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Campus Connection

An update from the president to alumni and parents

Schroeder plans to support those with addictions and their families

Schroeder plans to support those with addictions and their families

Kim Schroeder admits she was nervous about going back to school to complete her bachelor’s degree.

I hadn’t taken a class for 20 years, and I had never done an online class, so I was really nervous about that,” she said. “I’m learning the content but also how to learn again, how to do school again, how to upload a Google doc, so there was a learning curve, but it came so quickly. There were so many resources available. You guys give us access to everything we need. 

“I quickly learned it was going to be doable,” she added. “Every instructor has been just easy to work with, very helpful and understanding.”

She chose Saint Mary’s because the curriculum and process seemed the most streamlined, the website was easy to understand, and faculty and staff were responsive. 

Schroeder chose the B.S. in Applied Psychology program because she has an interest in eventually getting her master’s degree and creating a support or recovery coaching support program for those with addictions and their families.

“My husband is in recovery and I’m walking alongside him,” she said. “In the last 3½ years, I have learned so much about mental health and learned and healed from the family I grew up in,” she said. “This whole new world was opened up as I’ve learned about the disease of addiction which fascinates me.”

Schroeder said she had gotten a mental health coach certification and took a short course through Stanford and was thinking about the next step. Then, she said her husband asked her what she would do if obligations and money were not an obstacle.

She responded, “I would get my degree.” And he said, “You just need to do it then.”

Finishing her bachelor’s degree was something Schroeder had considered for a while but with three adolescent boys — active in sports and extracurriculars  — timing hadn’t felt right. But she knew having a bachelor’s degree opens the doors to more employment options. “Even before I became interested in addiction, when I worked in the medical field, I would look at supervisor positions, but think, ‘Oh, but I don’t have a bachelor’s degree.’ ” 

She found the online courses made it more doable. While most adult students talk about going night school, Schroeder said that wouldn’t have worked for her. “I have time during the day, because my kids are at school most of the time, and that’s when my window is,” she said. “And to not have to log into a Zoom at a certain time, to be able to do it on my own schedule worked well.”

Schroeder was surprised that even with online courses that she has gotten to know several other adult learners. “I feel more connected than I would have imagined,” she said, adding that she and other students sometimes text each other or connect online.

She also didn’t know if she would be learning alongside all 20-year-olds, fresh from high school. “There are some younger than I am, but also some older than I am. I am among similar peers,” she said.

Another pleasant surprise has been the ability to direct her coursework to her specific area of interest. “I was surprised at how much freedom I would have to be able to take what we were learning but then do my own research on the topics that interested me,” she said. “ I’ve been able to dive into this field of addiction. It was tied to my interests and what I’m passionate about.”

As she completes the program this spring, Schroeder has this advice for new or incoming adult learners. “You have to be able to see a window of time in your week or each day to set aside,” she said. “I’ve done two courses at a time, and I haven’t been able to procrastinate. I think you could fall behind if you’re not doing a little something each day to keep on track. With that said, the instructors have been so understanding. I lost my mom in November, but I’ve been able to stay on course. I wanted to stay on track to graduate, and I talked to my professors, and they were understanding about letting me be a little bit late that week on some assignments.”

Schroeder said she may not go directly into her master’s degree immediately, and she isn’t like many students looking to go job seeking with her newfound degree, but she won’t lose sight of her goal. Regardless, she said, she is applying what she has learned to her everyday life.

“This program has gone great; I’m so glad I did it,” she said. “If I go onto master’s or even if I never do, I feel like the program has changed the way I think and shaped me and opened up my eyes to applied psychology — all the influences that go into making us who we are and why we think and do the things we do. It’s changed what I bring into this house and into conversations with my husband and kids. I’m grateful for that.”


O’Boyle finds flexibility in online B.S. program

O’Boyle finds flexibility in online B.S. program

When Jessica O’Boyle was looking at universities in order to complete her bachelor’s degree, flexibility was key.

For example, could she take her pre-planned family vacation to Jamaica and not fall behind on her studies?

