St. Thomas Campus News
St. Thomas a capella group Cadenza has performed dozens of times in many venues, but their performance in January at the Science Museum of Minnesota was different. The 100-plus audience members could not only hear the music, but see it.
That’s because the performance was part of Code and Chords, an interdisciplinary project at St. Thomas out of Associate Professor of Engineering and Entrepreneurship AnnMarie Thomas’ Playful Learning Lab. Over the past two-plus years Code and Chords has developed a unique way to, as senior Emily Meuer, the project’s main software developer, put it: “Feel the sound of the music through visuals.”
So, as seven Cadenza singers’ voices changed pitch and amplitude, mixing with one another through sound waves, that music also was represented visually on a giant screen. The goal of this is not to create a simple light show or iTunes visualizer, said Meuer, who’s also a music minor, but to “get across the true musicality of the sound into the visual.”
The success of that can be seen in several ways, from the positive reactions from concerts like January’s to the fact the software underlining the project recently won the best paper award for the manufacturing division of American Society of Engineering Education. Students have collaborated with St. Paul’s Metro Deaf School, as well as a professional music producer and Cantus, one of the country’s premier men’s vocal ensembles.
“They’re really creating something pretty unique,” Thomas said. “People are really intrigued by it, and it gives us a chance to really explore different ways of looking at things like music and code.”Knowledge and leadership growth
The combination of music and code is exactly what drew then-sophomore Meuer to the project in its infancy, and the opportunities it has created for her and fellow students since have defined her educational experience at St. Thomas. As well as getting to put concepts from class into a dynamic real-world application, Meuer said the leadership skills she has developed working with a team on a large-scale project have been invaluable.
“It’s been huge for me,” Meuer said. “That’s probably been the biggest part of the project for me. Just in our team dynamic, even. Being that person is new but definitely a growing experience and not one I had expected coming into school.”
As Meuer approaches graduation and looks to pass enthusiasm and leadership onto younger team members, the experience of those like first-year Grace Kubista will take center stage.
“I definitely did not think I would be doing research yet, as a freshman, to get an opportunity like this,” Kubista said. “It’s really helpful to figure out what I’m interested in, and to see how this all works. It makes my education a lot cooler. It drives me to focus on what interests me. You can sit down and do problems in a textbook … but research is more hands-on, and you’re creating something. It makes the learning a lot more interesting.”
Meuer is proud of the software’s growth, from its improved accuracy and responsiveness in pitch detection, to the development of more software modules that can feed the final product. Thanks to the foundation she and others have laid, Tommies will be exploring their own possibilities with Code and Chords for years to come.
“It’s really interesting what we might be doing in the future,” Kubista said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how we might develop the visuals more, working with graphic artists to make it more in depth. I’m excited to see what more it can do.”
Together, Catholic Charities and the St. Thomas Center for the Common Good tackled a pressing issue for many cities, including Minneapolis: How does race play a role in where people live?
Acooa Ellis, director of advocacy at Catholic Charities, led a panel discussion on Monday, which informed an audience discussion. President Julie Sullivan opened the 2018 Sowers of Justice Assembly, highlighting that the event was informed by St. Thomas and Catholic Charities’ commitment to Catholic social teaching.
“We have a common mission, we share common principles, we share the same faith-based roots, so we want to work together to expand what we can do as a university … and what they can do as social services agency, but more importantly, what we can do together,” Sullivan said. “What does it mean for the common good if ZIP code and the color of your skin has more power over your destiny than any other factors?”
The event was the first in a growing relationship between the Center for the Common Good and Catholic Charities.
“We’re excited about the relationship with Catholic Charities,” said Theresa Ricke-Kiely, executive director for the Center for the Common Good. She said working with Catholic Charities will create opportunities for St. Thomas community members to partner with essential programs across the Twin Cities.
“We particularly want our students to not only understand symptomatic societal problems, but the structural issues that come into play,” Ricke-Kiely said. “Students will learn from this vantage point and experience, and help to contribute to the common good.”
Here are five observations.
1. This issue is complicated, but don’t give up (see No. 5).
Housing and its intersection with race is a topic that can easily and quickly become overwhelming because it has such a long and tangled history. The panelists were open about this, and also that one simple solution wasn’t going to solve everything. But, they acknowledged the importance of listening, learning and taking a simple next step.
