Alumna Spotlight Archive

See you next year!
Judy Wallenta '62

Judy Wallenta '62 and her friends knew they'd discovered something good. "From the moment we each visited [Saint Ben's] there was an atmosphere of friendliness and caring that we didn't feel anywhere else." Maybe it was the communal prayers. Maybe it was the late-night hours spent commiserating over their early curfews. Something bound Judy and her friends together. And whatever it was, it's still holding on tight. This group of 15 class of '62 friends still gets together each year to spend a week catching up and hanging out.

They started out just meeting each year around Christmas for lunch in Minneapolis with their mothers. As they grew and began families of their own, the tradition migrated to an annual gathering around Christmas at someone's home. In 1989 the group decided they would all get together at Elizabeth Sauer's home near Washington, D.C. "That was the first time we made a 'trip' of it," recalls Judy. The trips came every other year after that. Always a week long, "Just because everyone thinks we need that much time." In reunion years they all come back to Saint Ben's and spend the rest of their week together at a lake cabin here in Minnesota.

For the last 10-12 years they've been getting together every year. The destinations vary. "Now that we're older and more of us are flying in from farther away, it's less about the destination," Judy explains. "We want to spend our time together, rather than sightseeing."

Husbands are never invited, though Judy concedes that, "About half of the group also gets together around Christmas, and we invite husbands along for that."

For Jean Kloss Haworth, Judy McCarty Wallenta, Mary Muchlinski Kelly, Kathy Wermerskirchen Tembrock, Gretchen Schwahn Gruenke, Sharon McNamara Nilan, Elizabeth Hornstein Sauer, Jane Rohlik Koenig, Chris Hall McGeary, Geri Backes Pettitt, Joyce Mehr Nault (not pictured), MarySue Hall Thielman (not pictured), Harriet Keenan Ahlstrom (not pictured), Irene Young Perrill (not pictured) and Peg Morgan Dyre (not pictured), that's what Bennie friendship is all about.

Coming home to home away from home

When Valerie Jones '94 left Independence, Iowa, to come to Saint Ben's years ago, one of the school's biggest selling points was that it was 6.5 hours away from Independence, Iowa. Nothing unusual there - spreading your wings and getting away from home is part of the college experience for lots of students. The irony is that Valerie found a new sort of home in Saint Ben's. "It's a place that's always been dear and important to me," she says. And now we're excited to welcome Valerie home as our new Executive Director of Alumnae Relations.

In her new role, Valerie's going to be focused on three key areas. She'll be working to bring strategic direction, structure and outcome measurements to our Alumnae Office. She'll be developing opportunities to maximize the potential of our existing Alumnae Board. And she'll be working to put some structure and practices in place around an exciting new engagement opportunity for Saint Ben's alums called the 200 Club. But the piece of her new job she's most looking forward to is, "making lots of connections with alumnae I haven't met yet."

Outside of work, Valerie enjoys cooking, gardening, and spending quality time with her beloved-but-high-strung border collie mix, Cooper (which is a win-win, because Cooper enjoys nothing more than spending quality time with her beloved Valerie).

Welcome home, Valerie.

Saint Ben's welcomes back new Director of Alumnae Relations

Anne Sumangil '99 returned to her alma mater in September to join the Saint Ben's team as our new Director of Alumnae Relations. Anne brings an extensive background in alum relations, event management and career services, having just come from Rasmussen College, where she was National Director of the Alumni Association. Prior to that she worked with the Carlson School of Management and the University of Minnesota

As a Bennie, she was captain of the CSB Dance Team and active with the Asian Student Association. She's a passionate volunteer with many organizations and, since 2011, she's been an active member of the Alumnae Board. "I'm thrilled to return home to Saint Ben's, to meet all of the amazing alumnae and to continue connecting them with this college that's had such a big impact on my life," says Anne.

