Renee Thompson B’03, M’07 is earning her third degree from Saint Mary’s
Renee Thompson B’03, M’07 is hoping to add another degree from Saint Mary’s after her name this year as she earns a Doctorate of Business Administration.
Thompson will soon have seen the university from every angle: as a bachelor’s degree completion student, an adult learner (earning both a master’s and doctorate); an adjunct instructor; a member of the alumni board and the business advisory council; and soon as a parent.
Her daughter, Madeline, is enrolled in the nursing program at Saint Mary’s Winona Campus in the fall and plans to run track.
Though she says she never pushed her to be a Cardinal, she is pleased her daughter’s choice is keeping the Saint Mary’s legacy alive. She details, “We toured 10 colleges, and she told me she applied to Saint Mary’s nursing program and got in, and I said, ‘Let’s check it out!’ We met with one of the professors, and my daughter said, ‘This is where I want to go.’ They also reached out to her about being on the track team. The coach was a great influence. And the students who walked around with us, they were great!”
The only thing left to complete her Saint Mary’s connections? Thompson jokes that if she was asked to be a trustee, she probably wouldn’t turn it down. “I can never leave Saint Mary’s,” she said.
Thompson’s first introduction to the university was when she was looking at where to complete her bachelor’s degree. “Some coworkers went there, and they loved it and said the teachers and professors were wonderful. I went down there and fell in love with it,” she said. “Once I graduated, I thought, ‘I’m so used to studying, I might as well keep going.’ ”
Thompson said taking the next step and getting her MBA helped make her more marketable. “It helps you get noticed as a job candidate,” she said. “And it helped me understand the full circle of business as a whole. After I graduated with my MBA, I moved onto another position two months later, which was great. It gave me the skills and qualifications that I needed to move into a different kind of business.”
Thompson, who works in accounting, worked for Best Buy for seven years, and before that, the United Way, GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council), Minntech, and Carquest. Since 2020, she’s served as a senior accountant with United Natural Foods (UNFI).
She joined the alumni board in 2010 — largely because a Saint Mary’s friend encouraged her to be another voice for graduate students. For the next six years, she learned more about the undergraduate side of Saint Mary’s and worked toward building a network between the two groups of alumni and students.
“I would say it’s a different bond graduate alumni have than at the undergraduate campus,” Thompson said, adding that she still talks with some of her MBA professors and others who went through the program with her. “That connection is there. You work in groups and you just kind of stay connected,” she said. “We all had lives, so you also knew about their kids. You get to know all their families, where they work. You use them for networking.”
After finishing her MBA, Thompson took a break from school, but she always knew she wanted to get her doctorate. When she finished her term on the alumni board, she started school again, just two months later, after some encouragement from a former MBA professor. Thompson recalls, “He told me, ‘This is going to be way intense, but you can do it.’ I said, ‘You’re one of the toughest teachers I’ve ever had, so if you’re saying I can do it, I must be able to.’ ”
Now a teacher in the MBA and the accounting program, Thompson hopes she can pay it forward and inspire her students, particularly when they aren’t feeling confident. “Hopefully I can pass that encouragement onto others,” she said.
She also stays connected through the university’s business advisory board and enjoys getting to know current students through events. In her current position at UNFI, she’s always excited to see a Saint Mary’s graduate apply and get hired.
“I love accounting,” she said. “That’s why I teach. It’s about helping future generations.”
One thing’s for sure, Thompson will stay connected to her alma mater any way she can for the foreseeable future. “I just can’t leave Saint Mary’s. I just keep coming back,” she said.