Inaugural Alumni Volunteer Summit honors CSJ legacy of service

“The depth of your commitment through service is important to our strength as a community. For, while each one of us is strong on our own, we’re even stronger together. “ 

This clarion call, delivered by executive vice president and chief advancement officer Beth Halloran, set the tone for a morning dedicated to exploring the power of volunteerism: through service to others, we grow our collective strength as a community. At St. Kate’s very first Alumni Volunteer Summit, held on September 7, attendees affirmed the close connection between their St. Kate’s education and commitment to serve.

“We are grateful so many alums were able to join us today in celebrating the St. Kate’s spirit of giving back,” said Mandy Iverson, Director of Alumni Relations. “Our alumni are truly special in their devotion to social justice and leading in their communities.”

Volunteerism has long been presumed a Minnesota virtue, and a recent study affirmed this. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, Minnesota has consistently ranked above the national average for community service, coming in at #2 in the nation with more than 45% of the state’s population volunteering in 2018 — and the Twin Cities ranks at the highest percentage of any metro area nationwide.

This statistic would come as no surprise to anyone who attended the Summit, as keynote speaker Sister Irene O’Neill, CSJ spoke of the legacy of the Sisters of St. Joseph as deeply committed community-builders and how their influence has infused the St. Kate’s community with that same drive.

“People know that St. Kate’s alums are carrying this fire in them, and that you are dedicated volunteers everywhere,” O’Neill said. “When the CSJs join a community, we come with the intention to give our lives … and I know that St. Kate’s alums are the same way. You have that fire inside of you, and it is contagious, wherever you are.”

2019 Alumni Volunteer Summit panelists

Panelists from left to right: Miamon Queeglay '15, Makabongwe Ngulube '16, Philomena Satre MAOL'08, LaVina Branscomb '17, and Mee Cheng '05.

“When I graduate, what am I going to do to make an impact? What am I going to do to give back to the community?”

— Makabongwe Ngulube ’16

An alumnae panel moderated by D’Ann Urbaniak Lesch, director for the Center of Community Work and Learning, illustrated how their service experiences, coupled with their St. Kate’s education, helped them build more effective leadership styles.

Mee Cheng ’05 carried her sense of community with her as she explored topics and experienced new cultures while a student. “A lot of the lessons of creating community, relationship-building, and the philosophy of serving and social justice — that really stayed with me throughout my different adventures, while I was in school and beyond school.” Cheng now applies those lessons to her job as a policy analyst in the Ramsey County County Manager’s office.

Philomena Satre MAOL’08 was immersed in volunteerism early in life. Going through the leadership program while at graduate school helped her combine her internal and external influences to become a voice for others. “My St. Kate’s experiences gave me the voice to speak up, and the strength to leave [my company].” Today, as director of diversity and inclusion and strategic partnership at Land O’Lakes, Satre credits her time at St. Kate’s for appreciating the importance of being an enduring, effective, ethical leader. “Those are all the components that I’ve carried through.”

Miamon Queeglay ’15 found community among the diversity of the St. Kate’s student body. “It shaped who I am internally, and created this drive to help our students of color feel motivated and have what they need to succeed.” As community schools manager for the Brooklyn Center school district, Queeglay draws on the strength she gained in those experiences for courageous conversations that make a difference for her students. “I am forever grateful to be an alumna.”

For Makabongwe Ngulube ’16, “the idea around serving is something that’s been part of my upbringing.” Leaving her Zimbabwe community to study at St. Kate’s opened her eyes to areas of “gaps” in her home community, which led to her question: “When I graduate, what am I going to do to make an impact? What am I going to do to give back to the community?” Now a manager of human resources and administration at Partners in Food Solutions, Ngulube finds those opportunities to live the values she grew up with — values reinforced by her St. Kate’s education. 

“One of my favorite statements from the St. Kate’s leadership statement is ‘A leader evokes hope.’ In my daily work, I want people to see the hope that is there even in the sometimes hopeless work that we do.”

LaVina Branscomb ’17 credits her experiences in the Community Work and Learning program for creating an inspiring sense of community. “When I was an intern at Courageous Hearts, I was using my degree and making a positive impact,” Branscomb recalled. “It definitely shaped the work I do now.” Branscomb is a housing case manager at The Link Minnesota. “My work today is impactful because of this community. I am happy to be able to come back and do the same.”

“With founders like the CSJs, volunteerism is part of our DNA,” said Halloran. “That same spirit lives on among our alumni. … Katies are changing the world for the better.”

St. Kate's Alumni Relations

Sisters Rising Worldwide


All photos by Rebecca Slater ’10 / By Rebecca Studios.