CSB Entrepreneur of the Year
Lisa Spoden '83

Lisa Spoden '83 arrived at Saint Ben's as a strong young woman. What she learned here was to be fearless. "I saw strength in those Sisters," she recalls. "I saw women with God-given talents, using them to the fullest. They were women who wouldn't let any glass ceiling stand in their way."

But it was later, while working as a hospital executive, that she really discovered the entrepreneur in herself. She was tasked with taking many major projects from concept through completion and, "The lesson I learned is that, even with a job, people can be entrepreneurial."

Lisa went on to launch Strategic Health Care and, later, Strategic Implementation Solutions. On Sept. 5, she was named the 2013 College of Saint Benedict Entrepreneur of the Year by the Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship at CSB/SJU.

What advice does she have for current students? "Five things. First, there's got to be an existing need for the service you plan on providing. (Or you've got to be able to create a need.) The Sisters I worked with in the Mercy Hospital System put it best: 'No margin. No mission.' Second, do your homework, keep current and even project future needs. Third, be passionate. Fourth, pay your dues. Put in the hours and always be prepared to meet clients' needs. And finally, be fearless. Do the things you dream you'd do if you weren't afraid."

Bennie finds her calling and pursues her passions
Kristina DeMuth '11

Kristina DeMuth '11 was already working hard to earn her degree in nutrition (concentration in dietetics) when she found her calling in Haiti, helping the many in need. DeMuth started volunteering in Haiti with Healing Haiti in January 2011. "I was hoping to end up as a dietitian working with individuals suffering from eating disorders, but I saw a great need for my skills and talents in Haiti," explains DeMuth. With her skills, knowledge and passions, DeMuth has continued her work with Healing Haiti well after graduating from Saint Ben's.

For the past eight months DeMuth has been on a mission trip in Haiti, working with the Feeding Center to enhance their dietary menu and provide a healthier diet. Focusing on using local, native, plant-based foods is the heart of her mission. DeMuth has also provided nutrition education for the children, staff and people living in local communities and begun consulting with other feeding centers across Haiti

After encouragement from a friend, DeMuth began researching educational opportunities to advance her skills and provide more effective nutrition and education programs in Haiti. She has recently been awarded the Queneau Research Assistantship as part of her acceptance into the nutrition program at the University Of Minnesota School of Public Health. She will pursue her master of public health degree in nutrition with a concentration in global health.

"My volunteer work in Haiti will not cease while I am back in school... I will continue to communicate with the Haitian staff and missionaries on a frequent basis. I hope to make several visits throughout the school year too," says DeMuth. She adds, "I am invested in the staff, the children and the elderly we serve in Haiti. Every time I go there, I feel as though I leave a piece of my heart."

Bennie overcoming boundaries in the financial world
Gina Bartell

Gina Bartell '95 is an inspiring Bennie who is not afraid to follow her passions. Bartell is a registered investment advisor, a field represented by only 30 percent of women. Working in a male-dominated profession has not detered Bartell, but rather inspired her to bring a different perspective to her clients.

After graduating with a degree in accounting, Bartell spent six years as an audit and tax accountant until she met a female investment advisor who inspired a career change. In 1999, Bartell became a registered investment advisor, and in 2009, she opened an independent office providing client wealth management before merging with Ledge Wealth Management, Inc. in 2012. Currently, she provides wealth management and financial planning services to clients who are nearing and going through retirement. Bartell strives to be the trusted source of financial advice to her clients, always doing what's in their best interest. "I feel successful when I help my clients succeed," she says. "In particular, I have a passion for helping women achieve financial security and assisting them through life transitions."

At a young age, Bartell knew she wanted to attend Saint Ben's; her aunt was a nun living in the convent and she attended piano contests on campus during high school. It was a welcoming atmosphere where I could explore who I really was and what I wanted to become," she adds.

Bartell is a Bennie, a wife, a mother, an investment advisor and a leader who supports women striving for success.

Alumna speaks at commencement ceremony

Denise DeVaan '75 senior consultant with ICF International, delivered the address during the 98th annual commencement ceremony at the College of Saint Benedict on May 11.

