Alumna Spotlight: Monica Bolinger MAOL'03

From Accident to Action: Provoking Change as a Citizen Advocate

Monica Bolinger graduated from St. Kate’s as an undergrad in 2003. She worked as a Mortgage Banker for fifteen years before becoming a stay-at-home mother to two children and an MAOL graduate student. She’s also a commissioner for the City of Roseville in the Human Rights, Inclusion, and Engagement Commission. Monica is looking forward to reentering the workforce as an MAOL graduate and continuing her advocacy work of making a safer community for our kids.

MAOL students complete an action research project to address a current leadership issue. Monica acted as both a researcher and citizen advocate throughout her project, which resulted in a state bill mandating safety practices for gas fireplaces. Below is a summary of her work.

Monica personally became aware of an unrecognized danger to children in many homes in September 2015, when her eleven-month-old daughter, Hattie, severely burned both her hands on their gas fireplace. Hattie’s injuries involved 3rd-degree burns and required multiple surgeries, and the accident strained her family physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally. Monica started asking, “Why didn’t I know that? Why didn’t I understand the danger to my child?” and sought out answers through her action research project. Through her project, Monica learned of the need, identified actions to remedy the situation, advocated on this issue, and proposed a solution for change.

The purpose of Monica’s action research project was to promote safety practices for gas fireplaces in order to reduce burn injuries to young children. Specifically, she aimed to provoke change by advocating in the political arena, mandating safety practices of gas fireplaces in Minnesota, with her efforts resulting in a state bill. Monica acted as a researcher and a citizen advocate during her project and identified several findings from analyzing the interview data. Knowledge deficits are the main reason for the lack of knowledge of the dangers from gas fireplaces. She discovered the need for citizen change makers in our political system, and she uncovered some insights on the impacts of research as a citizen advocate. 

Monica met the objective of the MAOL program by leading responsibly while providing her daughter a reason to be proud of her scars. She led effectively by discovering the best strategic way to provoke change in the area of injury prevention by creating a state bill. She led ethically by taking responsibility to make a difference on an issue that is endangering children. Monica also exemplified enduring leadership by protecting other families from an avoidable accident and providing  a larger purpose for her daughters injuries, healing her family’s heart.