Women's Work: Alumnae Return to Speak About DSHA Influence on Professional Careers

On October 4, as DSHA kicked off its 2019 Alumnae Weekend, students filled the auditorium to hear from the Young Alumna of the Year, Molly Sullivan, DSHA ‘04, and the Alumna of the Year, CAPT Amy Bauernschmidt, DSHA ‘89. They demonstrated where hard work, determination, and self-confidence could lead, and students walked away inspired, looking forward to their own futures.
When Sullivan first set out to open Miss Molly’s Café & Pastry Shop, some people were uncertain whether she, as a woman, could run a successful business, much less make the “cursed” storefront on 92nd and Center streets in Wauwatosa—down the street from where she grew up—into something that would stick.
She told the students at the assembly about a time when a man entered her establishment and asked if her parents had bought the store for her. Some customers question her age. Others in the finance world were doubtful—she applied for a loan half of a dozen times and was not granted one until she ran into a female banker.
“Many people told me that opening a business is challenging, but I’ve always been up for the challenge,” Sullivan said.
As it turns out, the challenge—and the journey that has gone with it—started at age seven. As a young girl, she always wished for a place where she could go to have an after-school snack. Years later at St. Joseph’s University, she was able to study abroad in Paris, and began seriously contemplating a career in the culinary arts. After she graduated, she went to a year-long pastry school in Minneapolis and started working in small pastry shops.
But something inside her itched to make a difference—a passion cultivated at the Catholic schools she grew up attending. Her service experiences and involvement in DSHA Campus Ministry was the foundation of her conviction to do good in the world, she said.
“I had a desire to make a positive impact in the world and in society,” she said. “But I thought a small café isn’t going to change the world. My mom was the one who told me that opening a business will change the world, by employing people and running an ethical business.”
Sullivan is also driven to change the culture of the often male-dominated restaurant business. She employs one man and 13 women, including Maura Reardon, DSHA ‘20.
“Everyone says once you graduate here, you’ll have all types of skills to equip you in the outside world,” Reardon said. “It’s a little hard to believe, because you’re not sure what specific skills you’ll need. But seeing (Sullivan) use her skills of hard work and determination is inspirational.”
Sullivan does not only serve as an inspiration for Reardon, but also made an impact on Mia Hartounian, DSHA ‘22, the founder of the Entrepreneurial Club at DSHA, who has a business of her own.
Hartounian has an Instagram thrift account, titled “organic thrift finds” (@organicthrifttt). After launching the page this past summer, she has around 6,000 followers. Her page sells thrift clothing, items from her own closet, as well as items in which she adds a butterfly patch “to make it one of a kind.”
“I liked listening to somebody else who has a story where people said she couldn’t do it,” Hartounian said. “I connected with her experience.”
Sullivan was hopeful that sharing her life story—and how DSHA helped her develop her leadership skills through sports and student council—would encourage students to chase their dreams the way Hartounian is beginning to do.
“It’s an honor to hopefully be an inspiration to other young women who want to go down an entrepreneurial path or are looking to follow their passions,” Sullivan said. “I’m happy to lead by example in that.”
In the eyes of Hartounian, Sullivan did just that.
“To a lot of girls, it was very eye opening,” Hartounian said. “I know a lot of girls walked out of the assembly and said, ‘I want to do that one day.’”
Like Sullivan, Alumna of the Year CAPT Amy Bauernschmidt also gained the skills of determination and confidence through the opportunities DSHA presented to her. However, Bauernschmidt learned these characteristics through an unexpected experience.
One of her English teachers at DSHA approached her at the end of her freshman year and shared she wanted to nominate Bauernschmidt for the journalism staff. Bauernschmidt was stunned; she excelled at math and science, but her skills in English were not as strong.
“I went home and told my mom what happened at school that day,” she recalled to current students as she Skyped into the October 4 assembly from her home in San Diego. “She told me, ‘Never pass up an opportunity and where it leads.’”
This has become Bauernschmidt’s mantra throughout her life, especially in her journey towards becoming the first woman in Navy history to hold the title of executive officer of a nuclear aircraft carrier.
During her naval career, she has been deployed more than six times, more than a few of those times as executive officer of the deployment. She has also worked at the Pentagon as part of the Department of Defense staff responsible for command, control, communications, and computers/ cyber. Furthermore, she served as the senior military advisor to the Secretary of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, enhancing women’s peace and security through worldwide initiatives. At the time of the assembly, she was preparing a crew of over 700 marines and 400 sailors for deployment, ensuring they are ready for any task given from government leaders.