DeVaan graduated from CSB in 1975 after majoring in theology, and went on to earn her master's degree in human development from Saint Mary's University in Winona, Minn. In addition, DeVaan has received certifications from Gallup Leadership Institute and W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Harvard University and the University of St. Thomas.

In 1997, after leading a public policy campaign to win passage of the Family Assets for Independence in Minnesota (FAIM) legislation, DeVaan began her Denise DeVaan LLC consulting business with the goal of leading the design and implementation of FAIM, which helps increase financial stability among Minnesota's low-wage earners.

Through her role as a senior consultant with the ICF International consulting firm, she helps to lead national financial asset building projects for the Federal Department of Health & Human Services, Washington, D.C.

DeVaan was the recipient of the National Kellogg Fellows Leadership Award. In 2011, she was awarded the first Social Entrepreneur of the Year award from the Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship at CSB and SJU.

View commencement video online.

Alumna earns leadership recognition

Kathryn Enke '05 has been selected as a rising alumna by the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development Alumni Society. The recognition honors alumni of the College of Education and Human Development who have demonstrated leadership and achieved early distinction in their careers. Enke earned both a M.A. and Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Administration in just four years and is now Chief of Staff and executive assistant to Saint Ben's President MaryAnn Baenninger. She manages the president's office and provides strategic guidance to the president while ensuring effective development and execution of presidential projects and initiatives. "My job presents new challenges and problems to solve each day, and this is invigorating to me," Enke says. In addition to her work at the college, Enke continues to be an active researcher, examining the ways that identities mediate experiences in higher education.

Creating a work of art for incoming students

Prospective CSB/SJU students received an artistic addition to their acceptance letters, thanks to Anna Boyer '08. Boyer was commissioned in fall 2012 to create a Benedictine Values broadside, on paper made from native grasses found at Saint John's Abbey Arboretum, using the Welle Book Arts Studio on the Saint Ben's campus.

"The drawing for the Benedictine Values broadside is circular to demonstrate community and created in a repeated pattern symbolizing the guiding principles of the Benedictine Values we follow," Boyer explained.

Boyer earned a master of fine arts degree in book arts and printmaking at University of the Arts in Philadelphia in May 2012. She decided to pursue book arts after taking an "Editing and Publishing" class during her senior year at CSB.

Currently, Boyer is teaching book making and letterpress classes at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts in Minneapolis, where she also does her own work. She is preparing for her show this summer at the Rochester Art Center in Rochester, Minn.

Foreign Service career sends alumna to Africa

Stephanie Wegmann Peterson '10 has been assigned by the U.S. Department of State to serve as the U.S. Embassy's public diplomacy officer in Benin, a West African nation.

Peterson will be working with the local press, monitoring local attitudes toward the U.S., hosting conferences on issues affecting both the U.S. and Benin, organizing cultural and educational exchange such as the Fulbright Fellowship and introducing American artists, speakers, musicians, writers and athletes to the local population as a means of sharing U.S. culture and attaining cross-cultural understanding.

Peterson graduated from Saint Ben's with a major in peace studies and a minor in communication. While at CSB, she received the Thomas R. Pickering Undergraduate Foreign Affairs Fellowship, which provides educational funding in exchange for a contract to work as a Foreign Service Officer. Peterson went on to earn a master's degree in international development from the University of Denver in 2012.<

She and her husband Erik Peterson, a 2009 graduate of Saint John's University, are currently in full-time French language training at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, VA in preparation for their departure to the primarily French-speaking country in July. They will be in Benin for a two-year tour after which they will be assigned to a different embassy, likely in a different region of the world.

Alumna helps students aim for college 

A sign at the entrance of Adalante Prep reads "Climbing the mountain to college," and Heather Busch '07 is helping her fifth grade students do just that. The charter school in Minneapolis is the middle school offshoot of Hiawatha Academies, an elementary school aimed at helping students from low-income families achieve academic success.  The school was ranked among the highest achieving high-poverty schools in 2011, based on Minnesota's new multiple measurement rating that takes into account how well impoverished and minority students perform and how much they improve over the year.

