January 2008 Cover
SCAN"College of St. CatherineThe College of St. Catherine

January 2008
 

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Mission Driven

Agent of Change

Kim Paulsen ’86 gives back to the college
that helped turn her fortune around.

BY SARA GILBERT

It took Kim Paulsen '86 only a few years to realize that dropping out of high school wasn't the best career move.

By the time the Twin Cities native had celebrated her 20th birthday, she knew she needed a college degree to make anything out of her life.

"I had no chance for success without that degree," she concedes. So she completed her GED and enrolled in community college. And today, more than 20 years later, she also has a bachelor of science in chemistry from the College of St. Catherine and a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from the University of Minnesota. Paulsen is a senior-level scientist and project leader at DiaSorin, a medical diagnostics company based in Stillwater, Minn.

Even after studying two years at a community college, Paulsen was overwhelmed by the thought of a four-year college. But when a friend recommended St. Kate's, she found it was just the right fit. "I had a lot of catching up to do, and I didn't have much self-confidence," Paulsen says. "I needed that extra boost that you get in a small community and one that believes in and supports women."

At 24, Paulsen was older than the students starting right after high school graduation. She commuted to and from classes, which limited her connection to campus. And, because she was paying her own way, she had to wait tables almost every night, which hampered her ability to socialize with friends. Still, she felt welcome and recognized. "I was never just a number," she says.

"People talked to me and helped me out." Science courses had piqued her interest in community college, and Paulsen was delighted to find that St. Catherine's chemistry department fit her to a "T."

At St. Catherine's, Paulsen found the support and encouragement she needed to succeed.
Classes rarely had more than a dozen students. And most professors were women who helped her shape her dream of going on to graduate school. "I didn't feel bombarded by the male way of doing things," she says. "By the time I got to the University of Minnesota, where only a few of the 40 or so professors were female, I knew I could make it."

Helping Other Women

Consistent giving to the Annual Fund allows Paulsen to help make college possible for many types of students.

"There are a lot of women out there - younger women, older women, single moms, working moms, really any women who have been through a rough patch - who need a little extra help," she says.

A full 90 percent of the students at St. Catherine's receive some form of financial aid, much of which is funded in part by gifts to the Annual Fund. Every donation helps make that assistance possible.

The Annual Fund also supports current needs of the College.

"I'm glad I can give what I can," Paulsen says, "and I trust St. Catherine's to do what's best with it."

For more information, visit the Annual Fund website.

 
Kim Paulsen '86

Kim Paulsen '86

Sara Gilbert is a freelancer based in
Mankato, Minn.