In her June commencement speech, she said, “After many difficulties in transferring my previous educational background … Saint Mary’s worked with me to find a pathway forward.”

She also detailed the pain of losing her mother and her sister while enrolled and described how then program director Mary Louise Wise advised her to take time off to grieve and focus on her mental health.

But, just as she was returning to her courses, COVID-19 struck, throwing obstacles in the path of education around the globe. And, with one final blow, in 2021, just after returning to her studies again, her husband died.

“I decided to advocate for myself, so I persevered,” Reindorf told the June Saint Mary’s Minneapolis commencement audience. “I began to see the big picture of what got me on this journey in the first place. (Program director) Dr. Lindsey Tiegland … in her warm, beautiful voice said to me, ‘You can do it. You are capable of completing it. Yes, you can do this.’ ”

Reindorf is now using her education, her skills, and her background to make a difference in the world. She is currently a children’s mental health practitioner for Ramsey County, serves on the Race Equality Advisory Council of Hennepin County, and runs a television interview show — all of which have provided her an opportunity to advocate for racial equality and inclusion in Minneapolis.

“I see lots of immigrants struggling to transition and navigate the American system, trying to get an education,” she said. “I see a gap, where I am able to use my background and skills, and I’m just getting started on advocating for policies that continue to improve services in our communities.

“I go in with a lens of inclusivity,” she added, “making sure we understand that demographics are changing.”

In her work with the Race Equality Advisory Council, she conducts research, which may find its way into policy change. “I want to make sure children have access to mental health services but also equitable mental health services,” she said. “There are so many educational and mental health inequities. I present my findings to the commission and to the board, which is then presented to the Hennepin County Commissioners,” she said.

Guests on her show, “The Roberta Reindorf Show,” featured on Northwest Community Television Channel 12 (now CCXMedia), are frequently those in political office. “It’s also a platform to shape policies,” she said. “I have interviewed lawmakers, senators, representatives, from both parties, including the minority speaker of the House, whom I interviewed on mental health policies and gun violence,” she said.

Where she sees problems, Reindorf wants to be a conduit of change.

“I have not yet accomplished what I want to do,” she said. If given the opportunity, I’m going to make a big impact on the lives of Blacks, immigrants, or others who have come to the United States and wonder, ‘Where do I go from here?’ ”

Juggling multiple balls

Juggling multiple balls

Soccer coach McGill finds work, home-life balance

Sheila (Hannon) McGill B’97 has coached women’s soccer for the University of St. Thomas for 17 years.

She’s also the mom of five.

The fact that she’s been able to do both roles, simultaneously and successfully, is a point of pride.

“Those combinations don’t happen,” she said. “The biggest thing is that longevity. I’m doing something not a lot of women who are mothers, especially with five children, are able to do and be successful in a predominantly male world. Glass ceilings are there for women, and they’re hard to get through. I’ve had the benefit of having supportive people in my life.”

McGill first credits her family, including her husband, who, she admits with a laugh, has become a really good cook during her fall season. She also credits her children, who have been not only forgiving, but also supportive.

“There have been times during the season that I’ve felt like I was letting my family down, but my kids actually lift me up,” she said.

“Be forgiving of yourself,” she said. “Know that no one is superhuman. You can’t always balance it all. You’re going to have to prioritize. My family is my priority, and to me that’s the right priority, but also — it was able to be done. It comes down to your support system. And that also has to do with your business. Do you have the support there too?”

For example, McGill said her youngest “happy surprise” child was born a week before the start of that soccer season, back before maternity leave.

Nervously, she went to the athletic director and said, “I need to have a talk with you.” “(After I told him), he leaned back and said, ‘Oh thank God, I thought you were quitting!’ It was the best response he could have given me.”

Yet again, she said, with the help of her support team, she navigated taking care of a newborn while coaching. Her husband diligently brought the baby back and forth to practices so she could nurse on schedule.

“Having that support is key,” she said. “It’s about getting more people on board to support women in trying to be a mother and a successful woman in their fields.”

McGill knows that in addition to teaching her athletes competitive skills, she’s also teaching them leadership skills they’ll need throughout their future.