Busch and the other teachers at Hiawatha and Adalante Prep teach an extended school day and are required to be available via their cell phones until 9 p.m. each evening in case students need help. The schools also have a longer academic year that results in 40 percent more instructional time for students. Busch is motivated to put in this extra time and effort because "with longer days, students are spending more time engaged in academic tasks that are getting them prepared for college and life as a happy, successful, good person."

College is always on the minds of Busch's fifth grade students, as each classroom at Adalante takes on the identity of a college or university and is decorated with the school colors. Busch's students learn in a Saint Ben's and Saint John's themed homeroom. At the beginning of the year they learn about the school and were able to visit last year to get a glimpse of college life.

"I think my experience at CSB shapes me every day as I work with my fifth graders," Busch said. "I want them to have a college experience like mine: meeting new people, taking risks, making mistakes, laughing, learning and growing. I want them to have all of the opportunities provided to them that I received from Saint Bens."

Alumna named president of Illinois College
Barbara A. Edwards Farley

Barbara A. Edwards Farley '81 has been named the 14th President of Illinois College in Jacksonville, Ill. She will begin her presidency July 1, 2013, replacing Axel D. Steuer, who will retire at the end of the academic year (May 2013).

Farley is the second CSB alumna to be named president of a college in 2012.

"My leadership of Illinois College will be grounded in the college's values of excellence, integrity, community, justice, service, respect and openness," Farley said in a statement released by Illinois College. "I offer an unwavering commitment to academic excellence, enrollment strength and financial vitality."

CSB President MaryAnn Baenninger noted that the appointment is a testimony to Farley's leadership skill and her commitment to residential liberal arts education. "I am pleased to welcome her as a fellow president, and as an ally in sustaining the liberal arts and sciences. As a successful alumna, she serves as a great inspiration for our current students and Bennies to come."

Farley graduated from CSB in 1981 with a degree in business administration. She earned her doctorate in strategic management and organizational behavior, and master of business administration degrees from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.

According to the biography posted on the IC website, Farley states she "is a proud alumna of the College of Saint Benedict and credits her experiences at Benedictine institutions for instilling in her the values of listening, hospitality, justice, community living, stewardship and respect for all persons."

She is currently vice president of academic affairs and dean at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minn., a role she has had since 2006. Prior to her current role at Augsburg, Farley was also academic dean/associate dean and associate professor of business administration at the college. She also served as academic dean and chief academic officer at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Penn. and as chair and graduate program director in the management department at The College of Saint Scholastica in Duluth, Minn. From 1985-94, Farley was an associate professor of management at CSB and SJU.

Founded in 1829, Illinois College is a residential liberal arts college located in Jacksonville, Ill. with an enrollment of nearly 1,000 students.

Alumna nurse a "guardian angel" to patients
Bethany Waletzko

Bethany Waletzko '11 was awarded the Guardian Angel award and the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses from Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, N.D. for her compassionate care as a registered nurse in the intensive care unit (ICU).

While caring for a stroke patient who was nearing death, Waletzko developed a connection with the patient's family over their shared faith. She was inspired to sew a pillow with an angel on it to give to the patient as something to hold onto while in the ICU because "there are times in life when one just needs a little something to hold onto," Waletzko said.

After receiving the angel pillow, the patient's condition improved enough to be transferred out of the ICU. Waletzko approached her supervisors with the idea to incorporate the pillows throughout the unit, and they accepted her plan without hesitation. She continues to sew pillows for patients, and each one comes with a written prayer from Waletzko and a Bible verse.

Waletzko says the Benedictine values and Catholic social teachings emphasized in the Saint Ben's nursing department are values she uses each day when caring for patients, and it is clear they feel the impact. Waletzko was nominated for both the DAISY award and the Guardian Angel award by the patient and family who received the first angel pillow.

