2023 Alumna of the Year: Connie Schmidt

Connie Schmidt

1978 graduate exemplifies campus engagement

Connie DeMent Schmidt, a 1978 graduate of Inver Hills Community College, has been recognized as the school’s 2023 Alumna of the Year. Connie earned her Associate of Arts (A.A.) at Inver Hills before transferring to Minnesota State University, Mankato (formerly Mankato State University) to earn a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Education K–12.

Connie was active in sports while attending Inver Hills, playing first base for the Giants, the college’s NJCAA softball team that won the 1977 Minnesota Community College Women’s Softball Championship. As an Inver alumna, she served on the Alumni Board twice and is a current member. She participates in fundraising efforts for the college and volunteers for many student-centered events.

“The Inver Hills 2023 Alumna of the Year Award holds special meaning for me,” Connie said. “This college was the answer for me when I needed it, and continues to be a part of who I am and what I do. I am grateful for everything Inver Hills has given me and look forward to continuing to give back in appreciation. Thank you!”

Alumni of the Year recipients help uphold the college mission and values by staying involved with the campus community.

Inver Hills Community College Mission

Learn, discover, and build a better future: Inver Hills is dedicated to the power and promise of education.

Inver Hills Community College Values

Student Centered: We recognize and build on students’ strengths and perspectives. We support them in taking an active role in their learning and in navigating our college. We provide inclusive, high-quality, and timely services. We also design our services and programs with our diverse students’ needs in mind.

Equity Minded: We take responsibility for creating an inclusive learning and working environment where our students and colleagues can thrive. We identify and address patterns of inequity, informed by a social and historical understanding of exclusionary practices in American higher education.

Community Engaged: We collaborate with employers, educational institutions, and community organizations to enhance our respective missions and strengthen our communities.

Connie Schmidt Q & A

Connie Schmidt
What inspired you to stay actively engaged with the Inver Hills campus community over the years?

My positive experience at Inver Hills as a student. When I graduated from South Saint Paul, I was unsure what kind of career I wanted to pursue, and how to take that first step. Looking for direction, I decided to begin my journey at Inver Hills.

The school campus was convenient, affordable, and seemed to be an easy way to begin figuring all that out. I involved myself in campus activities, played competitive sports, and engaged daily with all my class instructors.

After two years at Inver Hills, I realized that the excellence of those instructors had had such an impact on me that I wanted to make that kind of impact on others and pursued a teaching degree. Years later when a friend asked if I was interested in attending an Alumni Board meeting, I went  back to that beautiful campus and have now been involved for about 12 years.

What advice would you give students about launching and building successful careers?

Allow your education to broaden your job search. One of the most important things that I took away from my years of education was the ability to take what I was learning from my instructors and plug it into my life situations. My education has literally taught me how to think. It taught me patience, the results of positive interaction, to think “outside the box,” and to always be inquisitive.

When I graduated from Mankato State University with my bachelor’s degree in teaching, that process opened opportunities beyond my educational focus. My several work careers took me in a few different directions, some completely unrelated to my degree.

For that I am thankful. My advice to anyone graduating is to use your education as a tool in searching for your next step. However, you do not have to restrict your job search possibilities to your area of study. Any degree can open doors to amazing opportunities.

What advice would you give retirees about how best to enjoy their retirement years?

Have a plan! My retirement surprised me when COVID-19 became a part of everyone’s day to day lives. I was sent home from work in March 2020, and six months later was informed I wouldn’t be able to return. Researching my options, I decided to retire.

I learned very quickly that staying home without any schedule was not going to be the joyful journey I had always envisioned. Retirement during a pandemic was daunting. My focus quickly became staying engaged physically and mentally.

I am currently active on the Inver Hills Alumni Board, my HOA Board, and the SSP Kaposia Days Board. When I add babysitting grandchildren, friends and traveling, my life is full of wonderful people and activities—and is now the joyful journey I had always looked forward to!”

The following Inver Hills News story was published August 19, 2019.

Alumna Spotlight: Connie DeMent Schmidt

Connie Schmidt
Connie DeMent Schmidt

Former Giants fastpitch softball player accepts home plate as a memento

Connie DeMent Schmidt recently returned to the Inver Hills Community College campus to accept a memento from her time playing first base for the Giants, the college’s NJCAA fastpitch softball team that won the 1977 Minnesota Community College Women’s Softball Championship.