As she responds to questions from the beach … she can attest, she found that Saint Mary’s online B.S. in Applied Psychology has provided her with that freedom. She also looked for a school that honored more of the credits she had already earned.

“I was in another program, but it was taking me two years to finish my bachelor’s degree because they didn’t transfer a lot of my old credits. Saint Mary’s had a much better transfer rate and I really like the program. I feel like I’m getting a good quality education at a good price,” she said. “A friend of mine got her master’s from Saint Mary’s and had nice things to say, plus I like the accelerated program.”

O’Boyle said once her children were older, she found she was kind of bored. “I wasn’t very fulfilled at work,” she said. “I’m 45, and I said it’s time to do it. I was tired of not doing what I love, and it seemed like the right time.”

The B.S. in Applied Psychology, which she will earn in August is the first step to her future dream of getting her master’s and becoming a licensed practical clinical counselor. She’s already applied for the M.A. in Counseling and Psychological Services program at Saint Mary’s.

“There’s a personal history of mental illness in my family and friends and there’s such a shortage of counselors in rural areas, and it would be such an important resource in our area,” she said. “It’s been a passion of mine to help. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. Life just got in the way for 25 years.”

O’Boyle said she didn’t allow herself to get psyched out of applying. “I was a little nervous,” she said, “but I didn’t allow myself to think that way. I was committed and faced it head on. 

“So far my professors have all been so committed to their students being successful that it’s really hard not to be successful if you put in the effort; they’re very accommodating and understanding. It’s doable; it’s really doable for working adults.”

O’Boyle said coursework fits into her schedule, if that wasn’t already apparent by the palm trees behind her. “I do homework on my lunch  break and after work. I’m not tied down and it’s really worked well for me. The master’s program is a little different in that I have to be available a couple of times a week, but I can tailor it to my schedule.”

O’Boyle said her advice to busy adult students returning to school is to understand what the expectations are a couple of weeks in advance and lay out a plan of what to get done each day. Knowing that life has a way of changing the best-made plans, she said, “I try to be a little early in case life comes up so my assignments are done on time and I don’t have to stress. And if something comes up, I work around it. You have to be flexible.”

In the eight-week program, O’Boyle said there’s no opportunity to get bored. “I really like that the classes are very focused,” she said. “The resources are great, the readings are very tailored to the topic, and it cuts out a lot of the fluff. I don’t feel like I’m learning things I don’t need to know. They’re very interesting.”

She absolutely recommends her program. “I feel like it’s one of the most flexible programs in working with your life and your prior college credits and experience,” she said. “I have had excellent professors and I really have no complaints. It’s also very affordable compared to other options online.”

Outstanding in his fields

Outstanding in his fields

Henry Gathje ’25 is both a nursing student and a Cardinal catcher

Henry Gathje ’25 hopes one day to work as a travel nurse in underserved and impoverished communities; it’s his dream to improve lives. Until then, he’s proving that it’s possible to be both a nursing student and be fully immersed in student activities — like serving as a catcher for the Cardinal baseball team.

“Being in the nursing cohort and on the baseball team provides me with a strong sense of purpose and belonging,” he said. “They both help me manage my time in order to create a healthy balance between academics and athletics. My baseball team highly emphasizes the importance of being a good person, being a great teammate, caring, and working extremely hard. These adopted values translate into any professional career — especially nursing.”

Gathje came to Saint Mary’s to experience the best of both worlds, participating in college life to its fullest while working toward his dream career of being a nurse — from Day One on campus. That’s something that sets Saint Mary’s apart from the competition. 

He is one of 30 current nursing students in Winona. Next fall between 60-80 students will be enrolled in the growing program.

Learn more about Saint Mary’s undergraduate nursing degree program at: smumn.edu/nursing.


Four year degree helps alumna advance in her career

Four year degree helps alumna advance in her career

Kim Postier B’23 is a mom. 

Taking care of her family has always been a priority — scuttling her kids to hockey practice and games, keeping up with her family’s needs.

