(Editor’s Note: The author of this article, Rhonda Sunnarborg, is a student at the College of St Catherine, where she met the subject of her feature, Evangeline Moen. Rhonda is a public information intern in the college’s Office of Public Information. According to the office’s director, Carol Rolloff, Rhonda is a double major in Business and Communications and works as an intern under the college’s work study program. She will be graduating this spring and intends to join the Peace Corps, after which she hopes to seek employment in an international agency or world church organization. Rhonda has worked extensively on publicity for the Weekend College program at St. Catherine’s. Her feature on Angie Moen was circulated to several papers in the state and to Twin Cities television stations as an example of how the weekend program works at the College of St. Catherine.)
Evangeline Moen sews 40 hours a week at a garment factory, cares for her family, and manages finances for a food co-operative, but she takes time out on weekends – to go to college.
Moen is one of 400 women working to obtain a B.A. degree in four years by attending classes every other weekend through Weekend College at the College of St. Catherine, St. Paul. Unlike the others, she attends every weekend rather than every other, because she is enrolled in a French class that meets weekly.
“I got the Weekend College brochure from a friend of a friend – and a week later, I enrolled,” said Moen recently. “It’s just what I was looking for. I had looked into correspondence and night courses, but choose Weekend College because it is a well-structured program with good credentials. And I can come just once a week and get the courses I need.”
The latter is a plus for Moen, a resident of Isle, who drives 100 miles each Friday afternoon for a weekend of classes. Considering what she is getting in exchange for her aging odometer – a degree in communications – Moen thinks that the distance is irrelevant.
“I want to be at St. Catherine’s, and I am getting out of it what I want,” said Moen, a second-year student of the program. “I cover the material, am active during class, and am getting the information to receive my credentials.”
Through her volunteer work in community organizations, Moen saw the need to apply communication skills and therefore was motivated to pursue a communications degree. In working to bring businesses into the area through the Community Development Organization and working with the food co-op, “we found we didn’t have the skills to communicate with funding sources or skill to communicate to the community what we were doing,” Moen said. She sees her college education as providing her with the necessary skills and expertise to work more effectively in these organizations, or perhaps direct one. “It’s important to educate the rural women who will go back and invest in their communities,” Moen added.
As a woman who became financial director of the food co-op without ever taking an accounting course, Moen was up to the challenge of beginning college after one quarter at the U of Minnesota 20 years ago. Sunday night, when she gets home from St. Paul, she goes through her assignments and breaks her homework down into sizable chunks. Monday through Friday, when she’s on the job at Cohn-Feldman in Onamia, sewing men’s jackets and overcoats, Moen studies as well.
“I glance at my notes during breaks and lunch, then go over it in my mind whole I sew. It makes French almost painless.”
Moen has found her first year of college to be a positive experience. “I’ve enjoyed all my classes, and I’ve actually used some of the material from each class I’ve taken.” She’s used principles from her personal communications course to promote the food co-op in Isle. She is also one of the active promoters of St. Catherine’s and their Weekend College program.
“It’s a great program. I push it to everyone,” Moen said. “They aren’t crimping standards just to get people through. St. Kate’s has a real commitment to the needs they are trying to serve,” she said.
Moen promotional skills appear to be effective for the College of St. Catherine. Her daughter Caroline entered St. Catherine as a day student this fall.
Although Moen holds down a full-time job, maintains a house, fills the role of wife and mother, and drives over 200 miles round-trip each weekend, she does not think that her situation is more difficult than other women at St. Kate’s.
“Many of the women at Weekend College still have young children at home, and a few drive further,” she said. And although she works full-time, “There aren’t the great expectations place upon me as there are upon most college students. There is not the pressure to maintain a high grade-point average,” Moen said. “Nobody is expecting me to build bridges or set the world on fire.”
Yet, after meeting Evangeline Moen, you think she just might.