Senior Vice President and Wealth Advisor in Financial Services, '78

Mary Hurrle Bennett was the first in her family to graduate from college, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Nursing at St. Catherine University in 1978. After launching her career as a nurse, Bennett felt her education journey was not yet over, so she returned to school at the University of St. Thomas to obtain her MBA in 1986.  Just as she forged a new path as a first-generation college student, Bennett pursued a unique application of her healthcare and business training by bringing her skills to work as a financial planner. Over the past several decades, Bennett has risen in her field to the rank of Senior Vice President and Wealth Advisor at a global wealth management firm where she has worked for over ten years. In her work, she serves healthcare professionals, private individuals, small business owners, senior executives, and her own employees. Her knowledge, animated by sincere understanding and service-oriented leadership, dedicates her to her colleagues, clients, and friends.  

Throughout her career, Bennett has centered her decisions around service. To her, those choices were simple: “I believe each person should make life choices based on their priorities. Education improves the individual and individuals can improve the world. A life as a nurse and a financial planner are focused on service.” Bennett’s life-changing education experience motivates her to seek out opportunities to improve access to education for current and future Katies. Bennett found her voice through her education, and she continues to write her own story by influencing the future of her alma mater. “Legacy is important to me. None of us are promised tomorrow. Including St. Kate’s in my estate plan is a decision consistent with my priorities.” 

Nutrition alum posing for picture

My personal passion for nutrition stemmed from some personal complications in high school. I had to see a dietitian who helped me change my life and feel and function better. I wanted to do that for other people. When I was taking my food science class, I fell in love with the more science-y aspects of how food systems work and the biological aspects of eating. I didn't want to go the clinical route anymore, I wanted to focus on the science. I would love to become a microbiologist and research the gut microbiome and how that relates to mental health.

St. Kate’s was on my radar because I wanted a smaller school in the Twin Cities area. My friend wanted somebody to take the campus tour with her and stay overnight. Instantly, I fell in love with the community, the campus and the people, who were so open and friendly. I walked into that weekend expecting not to go to school there and walked out knowing that I was going to go to school there.

I was not looking for an all-women's college nor a Catholic college, but the all-women’s aspect of St. Kate’s surprised me. It doesn't come off pretentious or exclusionary. For somebody who identifies as a woman and decided to go to that school, it didn't feel like I was being hand-held because they thought I needed that. I felt more empowered because I deserved that.

Nurse educator alum profile photo

As a new transplant to Minnesota in 2019, I finally had the time to fulfill my dream of earning my master’s degree. I came to Minnesota because it is my husband’s home state and he was retiring from the military. He was inspirational in leading me to St. Catherine University. Until then, my dream of an advanced degree in nursing had been stopped and started countless times over the past two decades.

As an active-duty military mom with small children, I chose to pause my nursing career to raise my children, a choice I was fortunate to be able to make. As much as I loved being the ‘rock for my children’, I was concerned my break from nursing would end my academic options. But not in the eyes of St. Catherine’s. The admissions personnel validated that I was still a competitive candidate for the nursing program with my years of clinical and teaching experience, a current nursing license and lots of volunteer opportunities to boast about. I felt there was a place for me at St. Catherine’s.

Even in my first academic class, a prerequisite online statistics class, the instructor was super friendly, organized and intelligent. She was so kind and I could tell she honestly wanted me to do well.

Once that last hurdle was completed, on to the graduate program I went. It was evident that the faculty at the School of Nursing wanted me to graduate and to succeed, too. Early on in my program I knew I wanted to go beyond a master’s degree and earn my Doctor of Nursing Practice; however extra practicum hours were required. My program director helped align independent study opportunities for me under the guidance of the associate dean to reach that personal goal and earn those practicum hours. When you are mentored by top people in your school, that’s really incredible. This is just one of several unimaginable opportunities that helped me flourish at St. Catherine’s.

