That's When I Knew

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March 9, 2016

From College of Saint Benedict Magazine Winter 2016

As a residential, Benedictine, liberal arts college, Saint Ben's offers profound developmental experiences. Being a college exclusively devoted to the transformation of women is something special. Do you remember the moment you knew this college for women was the right choice for you?

Emily Bina '11

Major: Communication

To me, a women's college does something the rest of the world can't — it creates a space where there aren't rules or expectations or glass ceilings to work around or be limited by. It tells women they are strong, creative and capable...then provides the resources to ensure they are all that and more.


Jill Belanger '95

Major: Elementary Education

I actually didn't realize the impact and importance of attending an all women's school until well after graduating. It was when I realized my peers that attended other schools didn't have the same experience, I was able to see exactly what Saint Ben's IS! The voice you have as a woman, the empowering, the respect. About 10 years after graduating I looked back and thought "wow" and was so glad I got to attend Saint Ben's and experience that. Some may think that partnering with Saint John's takes away from that but I don't think it does at all. The partnership allows for the best of both with both a women's only and a coed experience.


Maria Stanek Burnham '01

Major: English

The first time the power of attending a college for women really hit me was on my graduation day. Our commencement speaker was Helen Thomas, a woman who paved the way for female journalists for decades. Her speech was funny, poignant and emotional, and I remember thinking about how this one woman shattered the glass ceiling in a dominantly male field. Her speech helped me see that my four years at Saint Ben's allowed me to focus on growing as a woman, both academically and spiritually. There was a power in that sisterhood, and that power still exists today. 


JoBeth Pike Ranfranz '80

Major 1: Music

Major 2: History

I never thought that I would attend a women's college. I grew up with three sisters and had about all the girl power I could take. I came to a women's college to sing. I felt that at this school I would not be just another voice in the choir. I thought that if I studied hard and practiced more, I could be the best I could be. By being surrounded by women, I was nurtured and encouraged. The faculty made sure I was heard. The staff made sure I felt at home. The women knew how to react when I was feeling bad, or glad, or sad or mad. They became my sisters away from home. A women's college allowed me to be myself and not be caught up in competition with men. My voice, both sung and spoken, was a beacon and I became the best that I could be. I am so thankful for my Bennie sisters, faculty and staff that helped me learn who I am and how to be my best self!


Jane Murray Marrin '64

Major: Social Work

I never imagined not going to a women's college as I attended an all-girls high school. But what kept me at CSB were: the true sense of place; the strong religious women who not only told us we could do anything, but actually expected us to; the deeply rooted Benedictine values; and the unexpected relationships that began in 1960 and continue to this day.


Adia Zeman '12

Major: Communication

I knew a women's college was the right place for me when I met Marah Jacobson-Schulte '99. I had never met a woman who was so strong, confident and self-assured and it gave me a whole new perspective on what it meant to be a female leader. I knew right away that I wanted to grow up to be just like her and I am trying every day to do that! 


Rose Maiers Norman '66

Major: English

(I knew a women's college was the right choice) long before I graduated from high school and knew that I wanted the very best education available. It's also why I endowed the Maiers, Bianco, Gates Scholarship at Saint Ben's. I had the best and it showed throughout my career.


Alicia Vargas '15

Major: Nutrition

The moment it clicked that a women's college was a fit for me transpired on move-in day back in August 2011. Witnessing the compassionate, caring, gentle, kind and helpful Sisters involved with the Benedictine monastery really put my soul at ease. Attending weekly Sunday mass and saying hello to these women around campus made me feel extremely loved and most importantly, recognized.


Danielle Quintana '15

Major 1: Theater

Major 2: Communication

There were many times in which I realized how important it was to be going to a women's college during my four years at CSB. However, the full impact of it did not truly hit me until my own graduation, listening to Valerie Kaur give the college's 100th commencement speech. In particular, it was these words that struck me: "Your bravery lives in the soul of your sister next to you. Take her hand for a moment. May you reach for her hand to take strength and make meaning, for courage is only possible in community. Your sisters will deliver the toasts at your wedding, hold your newborn child, remind you of your callings, celebrate your swearing in, and kiss the coffin at your funeral. Close your eyes and think of their names. Now open your eyes and don't let them go."

And in this moment, as I closed my eyes, I pictured all of the amazing women that I grew to know and love during my time at CSB. There were more names than I had time to think of. It was these words that assured me that these women would always have a home in my heart. There was not a dry eye in the room as the class of 2015 held each other's hands tightly and dreamed of the beautiful years that we would face together - if not in person, then in spirit. We are all scattered across the universe now, but we are still holding on to each other and always will.


Nicole Cornell '15

Major 1: Sociology

Major 2: Pre-Occupational Therapy

I knew an all-women's college was right for me because I felt more at home and supported living in a dorm of only women rather than having random guys as neighbors.


Nritya Ramani '08

Major: Biology

Often people assume that the concept of a women's college is archaic. But Saint Ben's practices this exclusivity in the form of women's empowerment, celebrating culture and encouraging interfaith dialogues. Considering today's pressing needs for such conversations, Saint Ben's was way ahead of its time! For me, a women's college ensured the safety and privacy of a same-sex dorm and the free thinking of mixed classes and social events. It also gave me the opportunity to interact with the Benedictine nuns, namely S. Helene Mercier, who so generously brought me hot herbal tea when I was sick during my very first Minnesota winter!


Emily Gustafson Schaefer '14

Major: Elementary Education

The first time I realized a women's college was the perfect choice for me was my first year at the Phonathon. I was hired by the Phonathon on my first day of my first year at Saint Ben's. I was nervous, excited and ready to earn some "income" to afford Gary's on late weekend nights! I figured I would have this job for maybe first semester, then find something better. Truth is, there is nothing better than 30 women, rallied together raising money for other young women to attend college. My job, which was more of a second home, became a part of me. I was part of something that could provide an incredible education for women who could not afford Saint Ben's without financial assistance. I was helping my Bennie sisters who would come after me, just like the Bennie sisters who came before me. Phonathon provided me not only with income, but lasting friendships, intelligent conversations among women, and the passion to work hard for the benefit of other Bennies who would come when I was gone.