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Natalie DeFord '16

Kate Deines '16
Kate Deines ’16 1024 427 Natalie DeFord '16

Kate Deines ’16

TACOMA, WASH. (June 15, 2016)- Kate Deines ’16 is a natural on the soccer field and has a long résumé to prove it. She played at the local, college, national and international level, garnering recognition until her retirement from the sport in 2015.

When Deines made a pivot from professional sports to the finance master’s program at Pacific Lutheran University, it was a bit of an adjustment.

“Soccer came easy. I’ve always known it’s something I’m good at. But with finance I’ve had to work really hard to prove myself,” said Deines, who graduated last month with a Master of Science in Finance. “It was scary to go from soccer and my identity as a soccer player and go into the completely foreign territory of finance, something that I had no background in and knew nothing about.”

Deines seems to have started on the right foot with her new identity. She earned her first badge of honor in April when the Puget Sound Business Journal and the Seattle Foundation presented her with the Women of Influence Award. The program “shines the spotlight on local businesswomen, community leaders and philanthropists who are a force in the region,” according to the publication’s website.

“I am honored and so humbled to receive this award,” Deines said. “I burst into tears when I found out.”

Deines was busy during her accelerated 10-month MSF program at PLU. She worked part time at Avier Wealth Advisors in Bellevue. She also participated in various student competitions throughout the region, in which she had the opportunity to practice managing a six-figure investment fund as part of a research challenge with the CFA (Charter Finance Analyst) Society of Seattle.

Additionally, she worked with Criterion Institute where her work – focusing on mentoring wise investments to empower women – became part of her capstone.

“Helping make those sort of investments in women is really important to me,” Deines said. “In just my short time as a student and at conventions I have really noticed women as a minority in business.”

She was also a Issaquah-based commuter student and continues to coach soccer once a week.

“This has been a complete 180,” Deines said of her new journey. “It’s just been a total whirlwind and I can’t believe it’s been about a year of not playing already.”

Deines said she has always loved soccer. She grew up playing in the Seattle area, joining the Seattle Sounders Women when she was still in high school. She played for the University of Washington while completing her undergraduate degree in communication and media.

In 2012, she was named UW’s Female Athlete of the Year and awarded the Tom Hansen Pac-12 Conference Medal – for the student athlete who displays performance and achievement in leadership, academics and athleticism.

But she didn’t stop there. “I always wanted to play professionally,” she said.

After graduating from UW, Deines found herself with nowhere to play because the United States Women’s Professional Soccer League disbanded. “It was a sad time for women’s soccer,” she said.

So, like many others in that situation, Deines played abroad. She joined Stjarnan FC in Iceland, helping her team win the Icelandic Cup, among other accomplishments.

Deines later joined the Seattle Reign FC in 2013, after the formation of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), and played two seasons before retiring in 2015.

During that time she continued to play abroad in the offseasons, playing for FFC Turbine Potsdam located just outside Berlin, Germany. They became the top team in the Frauen-Bundesliga, the country’s women’s soccer league.

“Finance was never even on my radar,” Deines said. She said she felt she had already achieved everything she wanted to achieve in soccer, and she was drawn to finance because it focuses on long-term goals. She said soccer, on the other hand, focused on what needed to happen each day.

“I’m a competitive person, and I was ready for something else,” she said. “As I near graduation and get ready to work for a firm, the idea that I am hopefully working my way up to the top motivates me. I enjoy thinking about what climbing that next rung looks like and how there’s no ceiling to what you can accomplish.

“The fact that finance has no limits – that in and of itself is definitely a big motive.”

An old family friend and PLU alumna, Darcy Johnson, referred her to the MSF program.

“When I visited PLU I had a really good feeling and I could envision myself here,” Deines said. “I always wanted to achieve financial security and I had a really good gut feeling that PLU would be a good fit.”

Deines said she likes the opportunity to help others reach their financial goals. As far as the Women of Influence Award, she said she was pleasantly surprised with the honor. In some ways, she said, the award is a sort of validation, or a sign of heading in the right direction.

MSF program director Cynthia Smith said she was not at all surprised that Deines got the award.

“Kate is highly intelligent, very motivated, well connected, diverse in background for someone in her mid-20s, and she is good with people and maintaining relationships,” Smith said. “She has really taken steps to get involved and she’s been offered many jobs.”

Smith says the MSF program is fairly intense, but Deines managed it exceptionally well. “She has such a busy schedule and is just amazing at prioritizing and managing her time,” Smith said.

Deines is part of the fourth cohort to graduate since the formation of the relatively new program. PLU is the only school in Washington state to be certified for the CFA (Certified Financial Analyst) exam, Smith said.

When I visited PLU I had a really good feeling and I could envision myself here. I always wanted to achieve financial security and I had a really good gut feeling that PLU would be a good fit.
– Kate Deines ’16

Deines advises other students to follow their hearts. “Trust your intuition – my mom says normally it’s never wrong,” she said, “and so far it’s led me to good places.”