“They’re all going to be successful career women outside of soccer,” she said. “I try to show them how to have a difficult conversation with someone without getting too emotional or working backwards. How can we be problem solvers moving forward? Some of my former players, now working at Drake Medical and Medtronic, for example, have reached back and said things like, ‘You really helped me successfully navigate this world.’ ”

There are challenges, McGill admits, to being a woman in leadership who works with women.

“They want you to be their best friend, their confidant, a little bit their mom too, as well as a professional making difficult decisions,” she said. “You have to have a thick skin, and you have to be able to let things roll off your back. Keep the picture you are trying to achieve in front of you. And try to be a positive person who keeps things moving in the same direction with that target in mind. I love surrounding myself with other strong women who are collaborative with me, women who have the same values and vision.”

McGill used these skills as she transitioned from Division III to Division I in 2021. “I think it’s about keeping a positive mentality. If you act or seem scared, a team can feel that coming off of a coach,” she said. “We had team meetings and talked about Division III upperclassmen working with Division I underclassmen. We talked about the type of people they wanted to be and the legacy they would want to leave. They already had the knowledge they needed. They knew how to play college soccer.”

For example, she says proudly, “Our last season before we left Division III, we were one penalty kick shootout away from the Final 4.”

Beyond this exciting season, McGill has acquired a number of accolades during her career. She coached her 300th game at St. Thomas early this season, which was her 25th in college soccer as a player, assistant or head coach. She has the longest tenure at her school of the nine Summit League women’s soccer head coaches.

A former MIAC soccer player at Saint Mary’s from 1993-97, McGill was an assistant coach at St. Catherine University from 2003-06. She also coached at Cretin-Derham Hall High School, White Bear Lake’s youth soccer program, and for U.S. Youth Soccer National League Region II and the State of Minnesota in the Olympic Development Program. She’s been named MIAC Coach of the Year in 2008, 2018, and 2019.

She tells young women hoping to coach at a Division I level, “Get your license and be the one who is qualified, get experience, find yourself a good mentor. Get that experience, even if it means volunteering at first, and don’t be afraid of feedback. We all get feedback and the claws come out, and then you retract the claws, and take a deep breath, and see if you can find something useful in that feedback, something that can make you a better coach.

“It’s also about self reflection,” she said. “Every time we have successes and failures, we reflect on the ‘whys’. We do a collaborative reflection after every practice and every game. Did we make the right decisions? There are times when the answers are ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ ”

McGill agrees women are often toughest on themselves, and the proof is in the applications she sees. “When I’ve been searching for an assistant coach, I’ve seen men who are completely unqualified but take a chance and apply. But every woman who applies is qualified. They have everything I need on their résumés.”

Gauderman discusses rural healthcare on Saint Mary’s Currents

Gauderman discusses rural healthcare on Saint Mary’s Currents

The recent closure of the labor and delivery unit at Fosston Hospital in northern Minnesota has raised numerous concerns about the healthcare crisis across rural Minnesota and the U.S.

With reports that more than half of the hospitals in the nation are no longer offering maternity care, and with the 2022 Minnesota Department of Health findings showing a severe shortage of health practitioners of all types in our state, we turn to one of our experts at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota to share her perspective on this alarming issue.

In this episode of Saint Mary’s Currents, we sit down with Julie Gauderman, DNAP, associate director of the nurse anesthesia program, and discuss the healthcare crisis’ impact on practitioners, patients, and communities.

Changing the future of education

Changing the future of education

Downwind advocates for marginalized students

Chrissy (Koch) Downwind M’17 admits she doesn’t sugarcoat. “When I introduce myself, I usually include the fact that I don’t have a filter,” she says with a laugh.

So when Downwind is asked how women go about breaking glass ceilings in their workplaces, she simply says, “Walk around with a big hammer.”

Downwind, who is Ojibwa and Lakota, shattered one glass ceiling after she was named vice president for American Indian student success and campus diversity officer for Bemidji State University (BSU) and Northwest Technical College (NTC) in April 2023.

She became the first American Indian woman to hold a vice president position at a four-year university campus for the Minnesota State system of colleges and universities. In her previous role as executive director of the American Indian Resource Center for both BSU and NTC, she was also the first woman to hold that position.

