Bernadette Foh, LL.M. ’11, J.D. ’18 Helps Brainerd-Based Nonprofit Spread Hope
Bernadette Foh, LL..M. ’11, J.D. ’18, who arrived in Minnesota 16 years ago as a refugee from Sierra Leone, was recently appointed executive director of Bridges of Hope, a faith-based, nonprofit organization in Brainerd, Minnesota. The group helps families in crisis in Crow Wing County and surrounding areas by connecting them with community resources.
“This job is what I was seeking in my life and career,” says Foh, who is the oldest girl of 13 children in her family. “The more I learned about the organization, the more I knew it was a place I could use my J.D. in a way that aligns with my personal values.”
Foh says her law degree has proven invaluable for her work with Bridges of Hope. “It’s a small organization but it does a lot,” she explains. “I end up wearing so many hats. Having that J.D. has been profoundly helpful. It gave me the guts and knowledge to tackle an abatement process with the IRS. It’s helping me with grant contracts, board development and employee policies and procedures. It’s even helping me with fundraising because in law school I learned how to develop and present a case.”
Foh’s journey to law school began with the LL.M. program, which she said opened her eyes to the American legal system and introduced her to an array of people in law. “It also opened my eyes to who I am as a person,” she recalls. “I learned I’m passionate about human rights and community-driven work.”
While she considered earning her J.D. immediately after completing the LL.M. program, she ultimately opted to take another route, pursuing an MBA from St. Catherine’s University. But in 2015, she was drawn back to the Law School, convinced that a J.D. was critical to the work that she wanted to do. “I could see that a law degree was needed in situations where people want to connect the heart and head. A J.D. gives you choice to do so many things. Law school offers the richest curriculum that I have seen because it deals with every aspect of humanity.”
Foh specifically calls out legal writing and the welcoming environment at the Law School as two factors that helped her excel. “I was surrounded by people who contributed to me having a well-rounded life.”
At Bridges of Hope, Foh is helping the Brainerd community address numerous issues, including a gap in services for the homeless. “It’s about housing, transportation, food. It’s a complex problem,” she says. But, she adds, law school taught her how to tackle challenges. “I learned to identify what’s the question, then look at the environment and resources, analyze and propose a solution,” Foh says. “I use this same process in my job in Brainerd.”
Bridges of Hope board chair Biff Ulm said his organization was very pleased to attract someone of Foh’s caliber. “Bernadette is a people- and customer-centered individual with a strong history of creating highly engaged teams. She has excellent business experience and the drive to help us take Bridges of Hope to the next level of growth and development.”
—By Kathy Graves, a Twin Cities-based freelance writer
Impact Minnesota is an occassional series demonstrating some of the many ways the Law School and its alumni serve different areas of the state.