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Graduate Spotlight: Hanger goes from the soccer pitch to MBA degree

Lipscomb University is a place that women's soccer team member Katia Hanger (’23) believed nearly a decade ago would be a life-transforming stop on her journey at some point in her future as she received an undergraduate degree in exercise science and an MBA degree.

Kim Chaudoin | 

Katia Hanger

Lipscomb University is a place that Katia Hanger (’22, MBA ’23) believed nearly a decade ago would be a life-transforming stop on her journey at some point in her future. 

As a high schooler in Alpharetta, Georgia, Hanger started looking at colleges at a younger age than most as she was being recruited for soccer. She knew she wanted to attend a faith-based school, and from her first visit to Lipscomb she was “certain it was the place the Lord was calling [her] to.”

“I am normally an indecisive person, but I had no doubt when I stepped on campus that this place would be my future home,” explains Hanger. “As a sophomore in high school, I verbally committed to play soccer and attend Lipscomb University.”

Two degrees and an NCAA Division 1 collegiate soccer career later, Hanger says her Lipscomb experience far exceeded her expectations. 

“Now, around eight years since the day I committed and five years since becoming a student at Lipscomb, I am blown away at the Lord’s faithfulness in the way he so intentionally brought me to Lipscomb. I wouldn’t have changed a single thing about my college experience. My extremely high expectations were somehow exceeded, and for that and everything else, I am so grateful.”

Hanger also set the bar high for herself and packed a lot into her time at Lipscomb. As a member of the women’s soccer team, she was one of two Bisons named to the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy Watch List and the United Soccer Coaches (USC) Division I Women's Players to Watch list this past fall. In her five seasons with the Bisons, she has had multiple All-ASUN and All-Region selections. She was also part of three ASUN championship teams that made three postseason appearances in the NCAA tournament.

Katia Hanger playing soccer

Katia Hanger (6) on the pitch for the Bisons.

“The Lipscomb women’s soccer team has easily been one of the greatest blessings of my life. It has undoubtedly shaped me into who I am today. It’s hard to pick just one memorable experience because there have been so many,” she shares. “But, in all honesty, it is the non-soccer moments with my team that I’ll carry with me forever—worshiping with my teammates on our game field as we pray over our season, hearing girls share their testimonies, going on a mission trip as a team to El Salvador, laughing on long bus rides, praying with secular schools even after losses, having intentional conversations with teammates and coaches, and so much more that I will treasure the most.” 

Along the way she earned an Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science with a minor in Biology in May 2022. With two extra years of eligibility on the playing field remaining due to a medical redshirt and Covid-19 year, she used one of these years in the classroom to pursue her second Lipscomb degree while juggling a busy schedule as a student-athlete through the College of Business’s fast-track Master of Business Administration. 
The fast-track MBA is an accelerated 11-month program that provides students with real-world training through a directed work experience (DWE). The DWE is a paid position that gives students marketable work experience that allows them to apply lessons learned in the classroom to a real-world setting. Hanger’s DWE assignment was as a Data Analyst Intern at Healing Hands International (HHI), a faith-based nonprofit that touches thousands of people’s lives every year. 

The placement was a dream come true as Hanger had long felt called to work for a faith-based nonprofit in some capacity, but was unclear about the area in which she could best serve. She discovered a love for working with data in a previous internship. 

“When I saw that Healing Hands International was a faith-based nonprofit and had a need for a Data Analyst Intern, I knew it was the Lord very clearly opening a door for me,” admits Hanger. “Not to mention, Healing Hands is a phenomenal nonprofit that authentically and genuinely loves others through their work. HHI seeks to share the love of Christ through clean water, agricultural education, women’s empowerment, disaster relief, MAGI (Make a Godly Impact) boxes, and more all over the globe.”

Hanger soon learned that the way the organization collected data was outdated and inconsistent, and that it could benefit from various improvements. She says although it did not affect the humanitarian work of Healing Hands, it was clear that many changes could be made to further the organization’s impact with modern technological advancements. As part of her internship, she became the leader of a large project to implement a data collection and analytics process for the organization. Using a software platform called mWater, she spent months learning the nuances of the software as well as learning about the programs and processes at Healing Hands in order to build and implement an efficient data protocol.