Yet it had always been her dream to get a four-year degree. With Saint Mary’s, she learned she could both make time for herself, and continue to be there for her family.

Postier laughs and says she’s always been in school. “I had two 2-year degrees, and I always joked that it would be nice if they would add together to make a four-year degree, and now I don’t have to say that anymore.”

She chose to enroll in the B.S. in Human Resource Management program, earning her degree in January 2023.

The courses, she said, provided a great foundation for a variety of career paths at her current employer. “In the positions I’ve been looking at, HR management seems to be something that is applicable to many different areas; it’s not limited in scope,” she said. “I like working with people. I’m an extrovert. I like that this program offered more of the personal side, not just the business aspect.”

And why Saint Mary’s? It came down to its reputation. “A coworker graduated from St Mary’s University and had a really nice experience,” she said.

Postier said she truly enjoyed the class atmosphere. “It was a wonderful experience. There was so much open dialogue in the classrooms; I loved it,” she said. “I’ve been working at Mayo Clinic (as a human resource representative) for the past several years, so I was able to apply a lot of the course work to my current work experience. It expanded my knowledge for my position. I needed the degree to advance, yes, but also opened up new ways to look at things.”

As a nontraditional student, Postier said she felt like she fit right in with a diverse class of students, several of whom were right out of high school. “They were learning from me and my experiences, and the teachers were welcoming,” she said, adding, “They were excited to teach. That’s what I thought was awesome. Saint Marys is a warm, inviting culture that makes everyone feel welcome in class. The teachers are invested in the students. They want them to succeed and learn.”

Postier said having her B.S. degree has given her the opportunity to expand her career options. “The degree was one I wanted to do for myself, but I also knew in order to advance and continue building my career, I needed this,” she said.

With classes one evening a week for four hours, and flexible homework time, she said the work was easily manageable.

“I would highly recommend Saint Mary’s for anyone looking at going to school, whether they’re right out of high school or up to the point where they are empty nesters,” she said. “It’s never too late to learn. I am talking to a girl at work about it now. There’s such a reward, getting that degree for yourself. You can make a bigger impact if you have an education, particularly from a well established, well-known college. I feel proud.”

Flexibility, applicable coursework makes M.A. in Teaching program perfect for new educators

Flexibility, applicable coursework makes M.A. in Teaching program perfect for new educators

Kelsey Philipsek is a student enrolled in Saint Mary’s M.A. in Teaching program. The M.A. in Teaching program is designed for students who did not receive an undergraduate degree in education, but want to pursue a teaching career and receive the proper licensure.

Philipsek is in her second year of teaching at Valley Middle School of STEM in Apple Valley, however, she did not begin her career in teaching. Before entering the classroom, Philipsek worked as a civil engineer. After realizing teaching math is where her interests lie, she became an educator and is now pursuing her Minnesota licensure.

What made you want to pursue an M.A. in Teaching degree?

Before becoming an educator and pursuing my MAT degree and licensure, I worked as an engineer. I tried everything I could to enjoy the field of engineering, however, nothing kept me intrigued. So pursuing education and this degree finally allows me to do the things I want to do: teach math. Having this degree is going to equip me to have the degree I want, and allow me to work with the people that I want.

What has your experience at Saint Mary’s been like so far? What have you enjoyed the most?

I really enjoy the flexibility of my program. Being able to work full time and go to school has been awesome. The faculty has also been phenomenal. They’re great to work with, and their communication is great. All of my classes have been online, however, I don’t feel like I’ve lost any experience because they’re online. You know, sometimes you’ll take an online class and find yourself saying, “Well, I don’t know if that was worth it.” These courses are 100% worth it. They’re great. I feel like I get to connect with not only my professors but my classmates. The professors also work really hard to make it an exciting lesson and have opportunities for us to have breakout sessions.

What made Saint Mary’s program stand out?

I was looking at a few other programs in Minnesota and what made Saint Mary’s stand out was the flexibility of being able to work and still go to school. A few of the programs I looked at would not allow you to work in education while also pursuing a degree. As a current middle school math teacher, that was a huge plus. Another benefit was the fact that a majority of my math courses from my time as an undergraduate transferred over, allowing me to mostly focus on the education courses I need.