“As a marginalized woman working in a male gender-based role, I’m not quiet,” she says. As an advocate for her students, she can’t be.

Downwind believes she got a lot of her spirit from her father, and the work that she’s doing is a continuation of the legacy he started.

“Through and through, I’m a daddy’s girl,” she said. “Dad lived a pretty rough lifestyle until I was born, and then he decided, when I was in the third grade and he was in his 40s, that he was going to change the trajectory of how life looked for my family and go back to college.”

It wasn’t easy. Downwind said she remembers watching him struggle to raise his family, work full time, and go to school. “I not only watched my dad get his degrees but also start working for St. Cloud State. I watched him pioneer his way through the MNSCU system (at that time) to be the founder for the American Indian Center at St. Cloud State.” Though her father suffered from medical conditions and could not continue his work, a seed was planted in Downwind when she was young to help others.

After she got her bachelor’s degree, she began working in a K-12 setting. “I was making a difference and I loved working with my students,” she said. “My students consisted of high-need traumatized, marginalized students in a public school setting. I connected with them and loved my work.”

She never considered leaving that position and working in higher education. In fact, Downwind said the main reason she came to enroll at Saint Mary’s Master of Arts in Educational Leadership was almost entirely because she was dared by a friend.

“I don’t back out of a challenge,” she said, admitting that 13 years after getting her bachelor’s degree, she wasn’t sure she had made the right decision. Online education was completely new territory.

Yet, Downwind said she received the support she needed to be successful. “The faculty were so open and willing to help,” she said. “I have nothing but love for Saint Mary’s and what it did for me, giving me the energy and the knowledge I needed to continue moving forward. It was so easy and so smooth, and to have that in an institution, especially when you do it online … To this day, I recommend Saint Mary’s. I owe a lot to Saint Mary’s for where I am today.”

It was her cohorts who first suggested she move into higher education. Downwind said she associated higher education with people in suits, speaking academic jargon, and usually uptight.

“I figured, that’s not me,” she said. “And I wasn’t going to change myself to fulfill that narrative.”

But when Downwind felt her current job in public schools was going stagnant, and a position opened at the American Indian Center at BSU, she applied and was hired in July 2019. In her second week, her superior, the executive director of the center resigned, and Downwind instinctively picked up the slack. Because she showed such initiative, she was encouraged by several at BSU to apply for the executive director position.

“I never saw myself in that leadership role,” she said. “I didn’t have that confidence to move forward without a nudge. A lot more people had confidence in me than I did in myself.”

During this same timeframe, BSU was facing a crisis with hate crimes and racial speech. “Our students didn’t feel safe and like their voices weren’t being heard,” she said. “When those students came to me, I saw the despair on their faces. As a marginalized woman, I grew up in a society where I fought all of those things.

“I was an alumna of BSU 20 years ago, and I faced and dealt with the same marginalized oppression and racial discrimination that our students face today,” she said.

In her short tenure, Downwind and her team have grown American Indian enrollment from a low of just over 200 students to 430. Now, they are focused on retention.

She also is running the Nisidotaading (pronounced “nisi-do-tah-ding”) program for the Minnesota State chancellor’s office, housed at BSU. This initiative, named for an Ojibwe phrase which means “having a mutual understanding,” will help to ensure that BSU students across all disciplines graduate with an opportunity to develop an understanding of Indigenous peoples and cultures and the issues they face.

Her goal is to provide culturally fluent professional development and training for faculty and staff, first at BSU and then across the Minnesota State System. “We’re changing the future. I feel like my father’s work has come full circle,” she said.

Downwind is proud that her sons, and now her granddaughter, are seeing their mom and grandmother break barriers. “I don’t want my granddaughter to experience the same issues (as a woman and as an American Indian) that I did,” she said. “Women look at things like a mother, seeing how things are affecting students. As caregivers, it’s inherent. When women empower one another, those ceilings are going to start shattering.”