St. Kates alumn posing for photo

I wanted to be a nurse since I was a little girl. I was always interested in medicine and liked watching medical shows. But the dream was solidified when I was in the hospital at age 13 with thyroid cancer. I knew forever that I wanted to be a nurse and I feel that’s a huge blessing because some people struggle with that.

I graduated from St. Kate’s in 1991 with my bachelor's in nursing; earned my master's at Loyola in Chicago in 2002; then returned to St. Kate's to earn my nursing doctorate in 2018.

I’ve always felt St. Kate's prepared me for whatever I was going to encounter. As a young nurse, you don't think about all the things you're going to be doing or that you’ll have to be a leader and step up sometimes. That doesn't mean I knew it all or wasn't nervous, I just felt really prepared. There are many things you learn on the job that no one can teach you, but I remember our nursing clinical rotations as being relevant and comprehensive. I felt I’d been taught well.

I have spent my entire career in pediatrics and feel pediatric nursing is a dying art. I did have a pediatric clinical rotation at St. Kate’s, which I still remember clear as day. Many higher education nursing programs do not offer pediatric rotations, as placements are limited and highly competitive, so I’m grateful for my experience.

I recall in high school, taking some of the advanced science classes in chemistry and biology. I was one of the few women in the room. I knew I wanted to have an experience where women were learning together. Maybe because St. Kate’s is an all-women’s university, I found it very easy to focus. You have the ability to just be who you are without any distractions. There are so many opportunities to be yourself and learn in an inclusive environment.

Trustee, '87

Mary Jo Abler is a 1987 St. Catherine University alumna and current trustee. After earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from St. Kate’s, Abler achieved a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Rochester in New York and a master’s in management of technology from the University of Minnesota. Abler has put her education to work at 3M, applying her expertise across multiple company divisions for 30 years.  This includes three years as vice president and general manager of the communication markets division, which she successfully led through its divestiture from 3M. Abler’s last position before retiring from 3M in 2020 was vice president of new technologies and platforms.

Like many forward thinkers, Abler began building her legacy early in her career. “I first started donating to St. Kate’s shortly after I completed grad school and began working,” she says. Abler attributes her generosity to gratitude for “a built-in advantage of having been educated at St. Kate’s, compared to my colleagues. Confidence, leadership, collaboration, empathy, and integrity are all words that come to mind when I think about my education at St. Kate’s.”

Abler embodies one of the most distinctive characteristics of St. Kate’s history: women empowered not only to succeed, but lead in STEM fields. Part of her strategy to further advance the careers and innovations of women in STEM is by championing the Mendel science building renovation priority of St. Kate’s LEAD & INFLUENCE: The Campaign for the Next Level of Excellence.

Bethany Mader '22

I’ve always been interested in history. And international studies seemed relatively similar. Then some economics professors convinced me to explore the econ/poly sci area and ever since it's been so exciting, I’m hooked! I was lucky my high school offered lots of AP credits. And the majors overlap very well.

People think economics is Wall Street bankers staring at stocks, but that's not what we do here. We’re social justice focused. For example, I took a class looking at how economics can be used to prove discrimination. Then, the public policy side asks, ‘What do you do with this information? How can changes make things more just?’ For me, economics is a tool to make the world more just — and that makes it exciting.

Here, since we don't have graduate students, the econ/poli sci undergrads can do research and co-author papers, which is almost unheard of. That’s one of my favorite things.

I was thrilled when I learned I could major in Fashion Merchandising at St. Kate's through the Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities (ACTC) program. Even though I was a St. Thomas student, St. Kate's welcomed me into their community. My fashion merchandising classes were demanding yet interactive and enjoyable. I still have my binder of textile swatches and some textbooks saved from my fashion classes. I've held a few roles at Target, but my current role is as an analyst under the Financial Retail Services pyramid.

After starting my most recent position, I decided to pursue my MBA. My undergraduate experiences at St. Kate's were so positive. I knew I needed to become a Katie one more time if I wanted the same challenging, practical, and well-rounded education.

