Courtney (Anderson) DaCosta '99 Comes Full Circle
Even a stint working for the US government in the intelligence community and a law degree from Georgetown couldn't keep alum Courtney (Anderson) DaCosta ‘99 away from Minnesota. For DaCosta, coming home meant both coming back to the Twin Cities and also coming home to Minnehaha Academy.
“I feel like most Minnesota girls end up finding a way to bring their significant others back to Minnesota,” she says, laughing.
Today, Courtney is senior legal counsel for employment and benefits at 3M, a global industrial, healthcare, and consumer products company headquartered in St. Paul whose household brands include Post-it®, Scotch®, and Command®.
Courtney didn’t grow up knowing that she wanted to enter the world of employment and benefits law, or that she would one day return so fully to her roots.
A Minnehaha Academy lifer, DaCosta thoroughly enjoyed her math and science classes and planned to find a career that would incorporate this foundation. During her sophomore year at Dartmouth College, though, she found herself gravitating towards the social sciences and a degree in government. While in college, she interned with a US Senator in Washington, DC, and worked on a major political campaign.
“I wasn’t totally sure what I wanted to do right after college; I had a thought that I might want to go to law school,” she says, “but I wasn’t quite ready to commit to that yet.”
DaCosta with her parents during her volleyball years at Dartmouth.
She moved to DC, the hub of all things political and public service, to pursue an opportunity to work as an intelligence analyst with the federal government. It seemed like the right fit for the time: She could be in DC, where her then-boyfriend (now husband), Jason, also worked, as well as explore options for the future.
While DaCosta enjoyed her job as an analyst, the pull of home still played at the back of her mind.
“Ultimately it was important to me to have the ability to move back to the Twin Cities, and that likely would not have been a realistic option on my then-current career path,” she explains.
DaCosta finished her two years in the intelligence community and then plunged into a law degree at Georgetown, graduating with her JD in 2008. When it came time to determine the next step, she and Jason decided to relocate to the Twin Cities. Courtney completed a clerkship with a federal appellate judge before joining Minneapolis-based global law firm Dorsey & Whitney LLP as an associate, while Jason opened the Twin Cities office of technology company Alarm.com, Inc. After about four years with Dorsey, in 2013, Courtney joined 3M, where she has served in a variety of roles, both as an employment and benefits attorney and a business attorney.
“When I think back through my education—high school, college, law school—it’s been more important in terms of my career to be able to think critically about problems and solutions and to know where to go to find information, than it has been to learn facts, and I think that was a strength of MA.”
DaCosta remembers working in English class under Dr. Barbara Olson, learning to research and to write clear, concise, and convincing pieces, a foundation that serves her well even to this day.
She also says that MA instilled in her the importance of being a good citizen of the world and of maintaining relationships with people in one’s life; for her, this has played out in pro bono work with nonprofits serving children and families in need as well as regularly reconnecting with her high school friends.
Based on her own positive experience, it might seem obvious that DaCosta’s return to Minnesota would include enrolling any future children at Minnehaha Academy. Adding to that is her family history: As you enter the front offices at the Lower and Middle School, a plaque honoring Courtney’s grandmother, Arlene Anderson, hangs to the right of the door.
Arlene Anderson, from the announcement celebrating her 39 years at MA.
Anderson worked at Minnehaha Academy from 1945 to 1984, first as a History and English teacher, and later as the Dean of Students, Dean of Instruction, and then Middle School Principal. Later, she served on the Board of Trustees and eventually as board chair.
“She was so connected to the school, and was very proud of it and very committed to it,” DaCosta says. Consistent with her deep connection to the school, Anderson’s memorial service was held at the Upper School.
DaCosta’s father, Arlene’s son—David Anderson ’67—is also an MA alum and currently serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees.
In spite of all of this, before committing to enroll their oldest child, Flynn, in the preschool program last year, the DaCostas met with current parents, members of the school leadership team, and others connected to the school.
“I had a really great experience at the school, but I wanted to make sure that the school as it exists now was a place I felt comfortable having our kids attend, and that my husband felt that it was the right school for our family as well.”
A year later, with Flynn in Kindergarten and little sister Claire looking ahead to preschool next year, the family’s choice to commit to the MA community still feels right, says DaCosta, noting that she could tell that Flynn’s teachers at the Lower School have really loved him and that he has loved them back. Equally special, she says, is knowing that her son is in the place that both her grandmother and father have loved and to which they have committed so much of their time and energy.
Flynn's first day of PreK last year.
“I think sometimes, when I take Flynn to school, [that my grandmother] never got a chance to meet her grandkids; but I know that she would have adored them and that she would have been especially proud that they are at the school.”
While DaCosta had already made the return to Minnesota and stayed close to her MA friends, in a way it was as Flynn started his journey at MA this past year that she truly came full circle.
“I’m looking forward to my kids being able to experience MA in many ways similar to how I did,” she says, “but also, [it will be] in a beautiful new place that my family has had a role in making happen...that makes me feel closely connected to the school as well.”