Would you recommend the M.A. in Teaching program to someone else?

I would definitely recommend the program. First, it’s so flexible to fit with your schedule, so being able to earn credits toward your education while also being able to do what you want to do is why I picked the program. And second, it’s just a great program. I have really enjoyed my classes, and I like the professors and my classmates. At no point in my experience have I felt like what I am learning is not applicable to my career. The professors are mindful of everyone’s time and make sure they don’t assign you busy work, so everything you do in your course has a purpose.

Alumnae’s work featured in major design industry event

Alumnae’s work featured in major design industry event

This year’s Holiday House — an annual New York City design world go-to event and fundraiser for breast cancer research — featured work by one of Saint Mary’s own! Katie Murphy Brandt B’86 was the only non-New York designer selected to design a space.

Approximately 20 of the industry’s top interior designers transformed spaces in penthouse apartments to showcase cutting-edge decor and chic lifestyle concepts to be viewed by the general public, the design industry, and design enthusiasts in November and December 2022.
Murphy Brandt was visiting her son when she explored the idea of the Holiday House.

She has been designing in Spring Park, Minn., for 25 years, building her clientele from word of mouth and personal connections. When her application was accepted, she made it a goal to utilize local businesses, who often donated items for the show.

It took some old fashioned networking, visiting businesses in person, and building relationships. “I took the time to knock on doors and sit and talk to people so they could get to know me,” Murphy Brandt said. “They had no reason to give me anything as a donation other than feeling connected to me from that conversation.”

Not only did the Holiday House advertise her space, providing photos and social media spotlights, Architectural Digest also did a spread, bringing her dreams to light. She shared with Architectural Digest that she was inspired by the amazing views of the Hudson River and the beautiful city skyline.

As a business graduate of Saint Mary’s University, Murphy Brandt used her experience from being part of this community to build relationships with business owners and clients throughout the years. She credits the close relationships she had with professors who helped her obtain her academic goals.

To this day, stories of professors helping and encouraging students is one of the most talked about pieces of Saint Mary’s culture. Professors know you by name, and go above and beyond to help you succeed.

Student starts publishing company to give voice to immigrants, refugees

Student starts publishing company to give voice to immigrants, refugees

Hudda Ibrahim, a current Ed.D. student at Saint Mary’s, started Diverse Voices Press to “give attention to the unheard voices of refugees, immigrants, and other underrepresented people, affirming their limitless capacity for resilience and success.”

Ibrahim, who is Somali, is a living example. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in 2013, a master’s degree in 2015, and is now working to earn a Doctor of Education and Leadership degree. She also works tirelessly within the areas of diversity and inclusion, cultural competency, and unconscious bias in her faculty position at St. Cloud Technical and Community College.

In addition, in her spare time, she’s authored six children’s books including “From Somalia to Snow”; “What Color is My Hijab?”; “Basra Wants to Be a Paramedic”; and “Mohamed Goes to the Moon” — all to show young Muslim children, and all children, that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up.

“We believe when we read books that represent different abilities, cultures, beliefs, and skin colors, we tend to change our attitude toward those differences,” she said. Ibrahim draws inspiration from her surroundings and her experiences.

“My 7-year-old niece is the one who inspired me to write ‘What Color is my Hijab?’, she said. “One day she asked me, ‘Why don’t I see people who look like me in the books?’ From that moment, I started to research, look at trends, and meet with kids to do mini interviews. My best ideas come at 2 a.m., and I keep a notepad by my bed to write them down.”

Diverse Voices Press publishes high-quality books for adults, teens, and children with a goal of creating lifelong readers and lifelong learners. Lifelong learning is clearly important to Ibrahim who has appreciated her time at Saint Mary’s and its mission to awaken, nurture and empower learners.