"Being able to incorporate the angel pillows into the critical care unit brings me a sense of inner joy and honor," Waletzko said. "Right now, this is my mission work for God."

Alumna pursues global career - fall 2012

When Andrea Carrow '09 arrived back to her farming roots in Minnesota for Christmas 2011, her computer cord was European, her hair dryer had the incorrect voltage and her cell phone SIM cards were Spanish and South African. The realization that her electronics were not going to function at home was when she knew she was truly leading a global life.

Carrow studied abroad three times during her years at Saint Ben's. She represented the school in Dubai and filmed documentaries in Guatemala and Chile as part of her role as founder of the nonprofit organization, Extending the Link. She worked in Mexico as a South American Development Lead for Fastenal after graduating from Saint Ben's. She went on to earn an MBA from IE Business School in Madrid and was also an Emzingo NexGen Fellow in South Africa, working as a management consultant on two African projects.

Currently, Carrow works in global strategy planning at 3M, a career inspired by the foundation established by her experiences at Saint Ben's.

"There are many fascinating elements to helping with 3M's strategic global planning, but some of my favorites include the wisdom and audacity of the 3M personnel," Carrow said.  "They are seasoned in their roles yet drive impressively innovative strategies."      

Carrow's latest global adventure has been taking the month of September to utilize accumulated airline miles for personal travel in Singapore, India, Thailand and Indonesia. One of the highlights of her trip was completing the Rickshaw Rally, a treacherous cross-country race through India in a small, motorized rickshaw.

Carrow is proof positive that the students and alumnae of Saint Ben's are active citizens of the world. Learn more about our global classroom in the September 2012 issue of Saint Benedict's Magazine.

Alumna receives recognition for financial know-how - fall 2012

Carrie Rocha '97 turned a community service project into a self-employment venture. In March 2009, Carrie began blogging tips on how to get out and stay out of debt to help others during the economic recession. Her advice stemmed from her personal experience of eliminating $50,000 in debt in two-and-a-half years.

Shortly after she started her blog, FOX 9 discovered her secrets and ran a story about her. Her blog readership exploded, and Carrie turned her website into a business called Pocket Your Dollars (

"I never expected this to turn into a career," she says. Her website has been visited by 1.3 million people and is one of the most popular couponing and personal finance sites on the web. Since the advent of her website, she has completed more than 100 media engagements, including Woman's Magazine, Yahoo! Finance, and Wall Street Journal Radio. She is also a regular guest on the Twin Cities Live television program.

Carrie's debt advice has been so well-received among readers that she wrote a book, Pocket Your Dollars, which will be released in January 2013. Carrie's interest in helping others developed at Saint Ben's, where she was engaged in various service learning experiences. She lives with her husband and daughters in Maple Grove, Minn.  

Murphy named CSB Entrepreneur of the Year - summer 2012

Margaret Murphy '90 was selected as the 2012 CSB Entrepreneur of the Year by the Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship. Murphy is president and chief operating officer at Olson, an award-winning advertising agency in Minneapolis, Minn.

Murphy had her first taste in business when she started a fast food restaurant at the young age of 17. After receiving a MBA degree, she began her career at Carlson Marketing, where she was the youngest recipient of the company's top honor for customer service. She then moved to Denali Marketing in 2007, growing the firm to more than $20 million in revenue. Olson, Murphy's current workplace, acquired Denali in 2010.

The CSB Entrepreneur of the Year Award recognizes a Bennie who exemplifies the ideals of entrepreneurship while practicing Benedictine values in the workplace and in her life.

Alumna receives outstanding teacher award - summer 2012

Katie Zuehlke '98 knew she wanted to be a teacher since she was a young girl. Her early hunch for the education profession turned out to be apt. She recently received the 2012 WEM Outstanding Educator Award for Teacher Achievement, an honor for outstanding accomplishments and contributions to student learning.

