Pauleen Le
Tina Erdmann

WCCO Reporter Pauleen Le to Emcee LDCW Spring Legacy Brunch

Pauleen Le ’11 always wanted to be an astronaut, but after finding out that the profession required a lot of math – something she admits isn’t her strong suit – it was her mother who suggested the award-winning journalist’s current career path.

WCCO reporter Pauleen L and her mom
Pauleen Le (right) and her mother

“She told me that I loved to talk and tell stories, so why not try to do something with that,” said Le, a reporter with WCCO-TV. Her mother was on to something. Le has earned 14 Emmy nominations throughout her career and, in November 2023, won her first Emmy for Outstanding Coverage of a Breaking/Spot News Story.

Le, who received her Bachelor of Arts in communication and journalism from the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, will emcee the May 11 Spring Legacy Brunch presented by the university’s Luann Dummer Center for Women. She’ll be joined by keynote speaker and Board of Trustee member Jodee Kozlak ’85, a past C-suite executive with Target Corporation and Alibaba Group, and founder of Kozlak Capital Partners.

Those who registered for the brunch were encouraged to leave a note about the female figure who most impacted their life. Le said she has been inspired by other women in the industry, including the late Darcy Pohland, a WCCO-TV reporter who established a broadcasting career despite an accident that left her paralyzed and using a wheelchair.

Pauleen Le won an Emmy.
Pauleen Le won an Emmy and had 14 nominations so far in her career.

“When I was a senior in high school, Darcy did a story on the program I was in and there was an energy about her and she had an enthusiasm for telling stories,” said Le, who attended Sibley (Two Rivers) High School in Mendota Heights, Pohland's alma mater. “I remember seeing the story she put together on the news that night and she didn’t miss a beat. She was there a whole day and condensed it to a few minutes. I was amazed at the writing and storytelling and how it all came together.”

Le connected with Pohland again once she was a St. Thomas student and was invited to take a tour of the WCCO-TV station where she was able to see both sides of the news. Pohland also supported Le for an internship with the station.

“Without her doing what she did and taking me under her wing and showing me the ropes, I don’t know where I would be.”

Le said her time at St. Thomas also had a profound impact on her. She participated in the Campus Scope, a monthly television news magazine at the time, where she told her first story on the men’s basketball team.

“I married creative writing with pictures, and it was fascinating,” she said. “I stuck with it ever since.”

Le also participated in the student-run TommieMedia, which, she explained, “gives you a good foundation of every part of journalism before you graduate. I owe a lot of my success to that because it gave me such great insight into what it really took to be a journalist.”

So did the professors, she added. One of them was Greg Vandegrift, who had spent nearly a quarter century as a television news reporter, including a dozen years at KARE 11, before arriving as clinical faculty at St. Thomas in 2008. He is still on faculty and maintains his connections to the broadcast profession through freelance work.

“To bring that real-world experience into the classroom was invaluable,” Le said. “He gave me such great insight into what it took to be a journalist.”

And Vandegrift has followed Le’s accomplishments.

“It was clear to me from the moment that I met Pauleen Le that she was serious about journalism, particularly TV news,” Vandegrift said. "Her determination has paid off, and our department is incredibly proud to see her ongoing work at WCCO-TV.”

Le also inspires young journalists. She has spoken to St. Thomas classes, and she is a new member on the board of ThreeSixty Journalism, a high school program run on the St. Thomas campus.

Pauleen Le '11
Pauleen Le '11 recently joined the board of ThreeSixty Journalism to support high school journalists.
Tina Erdmann

Before Le graduated from St. Thomas, she studied abroad in London and completed internships with the Associated Press and CNN in Atlanta, as well as with WCCO-TV, and CCX Media in the north suburbs. She was also a resident advisor for Dowling Hall and played violin in the St. Thomas orchestra. After graduation in 2011, Le began her career as a general assignment reporter in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and then worked in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Fort Wayne, Indiana.

“One of the most memorable stories I did early on in my career was about a Vietnam War vet who would clean off headstones of service members who have already passed on and it was fascinating to see the selflessness of what he did,” she said. He mentioned he had no desire for others to clean his headstone after he dies. “He told me it’s enough for him to have served this country, to have lived in this country, but that he doesn’t need to be memorialized. Oh my gosh.”

That story by Le, a member of the Asian American Journalist Association, was nominated for an Emmy.

Pauleen Le interviews war veteran.
Pauleen Le was nominated for an Emmy for her interview with a Vietnam war veteran.

“The Luann Dummer Center for Women invited Pauleen Le to emcee the brunch and tell her story not only because of her professional accomplishments, but also her commitment to St. Thomas as a proud alumna,” said Dr. Shaz Ahmadi, an associate professor of history at St. Thomas who is serving as director of the center for the 2023-24 academic year.

“As an Asian American woman who excels in her field, Pauleen will add dimensionality and insight to our celebration of graduating Tommies, whose rich diversity of backgrounds and experiences we look forward to elevating in the program,” Ahmadi added. “It is a privilege to highlight the work Pauleen has done at WCCO, CBS, FOX 11, as well as other esteemed outlets, and invite our students to imagine their own bright futures.”

Le joined WCCO in April 2022. Looking back, she credits a lot of her success to her mother. “Without her, I wouldn’t have gone into journalism,” she said. “She also taught me to strive to be better, to always do better, to work hard in everything that I do, and that anything is possible.”

Le’s parents immigrated from Vietnam, which continues to inspire her. “Just knowing what they went through and the fact that they lost essentially their home country and had to give everything up – their home and their friends – and come to a new land, barely knowing the language and barely having any money and seeing how they have succeeded now decades later, is amazing,” she said.

Pauleen Le '11 with her parents and sister.

The LDCW Spring Legacy Brunch, which will take place Saturday, May 11, is open to all alumni and current seniors anticipating 2024 graduation, and others in the St. Thomas community who register for the event by May 8.