• Mysee Chang SP'13
  • Amy Peavey SP'13
  • Paul Lai MLIS'13
  • Donna Menne M'13

I'm a Katie, Too

What makes a Katie? That formerly simple definition has changed.

By Amy Lindgren SP'83

What's a Katie? Not so long ago, that simple question might have generated an equally simple answer: a young woman engaged in pursuing a baccalaureate degree at the College of
St. Catherine.

While that definition largely held true for the first 70 years of St. Catherine's history, only one word in that phrase remains untouched today: engaged. Everything else, from the age and gender of students, to the programs of study and degrees earned, to the very name of the institution, has evolved. The College is now a University, and today's Katies are men and women, young and old, pursuing an astonishing range of disciplines online and on campus to earn anything from a certificate to a clinical doctorate.

To learn more about today's Katies, we spoke with four students who graduated in May. Like all St. Catherine students, they come from an impressive range of backgrounds and are headed into an equally diverse range of professions. But they hold one thing in common: They are all Katies.

Mysee Chang SP'13
Day program, Bachelor of Arts with a major in women's studies and a minor in sociology

When Mysee Chang speaks, the words tumble out quickly, but always clearly. Speaking and writing with confidence are two gifts she received from her women's studies major. After attending high school "as a Hmong in a place with no Hmong people," Chang says she was transformed by class discussions at St. Kate's where she found the words to articulate her experiences.

"From my elementary years I've been taught that I'm an outsider because I'm not white, I'm not middle class," she says. "The minute I got to St. Kate's that identity shifted. The welcoming environment helped me think about myself as a holistic person."

The eldest of eight children, Chang wrung the most out of her college experience. She lived on campus, joined student groups, participated in mentorships and honors programs, studied in India, became a peer mentor herself, and worked on and off campus.

After graduation, she plans to continue as the youth program coordinator for Women's Initiative for Self-Empowerment (WISE) and then go on to earn a graduate degree, with the goal of "helping women become leaders and find their place in the world. Because, for me, being a Katie means continuing the legacy we have of being leaders. We have a responsibility to use our skills to create a better world."

Amy Peavey SP'13
Evening/Weekend/Online Program, Bachelor of Arts with a major in communications studies and a minor in women's studies

Standing at 5 feet 10 inches tall before she dons her 4-inch heels, Amy Peavey commands attention, a useful asset for any mother of three who works in corporate sales. But what's really increasing her stature these days is finishing the degree she started 16 years ago. After four straight years of evening and weekend classes with a 4.0 GPA, Peavey yearns to make an impact while helping others. She's already done that at St. Kate's, where she co-chaired the Weekend College advisory board and started a Facebook page to help students in her program.

"To me, a Katie is strong, determined and intelligent, with a full desire to influence change," Peavey says. "I firmly believe that our graduates are special. If we can offer a hand to somebody, why wouldn't we?"

Peavey will have a piece of her alma mater with her wherever she goes. She has a rose window tattoo on her right foot. The symbol also commemorates the hard work her partner, Steve Peavey, and their three children have invested in making her dream a reality.

Paul Lai MLIS'13
Master of Library and Information Science

Having already earned an undergraduate degree in English from Yale University and a Master of Arts in English from the University of North Carolina, Paul Lai wasn't searching for more formal education.

And yet, after teaching English at the University of St. Thomas for five years, Lai saw that his real passion lies in helping scholars conduct their research. Conversations with his friend Sarah Park Dahlen, an assistant professor in the MLIS program, convinced Lai that he needed to pursue one more degree.

Lai says the experience has been rewarding, providing him with new friendships and a sense of acceptance by the St. Catherine community. To help further that sense of community, he and recent graduate Sara Zettervall MLIS'12 have started a blog to link the common interests of social workers and library science professionals.

Of being a Katie himself, Lai says: "I am very proud to be part of this great network of Katie librarians. We're a widespread group who really have a connection to the communities we're working and living in, and who have a strong sense of how our education as librarians and as Katies helps. We're committed to contributing our skills and knowledge."

Donna Menne M'13
Associate degree program, physical therapy assistant

As an African American woman, Donna Menne noticed early on that her adopted profession of physical therapy assistant (PTA) has few people of color working in the field. As a woman in her 50s, she hasn't been afraid to voice her concerns, both for those who miss out on a good career and for the healthcare community that needs a more diverse range of practitioners. Menne herself says she almost missed this fulfilling path, until a career counselor from whom she sought help urged her to switch from the accounting work she had done previously.

Menne initially felt intimidated about attending St. Kate's, but any trepidation about returning to college at a "name" institution evaporated when she met her classmates and instructors. In her two years of training, she formed fast friendships while pushing through internships, science classes and even six online courses — all while volunteering and raising her son (pictured above) as a single parent.

Now preparing for her licensure exams, Menne says she will soon begin visiting high schools to help others envision themselves as a PTA, a task she links to leadership goals she developed as a Katie. "If you are a Katie, you have a bigger responsibility in the world than just doing your job," she explains. "You are a leader, and leaders come in lots of different packages. You have to lead with your heart, whatever that means to you. You can find a way to make a difference."

Amy Lindgren owns Prototype Career Service in St. Paul and writes a career counseling column for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press.