My advice to other Katies is to understand the fundamentals of the type of work you enjoy doing or what you want from your career. Then be open to pursuing roles that allow you to keep growing your experiences and building your resume around those fundamentals. Do that, plus network, and eventually, you will get precisely where you want to be.

Amanda Bartschenfeld MBA'18

I was trying to make a change in the type of work I was doing and was stuck. I returned to school for my MBA to elevate my education and skills and enhance my professional credibility. I picked St. Kate’s MBA program after looking into several options. A full-time program that was doable while still working full time was a must. And when I learned that social justice is embeddedinto every course, I knew this was the place for me.

My career really took off after I started the St. Kate’s MBA program. Within a few months of starting the program, I transitioned into a new communications role at my company and I moved into another higher role before I finished the program.

I had been working toward a career change for a couple years before starting the program and was not getting the traction I needed. The immediate skills I gained in class that I could implement at work the next day—on top of showing I was dedicated to advancing my education—were the spark I needed to make these big moves. And I went on to make two more big moves since graduating in 2018.

Last year I became senior manager of inclusion, diversity, and equity communications at Medtronic. It combines my communications and leadership skills with a subject matter I care about deeply. I use what I learned about integrated marketing communications every single day, and I am an effective collaborator with my partners because I connect the dots between big-picture business strategy and our collective actions and impact.

Holly Jenson MBA'21

I returned to school for my MBA, because I wanted new knowledge and perspectives, and career and salary advancement. I knew returning to school for my MBA would allow me to learn new concepts and points of view from professors and peers with diverse educational backgrounds, and professional experiences that would aid in my career advancement.

I picked St. Kate’s because I liked that we were able to go to the campus for classes, prior to the pandemic of course. I personally find it easier to learn and connect with others in-person vs virtually. St. Kate’s also offered students the opportunity to specialize in a particular area, which was something I was looking for when deciding where to go back to school.

Furthering my education has always been one of my personal and professional goals. St. Kate’s allowed me to achieve both my personal and professional goals by having an advanced degree program that matched my field of study and pushed me to keep going. I am the only one in my immediate family and one of the few people on my team at work to obtain a master’s degree.

After completing my MBA, I have been able to stand out amongst my colleagues by utilizing my new knowledge and skills from the program at work. Which has landed me more complex projects to lead and manage.

My long-term career aspirations are to become a leader in my chosen field, the healthcare industry. While also being exposed to new parts of the company, being more hands-on with operations, and obtaining a stronger track record of result making.

Erika Wallace '20, MBA'22

I attended St. Kate’s for my Undergraduate degree and graduated May 2020! I loved my time at St. Kate’s and received my B.S. in Healthcare Sales. During my time at St. Kate’s, I was very involved with the business department and had the opportunity to articulate and take two MBA classes during my Undergrad. I loved the program and the professors and knew I wanted to continue my MBA with St. Kate’s.

I specifically chose St. Kate’s for the small class sizes, their mission to lead and influence women, and for the overall support the university provides to all students.

My MBA is helping me lead and influence within my new job. I recently completely switched industries and I have been able to leverage my degree to advocate for myself and my abilities. Switching industries is never easy, but having my MBA aided in my switch tenfold.

I just switched industries from pharmaceutical sales to software enterprise sales. These fields could not be more different, and I am glad I took the leap to change my professional focus. Less than 30% of software sales representatives are women.

My goal is to work my way up within a company to an executive role. I want to lead young professionals and help them make advances within their career and company.

It’s hard to pick specifics around the program because everything was amazing. Our small class size and ability to get to know our professors and peers on a higher level definitely meant the most to me. I am the first one in my family to attend college, let alone complete a master’s degree, so the support and encouragement from those around me is irreplaceable. The MBA program shaped who I am as a young professional and gave me the ability to grow in ways I didn’t even know were possible.