Samantha Bruening ’14


Degree: Criminal Justice 

Position: Police Officer — Yankton Police Department


Choosing Her Own Path

Officer Samantha Bruening stands near her police cruiser and scans the parking lot, subtly but skillfully checking the area for any suspicious activity. The young officer, a 2014 graduate of Mount Marty College (MMC), now works for the Yankton Police Department.  It’s a role she touts as her greatest accomplishment — so far — and a position she says she found herself in because of the focused guidance she received during her undergraduate experience at MMC.

 A native of Dell Rapids, SD, Samantha found herself on MMC’s doorstep because she wanted to extend her high school athletic career into college, “Initially I explored Mount Marty because I wanted to continue competing in shot put,” Samantha explained, “then on my visit I enjoyed how everyone was so friendly.”

Pursuing her athletic passion was important, but Samantha had a gut feeling that MMC would provide something else. Something intangible, yet valuable. “Mount Marty seemed to have the kind of small environment and relationships that I knew would keep me accountable for my actions.”


Her instinct was right. Over the course of her academic career, she found the people of MMC were friendly, and the relationships she formed were priceless. “One of the most influential people I met at MMC was Sr. Maribeth Wentzlaf,” Samantha said of the Benedictine sister who was the Director of Campus Ministry at the time. “Some of my most memorable experiences were fishing with Sister. I also enjoy the activities Mount Marty hosted such as bowling nights, it was something to do off campus and got you active with others who you normally wouldn’t hang out with.”

Relationships outside the classroom were important, but her professors sparked a pivotal change in Samantha’s path. “Mount Marty is such a small campus that I was more than a number to the professors; they really got to know me on a personal level, so they knew what direction to guide me in.” That gentle guidance coupled with a police ride-along made all the difference, “I was originally going to college for another career, but during an internship, I went on a ride along and instantly knew that’s what I needed to do.”  

Changing her major was a good choice and paved the way for what has become a rewarding career. “After graduation, I was hired as a correctional officer at the Yankton County Jail and was eventually promoted to corporal. I definitely think that job was a stepping stone to where I am now.”  

Life Is Good!

 In 2015 Samantha was hired as a police officer by the Yankton Police Department and has since completed the South Dakota Law Enforcement Academy. “I’d say becoming a law enforcement officer has been my greatest achievement since leaving MMC.” When asked what the best part of being a police officer was Samantha smiled, “I’ve always been an outgoing individual so being able to bring that to the public through my job is very rewarding. Nobody ever told me being a police officer would be easy, but it is very rewarding.”

Samantha says she’s certainly found a welcoming home in Yankton. “I’m newly married to my husband, Joe, and we’ve established our lives in the Yankton community; Joe recently started his own construction business.”

A Message for College Seekers

Eight years after her college choice Samantha encourages students who are just starting out to look beyond the college sticker price — remember, there are scholarships and financial aid to help with that — and see what you’re really getting. “Being more than a number is worth it; it means the professors get to know you and actually care about whether or not you’re in class.”

No matter what you choose Samantha says that in the end, the most important thing is to follow your dreams. “Don’t settle on a school just because everyone else is going there – be your own person!”