Gabrielle Agbényiga ‘24

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Third-year student at St. Catherine University, '24

Winter, spring, summer, fall — Gabrielle Agbényiga ‘24 does it all! Since arriving at St. Catherine University in 2020, Agbényiga has made the most of her college experience through non-stop activity in the classroom, in summer and J-term research projects, in her involvement with student services, in her on-campus employment, and in the St. Kate’s community at large.

This fall marks the beginning of Agbényiga’s fourth and final year at St. Kate’s, capping off an already exemplary academic career. Among the many roles she has explored throughout her time on campus, Agbényiga currently holds the following: economics research assistant studying growth mindsets at U.S. universities for the National Science Foundation, Antonian Honors candidate, peer mentor with the Center for Intercultural Development (CID), previous Truman Fellowship applicant and current Peace Corps applicant, and founder and president of the Black Student Union.

Agbényiga and the Katie Fund

One of Agbényiga’s secrets to success is a well-founded understanding of the resources available to her on campus. Like all students at St. Kate’s, Agbényiga benefits from the Katie Fund, which supports student scholarships and areas of greatest need across the University. However, Agbényiga’s work at the Digital Engagement Center (DEC) has given her special insight into the many opportunities that the Katie Fund provides to support students as they build their own paths to leadership, community impact, and academic excellence. 

100% of first-time, full-time students at St. Kate’s receive financial aid, and the Katie Fund provides millions of dollars in scholarship funding to our students each year. As she made calls to alumni and donors through the DEC, Agbényiga always started the conversation with financial aid. “When I explained to people the role of the Katie Fund here on campus,” said Agbényiga, “I pointed to the two scholarships that made it possible for me to attend St. Kate’s: the Presidential Scholarship and the Venture Scholarship. Without these scholarships, I would not be here.”

However, what makes the Katie Fund such a unique University resource is not only that it supports student scholarships — financial aid is a well-established St. Kate’s priority, after all. The particular magic of the Katie Fund lies in its flexibility, immediacy, and ease of access. While serving on the Student Senate during her first two years of college, Agbényiga learned how students can use the Katie Fund to establish clubs, conduct research, purchase supplies, access emergency assistance, and organize events. 

“Armed with these resources,” said Agbényiga, “I chartered the Black Student Union, which provides an important community for Black students as well as co-hosting large campus events like Africa Night with the St. Catherine University International Student Organization (SCISO).” 

Agbényiga and the Office of Scholarly Engagement

Through her work at the DEC, Agbényiga was also exposed to an even larger institutional resource: LEAD & INFLUENCE: The Campaign for the Next Level of Excellence. The campaign works not only to expand the Katie Fund, but also to enrich Our Students, Our Faculty, and Our Place through increased collaborative research and faculty development opportunities, updated facilities, and the foundation of the Office of Scholarly Engagement (OSE).

Agbényiga is a perfect example of the power of OSE, which combines five of St. Kate’s trademark engaged learning programs to best support each student’s distinctive goals: Antonian Honors, Community Work and Learning, Competitive Fellowships, Global Studies, and Undergraduate Research and Creative Inquiry. Instead of segmenting various academic and career interests through each individual program, dedicated students like Agbényiga connect with the OSE hub to create a holistic experience that integrates each component of their educational journey. In the case of Agbényiga, this requires the tailored involvement of each of the five programs housed by OSE.

Agbényiga was first introduced to OSE through her Antonian Honors degree path, and then began exploring OSE’s other program offerings, starting with Community Work and Learning (CWL). Through OSE’s community partnerships, Agbényiga secured an internship with the Advocates for Human Rights in Minneapolis. Her fluency in English, French, and Ewe allowed her to help callers communicate their unique humanitarian immigration cases and concerns to staff lawyers. 

“This experience helped me identify a passion for global justice,” said Agbényiga, “and inspired me to study abroad for two weeks in India last J-term with the economics department to study women in the agricultural sector.” This trip concluded with a visit to a burn survivor organization that deeply moved Agbényiga, challenging her to find additional ways to further her goal of understanding and advancing women’s access to necessary health and development resources across the globe.

These learning experiences — facilitated by OSE’s Global Studies and Undergraduate Research and Creative Inquiry programs — showed Agbényiga what she could accomplish, and she was determined to keep going. This summer, sponsored by the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health Sciences, the Center for Women, CID, and OSE (all supported by both the Katie Fund and LEAD & INFLUENCE), Agbényiga traveled to Senegal for the month of July to conduct research about women’s nutrition, financial literacy, and access to health resources. 

Agbényiga and the Future

As she enters her senior year, Agbényiga can already list on her resume a research position supporting the National Science Foundation, two research projects involving international travel, a foundational leadership role in a vital student organization, an internship with a nationally-recognized human rights organization, and an impressive array of recommendations from the many St. Kate’s faculty and staff members who cheered her on throughout her first three years. Moreover, she can celebrate these achievements without the burden of substantial student debt due to her Presidential Scholarship, her Venture Scholarship, and the University’s sponsorship of her research and travel. 

Throughout this fall, Agbényiga will be working with OSE’s Competitive Fellowships arm to apply to the Peace Corps and to a slate of graduate schools. Additionally, through her contributions to St. Kate’s partnership with the National Science Foundation, Agbényiga recently secured a research associate position with the Sadie Collective, where she will research economic mobility for Black women in the U.S.

Celebrating the beginning of this new school year as well as her exciting new role with the Sadie Collective, Agebnyiga had this to say: “Receiving this position would not have been possible without the support, learning, and instruction from the economics faculty at St. Kate's. I am immensely grateful for the support I’ve received across the University that has allowed me to do amazing things. As I begin to imagine life after college, I am excited and prepared to see what comes next.”