Katie Leadership Impact, powered by Manitou Fund grant, will open new opportunities for aspiring women leaders

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New gift furthers St. Catherine University mission to educate women to lead and influence through direct leadership programming

St. Catherine University has a 115-year history of teaching and preparing women to lead, with graduates serving as judges, members of Congress, chief executive officers (CEOs) and superintendents. The University is ready to elevate this legacy to a higher level with Katie Leadership Impact, a new leadership program launching this fall.

Katie Leadership Impact is an undergraduate program that fosters leadership capabilities through coursework, applied learning, professional activities, and student support. This new program is possible thanks to a $1.25 million grant from The Manitou Fund, created in 1966 by late Minnesota businessman Donald McNeely. The grant is allocated over three years and covers launching and sustaining Katie Leadership Impact.

“Manitou Fund is excited for the partnership to design the Katie Leadership Impact program for women who will be future leaders of business, communities, and social justice”, said Greg McNeely, trustee of Manitou Fund. “I feel confident that the new leadership program will be a great add and look forward to a bright and successful relationship with St Catherine University.”

“When it comes to reimagining a better future, investments in higher education for students are critical, which is why two of our largest grants this year were awarded to higher education institutions,” said Oliver Din, president and trustee of Manitou Fund. “The Manitou Fund team is proud to support an organization with a strong track record of developing leaders, and one that’s focused on thoughtfully evolving to meet the needs of future generations.”


Transforming the world, one student at a time

In her introduction to the Academic Master Plan, Anita Thomas, PhD, executive vice president and provost of St. Catherine University, highlights the growing importance of developing leaders who are flexible, can work through crises, understand and work within systems, and bring global awareness and cultural fluency to their work.

“At St. Catherine University, we continuously evolve our academic programs and offerings to meet the future needs of our students and the organizations that employ them,“ said Thomas. “Katie Leadership Impact helps fulfill our vision for our Academic Master Plan — to educate women who transform the world — by cultivating the most in-demand skill employers seek in job candidates.”

Women in leadership bring invaluable contributions to organizations and to society as a whole, and the events of last year brought to light how much the world needs effective women leaders from all backgrounds. Yet women in leadership, and especially women leaders of color, are underrepresented in the workplace.[1] Women in S&P 500 companies make up only 6% of CEOs and 27% of senior level managers, women of color represent 5% of all senior level managers, and Minnesota has some of the largest racial equity gaps in the nation.[2][3]

St. Kate’s is well positioned to support change. Of the 4,000-plus students who attend St. Kate’s, 38 percent are Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC), and the incoming first year  class is close to 50 percent BIPOC. Additionally, 42 percent of students are Pell Grant-eligible — undergraduate students with exceptional financial need who have not earned a bachelor’s degree or higher — and 31 percent are first generation college students. While open to every undergraduate student, 50 percent of grant funding through Katie Leadership Impact will go to need-based financial support for underrepresented women.

“The grant from Manitou Fund affirms the need for next-level education and provides hope and inspiration for the future of our students, faculty, and staff,” said Ben Whitney, dean of the School of Business, St. Catherine University. “St. Kate's has the experience, faculty, infrastructure, and student talent from all backgrounds to build this high-impact leadership development program. With this grant, the Katie Leadership Impact will give St. Kate’s one of the most comprehensive undergraduate women’s leadership programs in the nation.”

Led only by women since its founding, St. Catherine University continues to prove its argument from the top, with a significant majority (85%) of its Senior Leadership Team roles held by women, and guided by a Board of Trustees with nearly 90% women seated in that group. St. Kate’s faculty has the teaching and intellectual power to mentor future leaders, with the business school alone having 8 ranked women PhDs and 2 doctoral candidates in women's leadership, plus double that number in adjunct professors.


[1] McKinsey, 2020

[2] Catalyst, 2020

[3] Sauter, 2017