Photo by Eric Sorenson

Updates to Career Services website

Nearly six years ago, a microsite was built for the university’s Career Services department. Prior to that, the department had a page housed under the school’s main website to showcase its services to students. To show the breadth and depth of what Career Services had to offer, a separate microsite with over 20 pages of helpful content was implemented. Over time, however, resources, content, employers, and internship opportunities would become outdated, making it increasingly difficult to upkeep manually. A strategic move was made to purchase a new platform called uConnect, which is designed for higher education institutions and comes with automated features that save staff a significant amount of time with content upkeep.

Coming in March, Career Services will officially launch its new Virtual Career Center with support of uConnect, which will provide automated feeds for upcoming job, internship, and info session opportunities. uConnect will also display curated blog posts and educational videos to help further equip students. Every piece of content and resource can be filtered by degree level, desired industry, personal affinity, and more. The new website will also come with a robust analytics tool, so activity and overall performance can be tracked and analyzed.

Saint Mary’s community invited to virtual lecture from Dr. Robert Enright

The Saint Mary’s community is invited to take part in a virtual lecture from Dr. Robert Enright titled “Forgiveness as a Virtue: Friend or Foe of Justice” from 12:15 to 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 14.

Enright is the founder of the International Forgiveness Institute and has been called “the forgiveness trailblazer” by Time Magazine. Enright holds the Aristotelian Professorship in Forgiveness Science within the Department of Educational Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a licensed psychologist, and founder of the International Forgiveness Institute.

Enright’s work includes the first scientific study on person-to-person forgiveness and publishing research on forgiveness therapy with his 20-step “Process Model of Forgiving.” In 2022, he received the APF Gold Medal Award for Impact in Psychology, recognized as “psychology’s highest award” by the American Psychological Association.

You can register for the event here. Enright’s lecture is a part of the Cardinal Virtue Lecture Series hosted by Saint Mary’s Office for Character, Virtue, and Ethics.

Higher education in the headlines

Higher education is a field that is constantly changing. With this roundup, we hope to keep you informed about what is going on at universities and colleges around the country:

The dream career that didn’t get away

The dream career that didn’t get away

Maxwell angles for women’s perspective in fishing

Christine Maxwell M’23 works for Northland Fishing Tackle whose tagline is “made by fishermen, for fishermen.”

In her position as CFO and vice president of operations, Maxwell reminds her colleagues that women fish too. And she’s got photos with some impressive catches to prove it.

“All the time people are surprised I’m the CFO. All the time,” she said. “People will come in and ask to speak with a manager, and when I come to the front, they’ll say, ‘I’ve already been helped, thanks, but I’m looking for the manager.’ It’s 2023, but this is a heavily male dominated industry, being in manufacturing and leisure fishing tackle.

“But I’ve worked for the Army and Boeing Company — and all in finance, which is also male dominated, so I’m used to it. It pushes me a little harder,” she said. “I’m good at my job because I’m a problem solver. When you work for a smaller company, you wear a lot of hats. Every day I’m learning something new, doing something different, and I never know what I’ll step into.”

The unpredictability and the challenge is part of why Maxwell loves her job. “No day is the same. I have to triage what’s going on. I’m good at what I do; I think the job fits me well,” she said,

Maxwell had just moved to Bemidji, Minn., about the time COVID-19 hit.

As she began looking to re-enter an office setting, she applied for her position at the Bemidji-based Northland Fishing Tackle. Although she had 15 years of finance and contracted sales experience and a bachelor’s degree in finance, she didn’t have the experience or the degree in accounting she needed.

After being turned down for the position, and after hearing similar feedback during her job search, Maxwell decided to do something about it. She applied to Saint Mary’s M.S. in Accounting program in March of 2021. She shared the news with her recruiter, who notified the CEO of Northland Fishing Tackle.

“He said, ‘Call her back and tell her she’s hired.’ He liked that I was willing to go and get what I needed and wanted,” Maxwell said.

The flexibility of the online program worked with Maxwell’s busy schedule and with starting a new position. She also said — as she was interested in getting her CPA license and had an undergrad degree in finance — Saint Mary’s was one of the few master’s programs that would have qualified for her to sit for the Minnesota exam after earning her master’s degree.

