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The value of an Education for Women

Designing Woman: Annie Ballantine '05

BY TRACY BAUMANN

ANNIE Ballantine '05 set some pretty high goals for herself when she graduated from the College of St. Catherine three years ago with a self-designed major in interior design. "I wanted to start my own business as a designer and have an office at International Market Square," says Ballantine, who achieved both goals late last year. "I seriously thought that it was going to take 15 to 20 years," she adds with a laugh.

womenscolleges.orgToday, she's working to grow Annie Ballantine Design, her interior design business that encompasses a variety of projects, from one-time color consultations to remodeling and redecorating homes from the ground up.

Ballantine credits her experience at the College with helping her reach her goals. An entrepreneur from the getgo, she abandoned her decision to pursue pre-med when she learned that she could study interior design through a self-designed major — "It was really interesting to have that freedom with my education - to be able to choose what I wanted to study," she says. "And it helped in my professional life, because as a designer I have to be very organized and on top of things."

"Dream Big," the theme at her first-year orientation, gave Ballantine the first clue that St. Kate's could be the right place for her. "Then everyone took an interest in me personally, and I felt like they were invested in me — whether it was an instructor I had once or professors who ended up being my mentors and advocates and advisors throughout my four years there," she says. Trudy Landgren, assistant professor in family, consumer and nutritional science (FCNS), helped Ballantine structure an academic program that suited her interests but also gave her a strong liberal arts foundation. Landgren continues to check in with her former student. "She still cares about what I'm doing and if I'm happy," Ballantine says.

Ballantine completed the major requirements for studio arts, took all the FCNS fashion and interior design courses, and completed many independent studies to learn other aspects of interior design. "I had two advisors — one in the art department and one in FCNS," she says. "They worked together to make sure I was doing what I needed to do in order to graduate on time."

She gained hands-on experience working with interior design professionals and studied in England for a semester. Outside of class, she volunteered with the Arthritis Foundation and served on the College's Centennial Steering Committee.

After graduating, Ballantine worked as a design consultant for a furniture store. When she learned about potential changes in the interior design industry that would require all designers to be certified, she decided to pursue a degree from an accredited program in interior design.

"If you want your dreams to come true, if you want to become confident and well educated, come to St. Kate's."

— Annie Ballantine
Quoted in St. Kate's viewbook, 2001

It took 18 months to complete the second degree at a local art college. Ballantine went to school at night and worked at Gunkelman Flesher, a Minneapolis interior design firm, during the day. She suffers from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, which has presented physical challenges for years and was particularly difficult with her demanding schedule.

"I actually had an instructor say, 'Why don't you just leave school? I don't think you can handle school not feeling well,'" she says. "That blew my mind because I was so used to being at St. Kate's, where the attitude is you can do whatever you set your mind and heart to." Ballantine did finish the program and, in October 2006 began offering her services as a design assistant to independent designers. In July 2007, she was invited to join the "designer of the day" program at International Market Square, which features 20 interior designers for consultations on different days throughout each month. By October 2007, she was working solely as an independent designer.

That same month, Ballantine moved from a home office to an office in International Market Square after winning the Judd Jacobson Memorial Award through Courage Center. The award is given to an entrepreneur who has had health- or disability-related challenges.

Ballantine already is thinking about new goals. She wants to start a program that offers free design services to women's shelters or facilities that need a nurturing, healing environment but can't afford those professional services.

"Part of wanting to do that comes from trying to heal my body physically in sterile-feeling environments," she says, "and part of it comes from my education at St. Kate's, where you really learn about giving back and being involved in your community."

 
Annie Ballantine '05

Annie Ballantine '05 was the 2001 Elizabeth Ann Beatson O'Shaughnessy Scholar, a full-tuition and fees scholarship awarded to an incoming first-year student at the College.


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Learn more about the Women’s College Coalition and the Hardwick Day survey at womenscolleges.org.


PHOTO BY TONY NELSON

Tracy Baumann is editor of SCAN.
Reach her at tebaumann@stkate.edu
or 651.690.6407.