One could possibly assume that a naval officer with so much responsibility and so much achievement would have a serious and stoic personality. But Bauernschmidt is almost the opposite. As she appeared over Skype to the full auditorium of current students, she waved enthusiastically, communicating with energetic facial expressions. She praised the students for being loud, as she herself is a “huge proponent of attitude in the right space and cheering on those who work for you.”
“She seems to have a lot of peppy qualities,” said Mary Rose Otten, DSHA ‘20, who has applied to the United States Naval Academy, and if accepted, plans to major in nuclear engineering and work on a nuclear aircraft carrier, like Bauernschmdt. “I was reading an article about her. She says ‘awesome-sauce’ a lot. I’m a pretty peppy person, so I think we’re pretty similar in that way.”
But after learning more about Bauernschmidt, Otten could see that the captain is admired by the many who work with her day in and day out.
“She’s not cocky or humble,” Otten said. “She’s not bossy but leads with a happy spirit. She lifts up others. She is a supportive team member. One day, I want to lead in a way that yields the same kind of respect.”
Personality traits aside, Bauernschmidt’s reality is one of being surrounded by men, but unlike Sullivan’s experience, gender isn’t taken into much consideration in the Navy, according to Bauernschmidt.
When asked what it was like to be the first woman in naval history to hold the title of executive officer of a nuclear aircraft, Bauernschmidt said she doesn’t think about it.
“I’m focused on my goals,” she said. “I’ve been lucky that I’ve had male mentors and leaders that didn’t see me as a woman, but saw me as the leader I wanted to become.”
Otten saw something similar as she attended a summer seminar at the Naval Academy. There wasn’t discrimination against women.
“I didn’t hear anything like, ‘Oh, she shouldn’t be here,’” Otten said. “They all kind of saw you as an equal. That’s what I also got from CAPT Amy’s talk.”
That doesn’t mean being surrounded by the opposite gender, and often leading those of another gender, is always easy for Bauernschmidt. In fact, she credits her assertiveness and leadership skills to DSHA.
“When I went from an all-girls high school to a mostly-boys college (the Naval Academy), I wasn’t afraid to ask questions, stand up for myself, ask for help, and get things done,” she said. “A lot of that came from being in the environment of DSHA.”
Otten is seeing now how DSHA is helping her become a confident leader—what she sees in Bauernschmidt.
“My leadership roles in extracurriculars and in my job will help me be a confident leader and go after my goals,” she said.  
Both Otten and Halle Quadracci, DSHA ‘21, have goals in mind as they explore the Naval Academy and the United States Air Force Academy. If the Naval Academy is not her destined path, Otten hopes she can study aerospace engineering and aviation in the Air Force Academy. Quadracci has always been interested in space, and also dreams of being able to study along the same lines.
While having goals is important, Bauernschmidt told the students that opportunities can come up “in weird places at weird times.” Just like her mother told her, never pass an opportunity and where it can lead. In other words, it’s okay to change or modify your goals.
Whether or not Quadracci’s goals or dreams change, one thing she feels is for certain: the opportunity she may receive to attend the Naval or Air Force Academy will help her become the best version of herself.
“There are so many opportunities for me to become the best person I can be,” she said. “But I also want to spend my life doing things for other people. That serves my larger purpose and what I believe in. Being able to go to one of these academies and going into the military, my job will be to become the best version of myself, but also do things for other people. That’s all I ever wanted.”
DSHA’s Alumnae Weekend is about celebrating all of the graduates of HA, DS, or DSHA—all women who, fueled by their DSHA education, make a difference every day. Sullivan and Bauernschmidt received plaques with an inscription that not only applies to them, but all alumnae:
“Who shall find a valiant woman? Who shall find a woman of strength? Many are the women of proven worth, but you have excelled them all. Give her a reward for her labors, and let her works praise her at the city gates.” – Proverbs 31:11-24
Who would you like to nominate for 2020 Alumna of the Year?
We’d love to hear who you think deserves to be named to one of the following categories for Alumnae Weekend 2020:
Young Alumna of the Year
classes of 2005 – 2019
Alumna of the Year
class of 2004 – 1971
Jubilarian of the Year
classes of 1970 and beyond
Please send nomination submissions to Alumnae Director Danielle Jeromski Rabe, DSHA ‘08, at rabed@dsha.info by May 1, 2020.
    • Young Alumna of the Year Molly Sullivan, DSHA '04

    • Alumna of the Year CAPT Amy Bauernschmidt, DSHA '89

    • CAPT Bauernschmidt Skyped into DSHA to accept her Alumna of the Year award. She spoke with students about her journey to becoming the first female in naval history to hold the title of Executive Officer of a Nuclear Aircraft Carrier.

    • Following her DSHA Young Alumna of the Year acceptance speech and presentation to students, Sullivan poses with Social Studies Faculty Patrick Dawson and Chris Weiss, DS ‘70. Both Dawson and Weiss are proud patrons of Miss Molly’s Café and Pastry Shop.


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