She added that she would be lost without support from mentors, friends and family.

“Having played soccer as part of a team with amazing coaches and teammates both in the US and abroad, I know a lot success comes from being surrounded by really quality people,” she said, “and PLU is no exception of that.”

Bryanna Plog '10 working as a park ranger at Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in summer 2015. (Photo courtesy of Plog)
Bryanna Plog ’10 1024 427 Natalie DeFord '16

Bryanna Plog ’10

TACOMA, WASH. (Aug. 1, 2016)- Bryanna Plog ’10 seems to have done it all in her years after Pacific Lutheran University – teaching English abroad in Colombia, writing books about travel and interning for a conservation nonprofit. But now, she says, serving as a park ranger feels like the perfect fit.

“I really love working for the Park Service because it’s an organization I can really believe in,” Plog said, “tasked with preserving places for future generations and also making sure people can enjoy them now. I love being part of that.”

Plog, who is currently working at Yosemite National Park in California, double majored in communication and global studies at PLU. She also double minored in environmental studies and English writing.

Her day-to-day job includes leading tours and and answering many questions, among other duties.

“It’s pretty awesome to see a 7-year-old kid sharing a cool fact about Yosemite that he remembers from when you told him,” Plog said.

She said her job is a way of life — hiking, walking, enjoying the great outdoors, interacting with diverse visitors, living where she works and focusing on education and the environment.

“You never really stop being a park ranger,” Plog said. “That’s the life.”

The Snohomish native said she was drawn to the PLU for its many study away opportunities, in addition to receiving a scholarship.

The university instilled values in Plog that changed her life, she said.

“PLU had big ideas, like being a global citizen. I didn’t know what my vocation was going to be,” she said. “I just hoped my variety of studies would help me find something I was passionate about, and it has.”

That commitment to versatility landed her with several organizations on campus, including multiple years in student media writing for The Mast and working with a club called Progress – which helped raise money for the Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma.

Plog worked in media services at the library all four years at PLU and as a sojourner advocate for the Wang Center for Global Education her senior year.

She also studied away – a lot. Plog spent the January Term of her first year in Australia for a communication course, followed by a fall semester in Norway her sophomore year. She spent a J-Term in Costa Rica, fall of her junior year in Tanzania, and a semester in Argentina and Antarctica her senior year. All were amazing experiences, she said, that helped her discover a love for studying in a place and growing to know it well rather than just being a tourist.

That’s partly what she says her life as a park ranger is like, living in a national park and learning about it on a more intimate level.

“Just like studying abroad, how you always learn about the place you are living in,” she said, “I get to do that an entire summer or winter where I visit and grow to know about the places really well.”

Plog’s love for the outdoors started early in life. Growing up, her parents were teachers and always had summers free. So, the family would take trips to many national parks.

So, it seemed natural to try a summer internship outdoors. That hooked her. After two summers at Zion National Park in Utah, Plog spent a summer at Katmai National Park and a summer at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park – both in Alaska.

Plog is currently at Yosemite through October, after being officially hired by the Park Service in January 2013. She works at Zion in the winter months, which she says is a more education-focused time of year while kids are in school. “I’m very lucky to have a winter job,” she said. “Not many rangers do.”

Plog is also lucky to serve as a ranger during the National Park Service’s centennial, something she says has been especially amazing.

“It’s awesome how much I help people,” Plog said of her job. “And I get to work in very interesting and beautiful places.

“I love it here. Right now I’m sitting outside my house looking at the evening lights. With this job, no matter how sad your day is, you always know you live in a beautiful place.”

Plog said she loves working with people – kids and adults alike – especially visitors who have never seen the park before. “It’s a cool experience to see someone looking at a place for the first time,” she said, “or seeing a deer for the first time, bear for the first time.”

During her offseasons, Plog puts her English writing minor to use, writing travel books – a collection of travel stories from her study away trips at PLU and the year she spent teaching English in Colombia. The books – available through Amazon – also include “bad travel advice,” or what happens when you ignore good advice.

“I’ve always been fascinated by different ways people travel,” she said, “and in fact that’s something I experience every day when people from around the world come to visit the park.”

For her future in the Park Service, Plog says she might end up settling back in Washington, maybe working at Olympic or Rainier national parks. But for now, she says she is very happy with where she is and she thinks she’s found her vocation.

“I really enjoy this job and will stick with this as long as I can,” she said.

Plog said she occasionally runs into fellow Lutes at the park. Her advice to them and others: “Take a side job,” she said. “Do whatever it takes to find your passions.

“Don’t be worried about trying an internship or job that you’re not totally sure about. Take those opportunities. If you don’t know your vocation yet, it’s OK to try some things out.”

For her, it took some trial runs. She’s thankful that PLU taught her about the big picture, not just finding a job to pay the bills, but finding one to add something to society.

“Everything I studied emphasized finding your passion, sure,” she said. “But also finding something that can better your world. Hopefully I can try to continue doing that.”