“The system we created many years ago lives with us today,” said Tim Marx, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. “It is our obligation to deconstruct it, to make it better, to not live with it. It was one that was consciously put together. We designed it and we got the results, which were intended to be created. And now we have to figure out as a community how to do it differently, and that is really hard.”
2. Housing segregation was purposeful.
Kevin Ehrman-Solberg, of the Mapping Prejudice Team, gave a historical overview of how segregation developed in Minneapolis over the course of the 20th century. He pointed out that – while it is a common misconception that segregation was a natural part of the way many cities developed – segregation was actually built into many metro areas, such as Minneapolis.
For example, in 1910, Minneapolis was not segregated, but as cities began to ask how to purposefully build “better” cities in the early 20th century, a category that was raised was race.
“The idea is that you have a white neighborhood, it is a good, stable neighborhood,” Ehrman-Solberg said. “If African-Americans move in, this is going to decrease property value. It’s not because they’re bad neighbors or that their median income might be lower, not because of education levels, simply because African-Americans are occupying what used to be white space.”
This conflation of race and space played out through discrimination. The Federal Housing Administration had the ability to mark neighborhoods deemed to be bad neighborhoods as poor financial risks, and banks refused to offer loans to these redlined areas. Because African-American neighborhoods were deemed to bad neighborhoods simply because African-Americans lived there, financing was denied to members of that community.
The Mapping Prejudice Team focuses on a lesser-studied form of housing discrimination. In property deeds, it was legal to include racially restrictive covenants, which could stipulate that someone who was not white could not own that piece of property. Because the deed went with the land, even after the property was sold and no longer had any connection to the original owner, that covenant was enforceable by law until 1968 and still can be found on property records.
Little data has been collected on these covenants, so the Mapping Prejudice Team is combing through those in Minneapolis and mapping how they grew across the metro. The team already has mapped over 10,000 of these restrictions and have many more to go.
Redlining and covenants together meant there was not much land in Minneapolis where African-Americans could get financing and legally live, which is what results in black families living in constrained spaces throughout the city.
3. We continue to deal with the history of these policies, and racial discrepancies are still in place.
Much of the panel discussion also centered around how much individual choice plays a role in where people live currently. Shannon Smith Jones, executive director of Hope Community, spoke on how people of color built tight-knit history, and created culture and community in these segregated spaces.
She highlighted how gentrification is a problem because people who have historically lived in these communities are being displaced with rising prices as their neighborhoods become “trendy.”
“We cannot have housing conversations without the people who are living in the housing,” Smith Jones said.
Adam Belz, a Star Tribune reporter, also spoke on the difficulty of moving to what is considered a “better” area. He wrote a story on Ethrophic Burnett, an African-American woman relocated to Chaska after a lawsuit alleged public housing in Minneapolis perpetuated segregation by race and income.
Burnett spoke to Belz about the difficulty of discrimination and building a network in the largely white community.
“It was fear on my part because here I am in an all-white neighborhood,” Burnett said in the article. “It was fear on their part because here this black woman comes with all her little kids. What’s she trying to do?”
Smith Jones also pointed out that such changes almost always put the burden on those who already are being negatively impacted.
4. Where people live plays a role in their economic mobility.
Belz spoke on a series of articles he wrote that indicated where individuals grow up plays a large role in their possible economic mobility: Those who live in a economically integrated areas, or areas where they’re growing up alongside people of different economic backgrounds, have a greater chance of movement. Yet, cities are more segregated by income, meaning it is more difficult to overcome poverty in cities.
The panelists also discussed other regional factors, such as education, that can play a role in economic mobility, and how living in a poor area can restrict access to good schools.
Ehrman-Solberg also discussed the homeownership gap, which is a prominent way families pass along wealth. In Minneapolis, white people are still three times more likely to own a home than African-Americans.
“Gaps like this don’t just happen,” Ehrman-Solberg said. “This is the result of decades of systemic policies.”
5. Even though this issue is complicated, there are immediate steps to help.
With such a whirlwind of information, some participants were curious what the next step was in helping this issue.
The panelists had a few suggestions: Contact elected officials to continue the conversation; find other people, especially those who are not likely to agree with your perspective, and share this information with them; and simply be a good neighbor, especially to those who may look differently than you do.