An added bonus: “Things I was learning in class would immediately apply at work or vice versa,” she said. “The things happening in my job were things we were learning about in class. Or, things happening at my work could be brought into classroom conversations. I also liked that it was self paced, and you could study on your own. I could be a CFO, a mother, have a family, have a life, and still go to school. I enjoyed learning from other students and their experiences as well.”

Maxwell said she’s grateful to work for a smaller family-oriented business that values its employees, men and women. “I’m fortunate to work at a place where if my child is sick, they’d tell me to go take care of my family, but they would treat a male counterpart the same way. It’s not only because I’m the mom.”

Northland was started in 1975 by John Peterson, who remains a part owner, and his family works in the business — which, headquartered in Bemidji, sells nationwide, particularly in the Midwest.

“We make all kinds of fishing tackle and accessories for the northern fishermen, people who specialize in walleye, pike, panfish, and bass. We’ve come a long way in marketing, sales, and ERP systems in the past 50 years,” she said.

While she admits she didn’t know much about fishing when she first started working for Northland, now she said, she’s out on the water a lot, year round. “Everyone here fishes and is passionate about it, and it’s hard not to when you work with professionals; you get all the inside information,” she said.

Although Maxwell is only one of three women at her company and the only one in management, she said she feels respected.

“I don’t think a woman should be intimidated by a job that’s traditionally in a male dominated field just because everyone else they see is male,” she said. “Women can do anything a man can do and vice versa.

“Women, we put it on ourselves too,” she adds. “We don’t always treat ourselves the way we treat our male counterparts. We don’t give ourselves the same grace as we give men.”

Maxwell believes women have to continue pushing themselves. “We can’t sit back and wait for it to happen,” she said. “As the only female on the management team, I use my voice to bring diversity to the team, and that’s important. Although the majority of our customers are men, that is changing. More and more women are wanting to become anglers. What would women like? Do we make clothing in sizes and styles for women? And when we’re promoting, who does the shopping in most households for Christmas and birthdays? If we are only marketing toward men, we’re going to miss out on the population that does gifting. To escape that male-centered mentality has been helpful.”

Always remembering where she came from

Always remembering where she came from

Witt builds relationships as Hennepin County sheriff

For a significant portion of her young life, Hennepin County Sheriff Dawanna Witt B’07, M’13 only associated negative feelings with police officers.

“With my childhood and the challenges we had, I did not like, nor trust, law enforcement. There were bad experiences witnessed in my family,” she said.

As sheriff of the largest sheriff’s office in the State of Minnesota since January 2023, one of Witt’s goals is to build relationships between law enforcement and those they serve — to be, as she says, the person her family, her community, and her county needs to see … to be the person she as a young woman needed to see.

Despite her efforts, sometimes people haven’t been receptive to her efforts, particularly following the pain and unrest of the murder of George Floyd.

“I have to be honest. During this time I was called some of the worst names,” she said, shaking her head. “I’ve never cried so much in my life. I felt the anger, and I felt their pain but what hurt me the most was — oh my goodness — all I wanted to be was the person that my family, my community, needed to see. For a short time I felt like I’d wasted my life in this career. It was really difficult getting through that. But something inside me said, ‘You’ve got to get up and keep talking to people.’ I didn’t hide in my office. I had to toughen up and take it. I talked to people even if they didn’t want me there, trying to build those relationships.

“I understand the hurt and the anger. I’m not forgetting where I came from. I’m leading from the front in that way.”

Witt’s desire to help others started as a young child living in Minneapolis.

“I had a difficult childhood and was one of five kids,” she said. “I was taking care of my siblings and trying to protect them from all the bad things going on around us. I had a daughter at 15. I left home as a teen and lived on my own, raising her, going to school, playing basketball, and working two jobs.”

She says one of the best things that ever happened to her was receiving a Justice Alan Page Scholarship. Part of the scholarship included a two-year volunteer commitment. Witt chose to work with kids, mostly young girls, from a diverse community, who had never played organized sports. She taught them how to play basketball and softball, and that two-year commitment joyfully grew to 10.

“I feel like I was paid because it made me happy watching them grow and being a part of their lives. It filled my heart,” she said.

In college, she studied chemical dependency and family therapy and continued on a path of service by working in the nonprofit field.

