The College of St. Catherine became St. Catherine University on June 1, 2009.
Defining Success: Angela Hall '97
BY TRACY BAUMANN
"ST. KATE'S was transformative in my life," says Angela Hall '97, who grew up in rural South Dakota on the Crow Creek reservation. She credits the College and her liberal arts education with preparing her to think critically and creatively.
"As a lawyer, I'm looking for creative solutions to problems," says Hall, who spent seven years in the litigation group and working with government contracting and regulatory compliance at Dorsey & Whitney law firm in Minneapolis. "My clients don't want me to suggest the same thing they did last time. They want to know how to do it better, more efficiently and cheaper." Hall accepted a position this spring as associate general counsel with United Health Group's Ovation Group. She majored in psychology and philosophy at St. Catherine's before going on to law school at the University of Minnesota. "St. Kate's took raw talent and turned it into a full package," she says.
Hall's transformation began with "The Reflective Woman" and culminated with "Global Search for Justice," required courses for St. Kate's undergraduates in their first and last years, respectively. "They prepared me to think in a more global way," she says. "They pulled together classes and subjects that might otherwise seem disparate and showed me the interconnections.
Today, I can't look at a problem and say 'This is just a business problem or this is just a legal problem.'" Professors expected much of her, and she is thankful for that. "People really encouraged me to take myself to the next level," she says. "They pushed me to strive for excellence and not just what was easy for me."
When she was running late, French Professor Jacqueline O'Hara, CSJ, would call Hall's dorm room to remind her to come to class. "She'd say, 'Dear Heart, where are you?'" Hall recalls. "I wasn't a French major, yet she took an interest in me that has deepened into a dear friendship." In fact, Hall still returns every year to teach in Sister Jackie's "Global Search for Justice" course.
St. Kate's also prepared Hall for the challenges she has faced as a woman lawyer, a profession in which men may be reluctant to give women high-profile work or are more comfortable working with other men. "Women really have to be on their best game every day and have to work harder to get the best opportunities," she says.
On one of her first assignments as an attorney, Hall was sent to meet with a client who manufactured heat recovery steam generators in an office where almost all of the employees were men. As she walked through the office, she could hear people talking about her. "And, the client gave me a look like, 'You are a young woman — how could you possibly be a help to me?'" Hall recalls. "But I met with him. I learned what his legal issue was, and then I worked my tail off and gave him a great product. And he eventually started calling me directly."
Through the years, she has found that many clients appreciate her style, which she honed in St. Kate's collegial, relationship-based atmosphere. "A women's college really helps women to develop their own perspective and not try to force themselves into the male perspective," she explains.
Outside of class, Hall was involved in the women's choir and in residence hall activities. She also worked in the library and in the Multicultural and International Programs and Services office. The community she found at St. Kate's — her friends and the faculty and staff — proved instrumental in helping her through a difficult time in her life. "My mother died while I was there," she says quietly. "And I found so much support at a time when I could have gotten derailed. People helped me through my grief and helped me move forward."
Hall has learned to define success in a way that feels right to her. "I enjoy my work. I'm happy. I'm engaged in my community," she says. "To me that's personal success. And I don't know if I'd have been so comfortable in my own definition of success had I not been at St. Kate's when my mom died."