Portraits of Growth

Four graduates reflect on their time at St. Kate’s and the transformative experiences that have changed their perspectives.

There’s a finality to your senior year of college that creates a sense of reverence for every moment. It’s the last class of the semester, the end-of-term paper, the final club meeting. But in 2020, the onset of the pandemic cut short many of those moments for our seniors. We spoke with four 2020 graduates to hear their reflections on this transformative time in their lives. Three of the students were featured in a “Portraits of Growth” series four years ago, highlighting their first-year experiences, and one student transferred to St. Kate’s three years ago. Each conversation highlighted the challenges they faced, the strengths they uncovered, how they’ve embraced their power and leadership abilities, the dreams they hold for the future, and a sense of gratitude for the community that’s supported them along the way.


St. Kate's graduate Alma Silver
Alma Silver ’20

Age: 21

Major: Communications

River Falls, Wisc.


Claiming Inner Strength

In so many beautiful and subtle ways, St. Kate’s became home to me. I went from telling people to “look past” my disability and see the “real me,” to unapologetically claiming my identity as a disabled woman. I developed a fierce passion for advocacy initiatives surrounding disability and neurodiversity inclusiveness. More than I ever thought possible, I learned to speak and act with conviction, and I no longer feel comfortable removing myself from my disabled identity or taking a passive stance during difficult conversations.

Passion, Meet Profession

Disability advocacy has become the central element of my personal and professional aspirations. At St. Kate’s, I served as a student senator for six semesters and led The Wheel as editor-in-chief for a year. I won a top paper award at the 2019 Undergraduate Communications Research Conference at the University of St. Thomas for my original research analyzing the representation of people with disabilities within mainstream media.

I currently work as a program development specialist coordinating disability and neurodiversity efforts in the Abigail Quigley McCarthy Center for Women and am completing a Disability Advocacy Certificate program through the American Association for People with Disabilities.

These experiences have grown my leadership skills and challenged me to create impactful change within my community. In addition to pursuing a career in disability services and access consulting, I now plan to mentor others and continue my journalistic endeavors by interviewing diverse people with disabilities and sharing their stories to uproot prevailing misrepresentations.

Advice for New Katies

Embrace the unknowns and see the beauty in all the growth and change that naturally unfolds — especially during these formative years. Pursuing a degree at St. Kate’s means engaging in conversations that aren’t always easy, yet lead to essential growth and perspective shifts. Now more than ever, it’s the time to ask difficult questions and rewrite the narrative of what is expected. Claim your voice and weave your story into the rich tapestry of St. Kate’s history.

Finding Hope in the Future

I believe that our most prevailing hope lies in the act of breaking our silence. Against the tide of systemic failings, our individual voices, stories, outrage, experiences of injustice, and our visions for change will endure as the most powerful and unifying force.

St. Kate's graduate Tumelo Khupe
Tumelo Khupe ’20

Age: 24

Major: Music Theater

St. Paul and Botswana

Prepared for the World's Stage

St. Kate’s helped to build me into the woman I am today and gave me the tools I need for the workplace and society. This world can be harsh, and what we learn, especially in The Reflective Woman and Global Search for Justice (GSJ) classes, shows us the ways we can tackle world issues.

I felt my transformation arrive during GSJ. I learned I have some privilege — I have a voice and can use it through my performance art to take a stand. I’m now more focused on making an impact with my creative work and performances and using my art to provoke thought and evoke change.

Advice for New Katies

Be okay with feeling out of your comfort zone — that’s where all the growth happens. Spend time reflecting on the challenges you’ve overcome so far. Acknowledge your victories and celebrate yourself along the way.

Passion, Meet Profession

During my time at St. Kate’s, I am proud to have performed at the Kennedy Center and Jacob’s Pillow. I also toured with the Women’s Choir and performed in campus productions. I received the University’s “Outstanding Theater Artist” award in 2019 and was on the dean’s list for 2020. I also took classes at Macalester, and I was awarded Best Choreography and Leadership in the department there.

Early in my senior year, I wanted to be a more active member of the community. I applied for and was accepted to the LEAD (Leadership, Encouragement, Assistance, and Development) Team, which helps people recognize their value and gives them the tools to be their best selves. 

On the LEAD Team, I discovered my innate leadership capabilities, and since then, I’ve come to realize that every member of society has a role and leads in one way or another. I will continue to build on these skills in the future, and I want to teach those I meet that each person is a leader.

