true stories - Mainhia Thao

Mainhia Thao '18

I’ve always been interested in international relations, so I knew I wanted to major in something international. At St. Kate’s, I was introduced to a new major—Women and International Development.

My first year, I learned a little about what my identity was as a woman in this world. Experiences of other people, including women, was something I wanted and needed to learn, especially in the realm of international development.

I had never been at an all-women’s school, but there are a lot of benefits. You might be put in a situation someday where you’re in a community that’s not your own, where they do things differently. It prepares you for the real world. My first year, St. Kate’s felt like a small, local community. But then it introduced me to the broader community outside Saint Paul. Through my study abroad experiences and internships, St. Kate’s felt a lot bigger.

St. Kate's student photo with pop art filter

I am a Hmong American woman. I was not around a lot of powerful women of color in high school. It was nice to see women here in leadership roles and think I can be one of them, too. There were a lot of great mentors here. One mentor was a Fulbright Scholarship recipient to Laos. She inspired me to apply for a Fulbright. She made it seem possible. I had the support of strong women behind me. I did receive a Fulbright in 2019 to Laos. It was the peak of my undergrad experience. Now I want to use everything I learned to support women around me.

My study abroad experience during my second year was in Japan. I’d received a Gilman scholarship to go. I also did a lot of internships as part of the community leadership program, which finds paid internships for students. I actually worked four different internships throughout my third and fourth years. I was also involved in clubs, including Diversity Chair for the Student Senate Association. 

St. Kate’s always taught me to be a leader. My mentors—even my classmates—were so empowering it pushed me to strive even more for success. There was always a team there to help me with my vision for after graduation. It had been there from the start, so I felt fully prepared.

St. Kate’s was a place that cared about me all four years. As an alum, I would say to others considering St. Kate’s that there’s a team there that really wants you to achieve your goals and vision for your future. It’s one of the best decisions I made.


Start your story...

Department news