The Catholic Charities Advocacy Team also promoted signing up for their Sowers of Justice network to learn more, as well as about other issues of social, economic and racial justice that may be of interest to people of faith.
Senior Mohamed Malim, Associate Professor and Bachelor of Social Work program Director Dr. Katharine Hill, and community partners Gayle Godfrey and the behavioral health staff at Regions Hospital have received Minnesota Campus Compact Awards for their leadership and civic engagement.
The organization, which annually confers awards that recognize effective leaders who develop campus-community partnerships, will recognize the three recipients as part of a state summit and awards luncheon on Hamline University’s campus on April 19. (For more information and to register to attend the event, click here.)
Malim, a business administration major, is being recognized for the Presidents’ Student Leadership Award, which highlights “an individual student or a student organization that models a deep commitment to civic responsibility and leadership, evidenced by initiative, innovative and collaborative approaches to addressing public issues, effective community building, and integration of civic engagement into the college experience.” Malim embodies that in his founding and leadership of the nonprofit Dream Refugee, “whose mission is to begin to tackle today’s most relevant and troubling themes of exclusion, xenophobia and apathy by connecting refugees with disparate communities in unique ways.” Through storytelling and the building of individual and community pride, Malim’s “courage and creative efforts provide a platform for bridging our divides, for helping us recognize our common humanity, and for enabling us to advance the common good together as a unified community,” said nominator Laura Dunham.
Hill is being recognized for the President’s Civic Engagement Stewardship Award, which recognizes a member of the faculty, administration or staff who has “significantly advanced their campus’ distinctive civic mission by forming strong partnership, supporting others’ civic engagement and working to institutionalize a culture and practice of engagement.” Starting with her 2015 Social Policy for Change class, Hill developed a project in which students picked a population with lower voter turnout, registered them to vote, and worked to keep them engaged and informed through Election Day. As a national leader and member of the board of the National Social Work Voter Engagement Campaign, Hill has been a leader at St. Thomas and beyond.
Godfrey is being recognized for the President’s Community Partner Award, given to “a community-based organization that has enhanced the quality of life in the community in meaningful and measurable ways and has engaged in the development of sustained, reciprocal partnerships with the college or university, thus enriching educational as well as community outcomes.” The Regions Hosptial’s behavioral health units staffs have been hosts for the past 17 years of Psychology 428 students as they complete 10 two-hour visits with behavior health units. “To a person, students view this experience as an amazing experience that encourages the development of significantly enhanced skills in listening and skills in providing appropriate encouragement with patients of varying ages and ethnic and economic statuses, not to mention varying mental health statuses. Students note what a powerful experience this is for confronting any remaining stigma they may unwittingly harbor toward people battling mental health concerns,” said nominator Lauren Braswell.
On a recent Friday afternoon, a group of St. Thomas students gathered in a room at the Facilities and Design Center. Standing in a circle, they verbally tossed random words to their classmates until the room was swirling with excitement. The buzz continued to grow as the group of mostly sophomores came together for another improvisational exercise that had them building off one another’s ideas – one student declared herself a basketball hoop, the next a net, followed by a ball, then a player. The key was to communicate on the fly while working as a team.
This wasn’t an acting class. The 18 students were part of the Compleat Engineer Boot Camp, a J-Term course comprised of engineering majors and led by School of Engineering faculty member Dr. Doug Dunston. For two weeks they worked on empathy, storytelling, listening and improvisational skills – things not necessarily associated with engineers.
Mechanical engineering major Paige Huschka said engineers face a “they can do math and solve problems, but can’t talk to each other” stereotype. While she doesn’t completely agree with this sentiment, she said the boot camp has helped her gain valuable communication and empathy skills.
“One thing that stuck with me is people tend to go straight to the problem and solve it right away,” Huschka said. “Now, I’m better at stepping back and looking at the empathy parts of it and asking, ‘How is this problem affecting everyone else?’ before jumping right into solving it.”Listening, curiosity and empathy
The project is funded by the Kern Family Foundation’s KEEN Network. The KEEN Network is a collaboration among faculty at 30 engineering schools throughout the country, with the goal to transform engineering education.
