Brandy Vilone teaches in a classroom.
Brandy Vilone '16 teaches in a classroom in Ethiopia.

St. Thomas Inspires Global Career

Brandy Vilone ’16 remembers when she was enlightened to the possibilities of a global career during her time at St. Thomas.

As a leadership and management major, she was in a course taught by Assistant Professor Erica Diehn that had a guest speaker from Ethiopia, Shegitu Kebede of Women at the Well International.

Diehn, who in her corporate human resources management career held an international role in the U.K., intentionally introduces her students to global opportunities.

“It is imperative that our students learn about some of the challenges and opportunities that exist around the world to not only build a global perspective but also to grow in compassion and conviction for positive change and building solutions,” Diehn said.

Samuel ’17 (l) and Brandy Vilone '16

Today, Brandy lives in Ethiopia and recently started a job as a human resources professional for global mission organization SIM. She supports the approximately 60 missionaries that the organization has in Ethiopia, ensuring that their ministries and families thrive.

Brandy has lived there for more than three years with her husband, electrical engineering major Samuel Vilone ’17, a native of the country.

The couple’s path to living full time in Ethiopia wasn’t a straight one.

A combination of corporate and international experience

At St. Thomas, Brandy also minored in French.

Stephanie Lohse, a faculty member for Brandy’s French minor, casually mentioned the Teaching Assistant Program in France one day in class. Brandy applied for the opportunity and worked in the country for a year after college, assisting English teachers in a preschool and a high school.

“I didn’t take a corporate job right away,” Brandy said. “I wanted international experience and to use my French minor before starting to work in corporate.”

Upon her return to the U.S., Brandy worked for two years at Pentair while Samuel worked as an electrical design engineer at Park Industries in St. Cloud.

The pair moved to Ethiopia in 2019. Brandy secured a job teaching high school business and middle school French courses at Samuel’s alma mater, Bingham Academy. Samuel started working for large commercial truck manufacturer Frankun, his family’s business, as a production site manager. He’s also currently pursuing a master’s degree in systems engineering from St. Thomas.

Someday, Brandy and Samuel want to have their own nonprofit or align with an existing one that works in areas they are passionate about: clean water and orphans.

“Our long-term plan is to use my experiences serving with a mission agency in the nonprofit realm coupled with Samuel’s [family] business to contribute any profits not reinvested in the business to finance our nonprofit,” Brandy said.

She’ll lean on her St. Thomas experiences, which included co-founding and serving as the president of the LEAD Club for leadership and management students.

“Brandy is a highly talented, intelligent leader who continues to amaze me with her commitment to making an impact in everything she does. Her passion and skill in leading others well were exhibited during her time on campus at St. Thomas when she was the president of the LEAD Club and led her peers in a service learning project in my leadership class, raising funds to build a soccer field in a refugee camp in Ethiopia,” Diehn said. “To see her now living and working in Ethiopia, dedicating her work to world missions is a beautiful full circle of learning, inspiration, and influence. Brandy is truly living what we hope all St. Thomas students do in working skillfully to advance the common good.”

As Brandy reflected on her time at St. Thomas, she shared how the professors and experiences played a large role in where she is today.

“St. Thomas having a global mindset, showing its graduates and its students that there are opportunities and career paths outside of the U.S., and providing study abroad programs for students to gain some experience at least living abroad during their college years is really important,” Brandy said. “That plays into St. Thomas creating graduates who understand and have more of a global mindset.”

Editor’s note: For more information about Brandy's work in Ethiopia and how you can be involved, click here or reach out directly at