Finding Hope in the Future

Because of COVID-19, I was not able to proceed with an incredible internship opportunity at Park Square Theater, so in terms of career, things seem uncertain. But as I look toward the future, I am excited to see what surprises and new opportunities may arise from this challenging time.

St. Kate's graduate Jaelyn Miltz
Jaelyn Miltz ’20

Age: 22

Major: Nursing

Monticello, Minn.

Experiencing Growth

St. Kate’s pushed me to grow as a person and as a woman. It’s pushed me to think about the human experience — not only mine, but everyone else’s. It’s such an accepting and loving place to be. People there believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, and that’s helped me recognize my own strength and power.

I look back on 18-year-old me and think about how much more open-minded I’ve become. I still have plenty of space to learn and grow, and I don’t think there’s ever a final destination in terms of human experience. We can only see this tiny droplet of water on the leaf of the world. I’ll never be done exploring and growing.

Advice for New Katies

Keep your dorm room clean and things will feel less stressful. Join as many activities or groups as possible, meet new people, and develop amazing friendships. Cherish each moment because those years go by quickly.

Passion, Meet Profession

I chose nursing because I’ve always wanted to serve others, but the volunteer work I did at St. Kate’s really opened my eyes to more ways of serving. I helped immigrants learn English at Neighborhood House, provided foot care for homeless people at the Dorothy Day Center, and served dinner at People Serving People. I was also on the Student Leadership Council and vice president of the Student Nurses Association, and I enjoyed volunteering at Feed My Starving Children with that group. My campus job in safety and security shaped my leadership experience in ways I never would have predicted. I also worked in hospice care, interned in the operating room at St. Joseph’s, and I had a preceptorship (the nursing version of residency) in the ICU at Regions Hospital. I’d like to work in the ICU as an RN eventually.

Finding Hope in the Future

While I was sad my preceptorship was cut short due to COVID-19, the pandemic has offered a chance for me to learn about my own adaptability. These experiences completely reaffirmed why I went into nursing and what I’m meant to do. I’m excited to see how I apply them throughout my life.

St. Kate's graduate Hannah Carroll-Kinder
Hannah Carroll-Kinder ’20

Age: 24

Major: Business

Minneapolis, Minn.

Exploring New Pathways

Two years into the nursing track at a big school, I realized I didn’t actually want to be a nurse. My mom, Jennifer Carroll ’17, had graduated from St. Kate’s and told me it was amazing, so I applied and was accepted.

I still loved healthcare, but I was more interested in a business degree. St. Kate’s transfer counselor told me about the healthcare business major, and everything fell into place. With her help, I was able to better align my major with my personality.

Overall, St. Kate’s helped me find myself and gain a more global perspective. I spent a year studying abroad in Australia, and I grew so much during that time. I couldn’t have done that if St. Kate’s didn’t value those experiences and if my counselor hadn’t worked so hard to make it happen.

Advice for New Katies

Take the time to meet with a really well-known professor in the field you’re interested in to see if it’s a good fit for you.

Passion, Meet Profession

St. Kate’s gave me more personal development and guidance from counselors and professors than my previous school. I created strong relationships with my professors, enjoyed greater participation in discussions, and worked closely with them to develop my skills. I took advantage of résumé-building workshops and career fairs through the career center.

I knew in the first month of classes that I wanted an internship at 3M. St. Kate’s business department has strong connections at 3M, and my professors encouraged me to apply for an internship. My sales classes were very applicable to the internship duties there, including roleplaying sales calls and creating presentations. Mary Jacobs MAOL’10, the director of the Center for Sales Innovation, helped me prepare for my interviews, and her support was incredibly helpful in securing that internship.

Finding Hope in the Future

My internship led to a job offer at 3M, and I spent the summer doing virtual training in Minnesota due to the pandemic. I missed that sense of community that’s created while learning together in person, but I’m excited for the future. This fall, I moved out to San Francisco’s East Bay to take over my new territory as a 3M wound care sales representative.

Editor’s note: As we are heading to print, Hannah let us know that due to unforeseen challenges with COVID-19 she decided to decline the 3M job and is looking for sales positions in Minnesota near her family. She says she is very excited for what the future holds.

By Lindsey Frey Palmquist, from St. Catherine University Magazine fall 2020 issue