Brother Frank keeps the Lasallian spirit flowing at Saint Mary’s

Brother Frank keeps the Lasallian spirit flowing at Saint Mary’s

If Brother Francis “Frank” Carr, FSC B’66 looks familiar, it could be because of his growing social media presence. He is, after all, a star of Saint Mary’s Instagram and Tik Tok accounts, garnering a large and devoted following.

Or, maybe you’ve seen him in the bleachers or on the sidelines of a game. As the Cardinal athletic liaison, he’s there, most games and practices, cheering on the student-athletes.

At Saint Mary’s, students may even know him from serving food in the cafeteria on Tuesdays. His line is often the longest, and not because what he’s serving is necessarily the most desired item on the menu.

Brother Frank is one of the friendly faces of the De La Salle Christian Brothers, who continue to dedicate themselves to serving Saint Mary’s students.

Saint Mary’s became affiliated with the De La Salle Christian Brothers in 1933, and at one time the Brothers taught in most classrooms and were infused throughout the university. As years have gone on, the number of Christian Brothers — a religious order of men in the Church who are not ordained but who devote their lives to education, particularly to the underprivileged — have dwindled.

Those who remain are no less dedicated, and Brother Frank has been a member of the Brothers for 61 years.

Throughout these past six decades, he’s served in a number of roles, going wherever he was most needed — including assistant provincial and provincial/visitor of the Midwest District of the Christian Brothers. He also worked at Hill Murray High School in St. Paul for 19 years as a teacher, assistant principal, and athletic director. And, he’s worked at Saint Mary’s Press in Winona in a variety of roles.

His first association with Saint Mary’s was as a student from 1962-1966. In 2011, he returned to campus for good, continuing to serve wherever people need him — whether it’s serving teams or student groups meals at the Brothers’ residence, meeting families with admissions, cheering on teams, or dancing with the Big Red mascot for TikTok.
Cameron Weber, a junior infielder on the baseball team, describes Brother Frank as the most genuine person he’s ever met.

“He is always putting others around him before himself no matter what the situation is,” he said. “I know no matter what is going on, if I need help with anything at all, Brother Frank would always be willing to help however possible.”

Katie Pierpont, a senior center on the women’s hockey team, describes Brother Frank as “welcoming and loving.” “Having someone who supports us, no matter how well (or not so well) the season is going, means the world to the athletes on campus,” she said. “Brother Frank cares about us not only for what we do in our respective sports, but he cares about us as people. He is often the first to reach out on students’ birthdays and will always stop and chat when passing in the plaza.”

In fact, one of Weber’s favorite memories is of his birthday, freshman year, before he even knew Brother Frank all that well: “I remember getting an email from him at about 5:30 a.m. saying happy birthday. To me, that is a perfect example of the kind of person he is. The first thing he thought to do when he woke up, before doing anything for himself, was to email me happy birthday.”

Brother Frank shrugs at the early morning greeting. “If I’m up …” he says in response. “But I also have to be careful. I don’t want to wake them at 5:30 just to get a happy birthday message from me.”

In addition to preparing dinners for student groups, Brother Frank is renowned for sharing his cookies. “They’re not Oreos,” he says with a smile, “and they’re not from a tube, they’re homemade.” Brother Frank always makes sure to bake enough for those with a sweet tooth. “They take more than one, you know,” he said.

He knows all of these gestures matter to students. “It’s important for them to have that kind of contact with the people here. I enjoy being around them,” he said.

Brother Frank sums up his role as athletic liaison as “getting to know the student-athletes, going to games, learning their names, sending them birthday notes — encouraging them, and being available however I can.”

To Cardinal baseball coach Nick Winecke B’07, M’12, Brother Frank’s role is that and so much more.

“He’s a phenomenal role model for our guys to have around,” he said. “He’s a smiley face every day and is someone who wants the best for them. He wants each student to feel important.

“From my perspective, I’m able to tap into all his years of leadership as an athletic director and bounce ideas off of him,” he added. “He travels with us everywhere, even to Florida. He helps with retreats, talking about leadership.”