Inver Hills Interim President Michael Berndt presented Connie with home plate from the field where she played home games on the Inver Grove Heights campus. Kimberly Shaff, Inver Hills Foundation development director, was also on hand for the presentation.

“I wanted to play sports in elementary school and junior high,” Connie said, “but I had asthma, which back then meant I wasn’t even considered during tryouts. The Giants beat Normandale to become the Minnesota junior college champions the year I played, which was extremely satisfying since I wasn’t given the chance to play until then.”

“Going to a community college is a very smart thing to do. Very few kids know what they want to do with their lives. A two-year college helps you figure out what you want to study before you go to a four-year.”
Connie DeMent Schmidt
Class of 1978 
Inver Hills Community College

Connie earned an Associate of Arts (A.A.) at Inver Hills. She worked part-time at Target while going to school to cover her college expenses. She went on to earn a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Education K–12 at Minnesota State University, Mankato (formerly Mankato State University). Connie minored in Athletic Training and Adaptives and earned her Coaching certificate.

“I started working at 1st Bank in St. Paul back when you needed a four-year degree to be a teller,” Connie recalled. “I worked in the banking field in the Twin Cities and the surrounding area for twenty-seven years.”

Connie concluded her banking career as a community relations officer at Lake Area Bank in Lindstrom, Minnesota, to begin a 14-year career in social services. Today, she works for Gertens in the garden center’s corporate office.

“Inver Hills Community College gave me the chance to earn a degree, make lifelong friends and play sports,” Connie said. “Inver is a great school. I’m grateful for everything I got from my time there!”

More about Connie…

Originally from South St. Paul, Minnesota, Connie graduated from South St. Paul High School in 1976. She has two daughters, Alicia, 32, a fitness instructor, and Jordanne, 28, a supply chain specialist at Andersen Corporation. She has two grandchildren, Odin, 4, and Rayne, 6. Connie has one dog, Squeak, an 8-year-old Chihuahua.

“Squeak is a rescue dog,” Connie said. “He came from a puppy mill where they turned a hose on the dogs if they barked. Therefore, he very rarely makes any noise except when he makes a squeaking sound to get my attention.”

In her free time, Connie enjoys walking and hiking. She also paints wall frescoes as a hobby. “I bought an original painting on a trip overseas,” she said. “I decided to expand the painting by creating a fresco around its frame. I’ve done that for a number of paintings at my house.”

Connie resides with Squeak in Inver Grove Heights near the campus of her alma mater.

Connie Schmidt Q & A

Connie Schmidt
Connie Schmidt

Why did you choose Inver Hills?
The proximity to my home for one thing. I also didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career. I knew a lot of kids who went to Inver and loved it. The college seemed like a good place to start.

What did you like best about Inver Hills?
The college’s teachers made learning interesting and fun. They inspired me to study teaching at Mankato State.

Three words that describe you as an Inver Hills alumna:

What advice would you give students thinking about attending a community college?
Going to a community college is a very smart thing to do. Very few kids know what they want to do with their lives. A two-year college helps you figure out what you want to study before you go to a four-year.

Why is it important for Inver Hills alumni to stay connected to the college?
So many kids have a hard time staying in college. I finished five years of college with no debt. Every job I’ve had centered on my education. I served for several years on the Inver Hills Alumni Board. We would go into the classroom to talk with students. Sharing my experience was a way showing how important it is to never give up.

One word that best describes your experience at Inver Hills:


Inver Hills Giants Fastpitch Softball 1977 MCC Women's Softball Champion
Inver Hills Giants Fastpitch Softball 1977 MCC Women’s Softball Champions

Connie Schmidt 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Hiking
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Italy
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Winning the junior college state championship
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Give most of the money away 2) Continue my education and help others with scholarships 3) Travel
  5. Favorite TV show of all time: Happy Days
  6. Best movie you’ve seen lately: To Kill a Mockingbird
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Be the best caregiver I can be.
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Bald eagle
  9. Dream occupation: Painter/artist
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Barack Obama
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Painting
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Racism
Learn more about attending Inver Hills by contacting:

Inver Hills Community College
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