She had a friend who was a juvenile probation officer, and while taking a tour of the Hennepin County Jail, she learned they were looking for female detention deputies, specifically women of color.

“I had never considered that because of my feelings about police officers,” she said. “I thought, ‘This isn’t the same as a police officer, so I can do this job.’ ” As she took on the role of detention deputy in 2000, she began to have more interaction with police officers.

“That was the only thing that could break down those barriers,” she said. “I needed that communication and interaction so I could see for myself that they weren’t what I thought.”

Witt began to see how she could advance her career in law enforcement and returned to school to be a licensed peace officer. In 2004, she was hired by the Dakota County Sheriff’s office, where she had a wide range of roles for the next 16 years, working her way up to captain — the first woman captain to serve Dakota County.

When Witt left Dakota County and returned to Hennepin County, she said she sat down with every woman she had worked with in the department. “I asked, ‘Who is going to be next?’ We have to represent. What is the resistance about women wanting to take on those responsibilities? You can’t be what you can’t see. And we are always trying to recruit more women.

“Women bring a different skill set to this position,” she added. “We know women have demonstrated less use of force in de-escalating intense situations. But also, we police women. And I believe we should be reflective of the community we police. We bring our experience and our lenses to situations just because of our gender alone. We may have some similar types of experiences where we can relate. I am a mom, I’m a grandma. I feel like I can draw on my experiences to de-escalate another mother.”

As Witt’s career was growing, she found Saint Mary’s and earned a bachelor’s degree in Police Science in 2007, and master’s degrees in Public Safety Administration and Human Resources, both in 2013.

She credits B.S. in Criminal Justice Leadership program director Don Winger with her graduate career: “I was so blessed that we crossed paths,” she said. “I questioned, ‘Can I do this?’ I wasn’t so sure. He inspired me. The way he interacts with students isn’t just a transaction or just a job; he connects with the people he encounters. He’s an asset to Saint Mary’s.”

Witt said she also enjoyed being in classes with people in the same type of profession. “That helped a lot,” she said. “With all of the struggles law enforcement is going through right now, we were all facing the same challenges and limitations and learned from one another. And I appreciated the flexibility Saint Mary’s offered, knowing we all have full-time careers. We need to be creative to continue producing our next generation of professionals and that’s something Saint Mary’s did. I am forever sold on Saint Mary’s.”

In 2019, Witt returned to Hennepin County to oversee two of the largest divisions, court security and adult detention.

In her role, she oversaw court security for two of the most high-profile trials in modern history, Derek Chauvin and Kim Potter. She also dealt successfully with the pandemic in Minnesota’s largest jail, leading the development of new protocols to help limit institutional and community spread of COVID-19.

She faced protesting, national attention, and a pandemic; she jokes that her timing has never been good.

But the timing was right in January 2023 for her to take on her newest role as Hennepin County sheriff, becoming not only the first woman in the position but also the first woman of color.

“It means a lot to me (to have broken that barrier),” she said, recounting the recent story of how a young Black girl, about the age of 7, looked up at her (in uniform) and wanted a hug. This is the change Witt is working so hard to see.

“You can’t be what you can’t see,” she adds. “They need to see women in this male-dominated field and women who look like me to know they can look like this too.”

She tells young women, particularly women of color, looking for a career in law enforcement, “Don’t get stuck.”

“We were meant and built to get around obstacles,” she said. “Many times I thought, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ I used to tell people that me getting into this field was an accident, because I just kept putting one foot in front of another. But God knew what he was doing all the time. He just forgot to tell me about it. I tell that to every woman, every person of color. Obstacles can be hard but they can also help build character. Just don’t stay stuck.”

Throughout her career, Witt said, although it may sound cliché, she is most proud of the fact she has stayed true to herself. “I remember where I came from. I use those things to make sure I’m always doing my best to be who people need me to be,” she said. ”I find great joy in just keeping people safe and making people happy. I have one of the best jobs in the world because I can leave every day and say I helped someone.”

Photos by
Edgar Linares

Father James P. Burns

The Rev. James P. Burns, IVD, Ph.D.
President
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

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Email: chahn@smumn.edu

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