Winecke described Brother Frank as the most popular man on campus. “I can’t imagine this place without him,” he said. “The thing I always loved about the Brothers is they truly are invested in the people they are working with. They always see the good in their students, even the ones who struggle and hate school the most. That’s Brother Frank, he finds all the good things first. That’s what makes him special. He sees the good.”

Weber added, “I think Brother Frank keeps the Lasallian spirit flowing at Saint Mary’s by always putting others around him before himself. I believe that quality is contagious. I would add that if you are having a bad day, a conversation with Brother Frank will always make you feel better. I am pretty sure it is impossible to still be upset about whatever is bothering you after talking to Brother Frank.”

Pierpont agrees. “Brother Frank is someone I always think of when I think of Saint Mary’s. He truly lives out the mission in his daily life, and I consider myself fortunate that I have had a great role model like him throughout my time here.”

Five honored during Saint Mary’s Founders’ Day celebration

Five honored during Saint Mary’s Founders’ Day celebration

In celebration of its heritage, Saint Mary’s University presented awards to one faculty member, two staff members, and two outstanding seniors at its annual Founders’ Day celebration Tuesday, March 14, on the Winona Campus.

Andy Robertson, executive director of GeoSpatial Services, received the Distinguished Lasallian Educator Award. Presented each year, the award recognizes a member of the faculty, staff, or administration who exemplifies the ideals of Saint John Baptist de La Salle, expressed in the Twelve Virtues of a Good Teacher. The award is given by Lasallian institutions like Saint Mary’s in the Lasallian Region of North America of the De La Salle Christian Brothers to honor contributions and commitment to the Lasallian mission of education. Roberston, who has worked at Saint Mary’s since 2004, has led the expansion of GeoSpatial Services to uniquely engage students in serving the needs of federal agencies, tribal nations, and nonprofit organizations in the areas of land management and water conservation. Similar to De La Salle and his first schools in 17th Century France, GSS engages education to respond to community needs at this particular time in history. Today GSS employs more than 65 students at the College and Schools of Graduate and Professional Programs (SGPP) in a cooperative education model, with plans for further expansion.

Sarah Haugen, interim director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT), received the Brother Louis DeThomasis, FSC Award. Presented every two years, the award recognizes a full-time SGPP staff or faculty member who demonstrates excellence, innovation, and ethics in their work and builds community by serving as a model of the Lasallian Catholic spirit. After serving for eight years as a facilitator and adjunct faculty members, Haugen joined Saint Mary’s full-time in 2016 as the associate director for the M.Ed. in Teaching and Learning program. In these roles, she trained teachers in developing curricula, managing student mental health challenges, and collaborating to improve student learning. In 2022, Haugen became the associate director of CELT, and later the interim director, leveraging her experience to help Saint Mary’s faculty, especially adjunct faculty at SGPP, develop innovative methods to engage their students and foster a community of learners.

Michael Ratajczyk, associate professor of Business and program director for the Masters of Business Intelligence and Data Analytics, received the Brother Charles H. Severin, FSC Award. Presented every two years, the award recognizes tenured College faculty members who carry forward Brother Charles’ legacy of sustained excellence and creativity in teaching. Since joining Saint Mary’s in 2013, Ratajczyk has built the university’s business intelligence and data analytics programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He has leveraged industry collaborations and emerging technologies to build a community of engaged learners and practitioners, including the launch of the annual Business Intelligence Summit. Like Brother Charles did decades ago, Michael implements new learning tools into his courses, most recently creating gamification applications for course lessons.

The university also announced its Outstanding Male and Female Seniors during the Founders’ Day celebration. Outstanding Seniors have demonstrated the ideals of scholarship, character, leadership, service to colleagues and the university community, as well as genuine concern for the needs of others.

This year, the honor went to Catherine Pierpont, of Holt, Mich., and William Sepsis, of Lombard, Ill. The eight other students nominated for Outstanding Senior included Grace Howard, Christa Ingabire, Mackenzie Kelly, Sophia O’Neil, Guy Cardinal, Brady Lindauer, Brandon Merfeld, and Joseph Schauf.

Father James P. Burns

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


Email: chahn@smumn.edu

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