Six women who work at Water’s Edge Counseling and Healing Center in Burnsville, Minnesota, come from a variety of backgrounds. Despite their differences, the six professionals share a common bond that pulls them together: They’re all proud graduates of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
How Amber Anderson, Claire Kaehr, Heather Rouillard, Laurie Mueller, Kendra Colon and Jenny Ginther wound up working at the same counseling and healing center about 90 minutes away from their alma mater is beyond them.
“It’s funny, because we didn’t even realize it at first and then we started making the connection,” said Rouillard, a psychotherapist at Water’s Edge. “I am sure we crossed paths several times, and some of us even lived in Towers at the same time.”
Each of the six Blugold alumnae took different paths that eventually led to their jobs at Water’s Edge, and each left with degrees and expertise in different areas.
Rouillard, who studied psychology and English while at UW-Eau Claire, said after working in marketing and sales for nine years, she decided to return to school and eventually went into the mental health field.
“I feel like the diversity of classes I received at UW-Eau Claire really prepared me for working with different clients and cultures,” Rouillard said. “My Eau Claire degree prepared me well for my master’s.”
Laurie Mueller, who studied social work and graduated in 2004, had her first experiences working in the mental health field while at UW-Eau Claire. Mueller, who provides individual and group therapy as a licensed independent clinical social worker at Water’s Edge, said the experiences she had working at the Eau Claire Academy and being involved in the Association of Student Social Workers were invaluable to her future.
“I frequently apply the skills I first learned from my professors at UWEC,” Mueller said.
Another 2004 graduate, Amber Anderson, studied kinesiology while at UW-Eau Claire. Anderson served as a resident assistant in Towers North for three years and started the Figure Skating Club, and she said she truly enjoyed being involved in campus life as a Blugold.
Initially Anderson coached figure skating full time, but later realized she wanted to have more influence on the children she worked so closely with, some of whom struggled with anxiety and eating disorders. So, she returned to school and pursued a master’s degree.
Although Anderson’s area of study during her undergraduate career was much different, she said she actually learned important life lessons from her involvement on campus, all of it applying to her current job as an advanced practicum psychotherapist.
“I loved so much about being at UW-Eau Claire, but what I loved most was the well-roundedness that was emphasized,” Anderson said. “Like, it’s not just about academics, it was about what you were involved in with campus life, too. It’s more my experience from all those extra things that better prepared me for what I’m doing now, in professionalism and being a therapist.”
The only two Water's Edge colleagues who knew each other during their time as Blugolds were Anderson and Claire Kaehr, who graduated in 2006 with a degree in public communication.
Kaehr said she wouldn’t have gotten her job as a licensed marriage and family therapist without her experience at UW-Eau Claire.
“I think the thing that impacted me most was the relationships I built at Eau Claire,” Kaehr said. “Many have followed me for years afterwards. In fact, one of the reasons I’m currently at Water’s Edge is due to the relationship I had with Amber in undergrad and her reaching out to me.”
For Kaehr, the best part of her alma mater was the community that surrounds the university.
“I love that the school is not set apart in its own ‘college bubble’ but in the middle of a healthy, active community,” Kaehr said. “I loved walking to class and witnessing the community engaged in everyday life.”
Kendra Colon, a 2012 graduate, and Jenny Ginther, a 2000 graduate, both studied social work at UW-Eau Claire.
Colon, who is now a psychotherapist, was part of the Phi Alpha Honor Society, participated in V-Day, and went on the Civil Rights Pilgrimage during her time at UW-Eau Claire, all of which she said fueled her greatest passions.
“My experiences at UWEC were some of the first steps I took in exploring my passion for social justice, empowerment and relationship,” Colon said.
Ginther, a licensed independent clinical social worker at Water’s Edge, pursued her passion for dance while at UW-Eau Claire, serving as vice president of Concert Dance Company and participating in research projects revolving around using dance to teach area students about domestic violence.
Rouillard and Colon both said in retrospect they aren’t surprised the group of six found a home at Water's Edge.
“The company we work for and the profession in general both have a high standard of integrity, and it’s easy to say that we all got a lot of that while attending UWEC,” Rouillard said. “I am so proud to say that I graduated from UW-Eau Claire.”
“Water’s Edge is unlike any other organization I have worked for,” Colon said. “The environment truly fosters connection, which is what opened the gates for us Blugolds to, yet again, feel that sense of community. I am not surprised that we have all found our way to an organization that aligns so well with all that we learned at UWEC.”
In their daily professional lives at Water’s Edge, they bond over their Blugold connections and wonder if they may have ever crossed paths.
“It’s cool to think that many of us probably crossed paths on the bridge or the hill at some point,” Mueller said. “It’s awesome working with so many fellow Blugolds!”
And that bond they share is one of the best parts of being a Blugold.
“The best part of being a Blugold is being able to reminisce with other Blugolds about the giant staircase and the cold bridge on campus,” Ginther said. “We Blugolds are hearty folk!”
“I feel a connection with former Blugolds that I can’t quite put words to,” Colon said. “I mean, who else can bond over 'the hill’ or walking across the literally freezing bridge?”
Photo caption: Back row, left to right: Claire Kaehr, Heather Rouillard and Jenny Ginther. Front row, left to right: Laurie Mueller, Amber Anderson and Kendra Colon.