Katia Hanger at HHI

“I knew the successful implementation of mWater could change our organization and further our impact. That knowledge motivated me throughout the project,” she says. “In addition to providing an easier reporting platform for those in the field, it also provides language translations, currency changes and unit changes that allow our international staff to report in ways that are easiest for them and in the forms they are used to in their respective countries.” Additionally, mWater would allow international field staff to do project reporting through their mobile phones without having to rely on internet access, which has been a significant obstacle for those working in rural villages.

The process of implementing mWater took months of completing a series of tasks and numerous minute details. This included interviewing staff in the United States to learn what the data needs were as well as collecting and reviewing old data. Based on this information, Hanger created a series of surveys for each of HHI’s five programs in addition to organization-wide surveys. She built procedures for every program, created a more streamlined process for data collection, and designed a workflow diagram for each program so U.S. and international staff know the order in which the surveys are completed. The surveys include a variety of questions, some conditional and matrix-based while others are cascading or photo-based. Hanger also included questions with built-in GPS locations, which automatically saves the project’s geographical coordinates. 

“I can then use those coordinates to build interactive maps of every site we work in and add program-based site tags to communities and projects on the back end. Additionally, I built the procedure in a way that the surveys filled out before completion of a project correlate to the project reports and community check-ins that we do in the future,” she explains. “Therefore, the data fields are consistent in the collection process across our programs, and we can see the numbers and KPIs (key performance indicators) that reveal the long-term impact of our organization as a whole.”  

After finishing building the initial surveys, workflows, and maps, Hanger trained HHI’s U.S. and international staff and created onboarding processes relative to their needs. While it has been a difficult and time-consuming part of the process, she says it has been her favorite aspect. 

“It has been a blessing to work with our incredible staff all over the world. It’s hard to put into words the joy I feel getting to talk with people in other nations each day and to work together to further the work of the Kingdom. When I see messages from people in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Malawi, India and many other countries, I can’t help but smile,” she says. “Talking with so many people who don’t speak English as their first language and who are from vastly different cultures has also taught me so much. Most notably, it has instilled in me an even greater respect and appreciation for other cultures and people of all nationalities that God has created so beautifully.”

My experience at Lipscomb has been better than I could have even imagined. I have grown into a person I’m proud of, and, most importantly, a stronger believer and follower of Christ. — Katia Hanger

Once the majority of HHI’s staff was fully trained and they were receiving consistent data, Hanger turned her attention to building dashboards to best display the data that is collected. She meticulously built the dashboards and consoles to be interactive with charts, diagrams, photo mosaics, maps, calendars and quick filters among other features and to self-update with new data as it is received.

“While there is still a lot of work to be done and continuous improvements to be made, I am satisfied and proud of how the implementation process has gone,” she says. “It has been the largest and most difficult project I’ve ever worked on, but it has been incredibly rewarding. I am so blessed to work with a team of people so passionate about serving others in the name of Christ. Both the U.S. staff and our international staff inspire me daily, and it is an honor to play a role in furthering our impact.”

Hanger admits that the past year has been “extremely busy and not easy to balance a job, an accelerated graduate school program, and playing an NCAA D1 sport along with other commitments. 

“It has taken sacrifice, time-management, and hard-work to maintain excellence in each area,” she says. “While it has been challenging, it has been even more rewarding. It has been a year full of growth, new opportunities, relationships, experiences, and so much more.”

Hanger graduated with her MBA degree in May. But her Lipscomb story isn’t over yet. 

Because of her medical redshirt and Covid-19 year, she has one more fall season of eligibility remaining. With an MBA degree behind her, Hanger is continuing to work at Healing Hands International as a Data Analyst through this fall as she plays her last season of soccer and works on another Lipscomb graduate program in either data analytics or global leadership. And she is thankful to have one more Lipscomb chapter to write. 

“My experience at Lipscomb has been better than I could have even imagined. I have grown into a person I’m proud of, and, most importantly, a stronger believer and follower of Christ,” says Hanger. “I am confident in the purpose the Lord has called me to, and I feel equipped to step into what he has for me, no matter what the future looks like.” 

“Lipscomb has provided me with an education and experience that I will never take for granted,” she continues. “I have grown in every area of my life, and I have been so blessed with the people the Lord has brought into my life through this school.”