Reindorf advocates for racial equality and inclusion

Posted By: Deborah Nahrgang On: 2024-02-27
Posted On: 2024-02-27

When faced with adversity, Roberta Reindorf B’14, M’23 finds strength in the quotes she hangs on her office walls — quotes from African American role models like Michelle Obama, who once said, “You can’t make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.”

Or Michael Jordan, who said, “I failed over and over and over again, which is why I succeeded.”

As an immigrant, Reindorf has overcome numerous obstacles in her educational journey, and along the way, she’s suffered great personal loss, but — inspired by her faith, her family, a desire to help others, and the help she received from Saint Mary’s University, she persevered.

In June 2023, she earned her latest degree from Saint Mary’s, a master’s in Counseling and Psychological Services. She also has a bachelor’s in Human Resource Management. Now, she says, she’s considering a doctorate.

A native of West Africa, her family moved to London when she was a teenager, and then as a young adult she immigrated to the United States to further pursue her education … in vascular surgery.

Looking back, she said, she didn’t understand all the steps that would need to occur before she could even begin her studies in a new country, one with a very different educational system. And, she needed to uncover her true calling in life.

She also focused on family. She met her husband, a U.S. citizen, and they raised two children.

It was her father-in-law, who was a clergyman in downtown Minneapolis, who persuaded her to investigate Saint Mary’s, knowing she had been looking for a place where she would feel like she belonged. After learning how many immigrants were successfully studying at Saint Mary’s — and learning more about its affordability in comparison to other schools — she applied. “It became a second home for me,” she said.

In her June commencement speech, she said, “After many difficulties in transferring my previous educational background … Saint Mary’s worked with me to find a pathway forward.”

She also detailed the pain of losing her mother and her sister while enrolled and described how then program director Mary Louise Wise advised her to take time off to grieve and focus on her mental health.

But, just as she was returning to her courses, COVID-19 struck, throwing obstacles in the path of education around the globe. And, with one final blow, in 2021, just after returning to her studies again, her husband died.

“I decided to advocate for myself, so I persevered,” Reindorf told the June Saint Mary’s Minneapolis commencement audience. “I began to see the big picture of what got me on this journey in the first place. (Program director) Dr. Lindsey Tiegland … in her warm, beautiful voice said to me, ‘You can do it. You are capable of completing it. Yes, you can do this.’ ”

Reindorf is now using her education, her skills, and her background to make a difference in the world. She is currently a children’s mental health practitioner for Ramsey County, serves on the Race Equality Advisory Council of Hennepin County, and runs a television interview show — all of which have provided her an opportunity to advocate for racial equality and inclusion in Minneapolis.

“I see lots of immigrants struggling to transition and navigate the American system, trying to get an education,” she said. “I see a gap, where I am able to use my background and skills, and I’m just getting started on advocating for policies that continue to improve services in our communities.

“I go in with a lens of inclusivity,” she added, “making sure we understand that demographics are changing.”

In her work with the Race Equality Advisory Council, she conducts research, which may find its way into policy change. “I want to make sure children have access to mental health services but also equitable mental health services,” she said. “There are so many educational and mental health inequities. I present my findings to the commission and to the board, which is then presented to the Hennepin County Commissioners,” she said.

Guests on her show, “The Roberta Reindorf Show,” featured on Northwest Community Television Channel 12 (now CCXMedia), are frequently those in political office. “It’s also a platform to shape policies,” she said. “I have interviewed lawmakers, senators, representatives, from both parties, including the minority speaker of the House, whom I interviewed on mental health policies and gun violence,” she said.

Where she sees problems, Reindorf wants to be a conduit of change.

“I have not yet accomplished what I want to do,” she said. If given the opportunity, I’m going to make a big impact on the lives of Blacks, immigrants, or others who have come to the United States and wonder, ‘Where do I go from here?’