Zuehlke has taught kindergarten at Bendix Elementary in Annandale, Minn. for 14 years. Katie received her master's degree in education from Saint Mary's University in 2002 and has completed courses beyond her degree focusing on emergent literacy.

She credits Saint Ben's for providing her with a solid foundation for a fruitful career and life. "I am forever thankful for the education, life skills, faith formation and networking Saint Ben's provided," she says. "I know my experiences at Saint Ben's led me to become the teacher, person and parent I am today." She gives back by welcoming Saint Ben's and Saint John's student teachers into her classroom every spring.

In addition to teaching, she serves as a board member for the Minnesota Kindergarten Association, is a freelance writer for The Education Center, volunteers at her church and presents literacy workshops. Zuehlke and her husband, Mike, a 1997 Saint John's graduate, have two sons. 

Alumna helps athletes prepare for the Olympics - Summer 2012

It was a simple piece of advice, given to Glen Werner Roseboom at a College of Saint Benedict basketball game in 1995.

But it changed her life and career - from social work to sports management, and ultimately led her to the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center (OTC).

These days, the 1993 CSB graduate and former Blazers' basketball player is director of the OTC, helping athletes prepare for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, which begin July 27 in London. She's been director of the 35-acre facility since 2007.

But she would have never dreamt of doing that back in 1995. She was a social worker/counselor in the Ashby and Underwood schools near Fergus Falls, Minn.

"I was contemplating going back to school to improve my ability to make it on my own. I was stuck on what to study," Roseboom recalled. "Should I pursue a master's degree in social work or in sports?"

Click here to read the complete story about her decision.

Alumna enjoys entrepreneurship lifestyle Summer 2012

Teresa Mazzitelli '72 has entrepreneurship in her blood. Following in the footsteps of her parents, Teresa started The Mazzitelli Group, Ltd., an executive search firm specializing in senior-level recruitment serving organizations nationwide. The firm has been recognized as a premier boutique search practice and has successfully completed multiple search assignments on behalf of Fortune 500 clients as well as privately-held businesses. Teresa has been the recipient of awards, including the Minnesota Association of Personnel Consultants Consultant of the Year Award and the Distinguished Leadership Award given by the Huntington's Disease Society of America for her contributions in business and community service.

Teresa enjoys the independence that comes from owning a business. "The flexibility of controlling my own schedule allows me to do other things beyond business," she says. Teresa is an adjunct instructor of communications at Minnesota State Colleges & Universities, volunteers in the employment ministry at the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis and regularly attends Saint Ben's alumnae events. Teresa returned to CSB/SJU as a guest speaker for the Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship in 2011 and recently became an Advisory Committee member at the Center. She takes pleasure in giving back to Saint Ben's, a community she credits for fostering a love for life-long learning, listening and living a purpose-filled life.   

Love of punk rock sparks theater career - Spring 2012   
Amelia Cheever

Clogs and tator tot hotdish. These two things stand out for Amelia Busse Cheever '87, when she recalls her arrival at Saint Ben's from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania in the 1980s. All shock value aside, Amelia says the 80s were a great time to be a punk rock-loving theater major in Central Minnesota. "With no cell phones and only two television channels, the arts were blossoming on campus," she says. "Music, theater and art were what we did. The punk rock counter culture atmosphere was exploding." The current wave of culture and the liberal arts education at Saint Ben's were the perfect combination to prepare her for a career in theater. After graduation, Amelia assisted with costume production at various theaters and eventually landed at the Guthrie Theater - the largest stage in Minnesota - where she worked alongside renowned designers, actors and directors. In spring 2012, Amelia returned home to Saint Ben's to share her experiences in the classroom. She currently teaches a theater audience class and will teach a class in spring 2013 on the connection between music and fashion. Amelia says the hands-on experiences at Saint Ben's sparked her passion for a lifetime in the performing arts. "The engaging professors and exciting performances challenged me to want to learn more." From the front of the classroom, she wants to show students of all disciplines that a background in theater can provide a variety of life skills. "Theater majors make the best lawyers."

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