Angie (Pieper) Bissen ’07 describes herself as “practical.”

When she was choosing a major, she thought about the type of career she could envision herself in, as well as what job opportunities would be available.

At the time, accounting jobs were in high demand. As she loved numbers, an accounting major seemed … practical.

Her sophomore year, she added a second major in human resources, thinking the unique pairing could be beneficial.

Currently the HR programs supervisor at Hormel Foods Corporation, Bissen’s instincts were spot-on. “Businesses need to make a profit, so being able to understand the numbers and have a grasp on general business practices is extremely important, no matter what aspect of business you’re interested in,” she said. “In human resources, you know you can’t have a good business without your employees. Having a business background gives you a better grasp on how to create a work environment that employees really want to be a part of.”

Bissen began working at Hormel 10 years ago, at first in accounting. She switched to HR at Hormel’s corporate headquarters because of her desire to work with people and not just numbers. “I like waking up every day knowing that the work I’m doing is making a difference in our employees’ lives.”

In her position, Bissen oversees affirmative action and hiring policies; directs relocation programs; administers policies and communicates those policies; and provides coaching opportunities to employees looking to improve their performance. She also helps managers work through performance issues and oversees internal job postings called career connection.

In varying aspects of her position, Bissen said she frequently refers back to what she learned in her courses at Saint Mary’s.

“Even to this day, 10 years after graduation, I still reference exercises, experiences, and examples professors used in class. That speaks to the practicality of the content we had at Saint Mary’s,” she said. “My professors had real-world experience, and they were able to apply their knowledge of the business world to what they were teaching in the textbook—making the information interesting and relevant.”

She’s also thankful for the experiences that group activities provided. “We were forced to think critically and examine all sides of an issue,” she said. “Having that ability helps in ethical decision making. You’re not looking at it from your perspective only, but you learn to think about what’s best for the greater good.”

Bissen said one of the most valuable business classroom experiences was her strategies class, in which she and her team had to apply interdisciplinary skills, as well as accounting, management, and operations skills to a case study that they then presented to business leaders and professors. “It was pretty high-stress and intense, but it was very much like the real world,” she said.

Beyond business, Bissen said her overall liberal arts degree helped prepare her for life after college. “Having an understanding of a variety of academic disciplines gives you a deeper level of understanding to every problem you are presented with,” she said. “It gives you a solid foundation for decision making.”

Bissen is also thankful for internship opportunities she had at Hormel for two summers, as well as an independent study through which she prepared taxes with senior citizens in Winona, both of which provided valuable learning experiences.

She advises students to take advantage of every growth opportunity, including extracurricular activities. “As I look back, it is surprising how much they helped me develop leadership skills and build relationships,” she said. “I served on the Student Senate, as the head of finance. We went through budgets and decided what groups got what money, so it was a very real-world practical experience in a safe environment. The leadership skills it taught me gave me a leg up in the real world.”

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