“One way to describe KEEN’s focus is the mindset of engineering education,” Dunston said. “We spend a lot of time developing technical tools and all the latest ways to solve problems in design and solutions and things, but how do you apply those tools? It’s the approach to that. You can have a great hammer, and you can hit things with it, but how do you know when to use the hammer? Whether to use the hammer? How to share a hammer?”
School of Engineering dean Don Weinkauf said the boot camp helps cultivate attributes of an engineer that need developing for them to go into society and create the best solutions.
“Listening, being curious about other people, empathy toward others – these are traits not associated with a typical engineering education,” Weinkauf said. “What we’re trying to do is build those other components into our curriculum. This particular class is the first time we’re reaching out directly to the students and training them as ambassadors with these skills.”
Sophomore Drew Winkoski said the course helped him recognize different ways of thinking.
“Normally, I’m not too great at thinking of stuff on the spot,” Winkoski said. “We did a ton of improvisation and interacting with people in ways you might not think of. We looked at how other people might take what you are saying and how you are doing things. It really got me out my comfort zone, but got me to think of things from another person’s point of view.”
One boot camp session featured guest speaker Kerri Miller, a Minnesota Public Radio host and expert at facilitating conversations. Miller found Dunston’s course description intriguing.
“Listening is something I notice isn’t going on a lot in the way we communicate with each other,” Miller said. “I thought the idea of getting future engineers and scientist at this level – even before they’re out practicing their work – was an interesting idea.”
Helping students become better listeners is extremely valuable, said Miller, who noted their astute observations during the time she spent with them.
“There was one student who was talking about tempo,” she recalled. “He was saying that with listening there’s this tendency to get done saying what you’re saying, so I can say what I’m saying and we’re not absorbing what the other person says. He was thinking about how the tempo of a discussion can really matter. I do it all the time, but it’s something I hadn’t thought of in that way.”
Thanks to her experience in the class, Miller has invited Dunston to be a guest on an upcoming round-table installment of her radio show to talk about listening and building empathy in science-based fields.‘An Engineering Team’
Back at the Facilities and Design Center, the opening improv session had wrapped up. Students dispersed into small groups to prepare a brief presentation covering what they’d learned while studying senior design projects as part of the course. During the break, junior Keoni Mortenson reflected on what he’ll take away from the Compleat Engineer Boot Camp.
“In my personal experience I’ve always been a part of athletic teams, but I’ve never been a part of an engineering team,” said the computer engineering major. “The biggest thing I’ve learned during the boot camp is discovering we’re not the only team that goes into a project. There are also people who are part of this team who are the stakeholders and clients. It helped me communicate more effectively with the different aspects of this team.”
Better yet, it’s two love stories.
The first started in fall 1945, when first-year Gerald Rauenhorst was looking for a date for the upcoming St. Thomas homecoming dance. Gerry’s older brother Bob suggested he reach out to “that cute girl” at St. Catherine’s, Henrietta, who was from Bird Island, Minnesota, the neighboring town to Olivia where Rauenhorst grew up farming with his family.
“She said ‘yes,’ and I’m really glad she did,” said Mark Rauenhorst, one of their seven children.
Gerald and Henrietta were partners in every way during their 60-year marriage, including growing the Rauenhorst construction business into a successful company, The Opus Group. They lived out the convictions of their Catholic values through the raising of their family, ethical business leadership and the community-impacting philanthropy of their GHR Foundation.
“You would be hard pressed to find a family that has done so much for this community,” said Father Larry Snyder, St. Thomas vice president for mission, who worked extensively with the Rauenhorsts when he was with Catholic Charities.
And they were generous benefactors to Gerry’s beloved alma mater, St. Thomas, where he developed the understanding for leading “a fully integrated life in which success was rooted in faith, family and giving back to the community through both business and philanthropy,” daughter Amy Rauenhorst Goldman said.
Through the Rauenhorsts’ relationship with St. Thomas, the second love story played out over 70-plus years as they impacted the school in countless ways with a constant generation of ideas on how to move St. Thomas forward, such as the Aristotle Fund, Center for Family Business and endowed chairs, as well as the leadership and support for those ideas.
“I can’t think of anyone who St. Thomas would owe a greater debt of gratitude to than Gerry and Hanky Rauenhorst, with the possible exception of I.A. O’Shaughnessy,” said former St. Thomas President Father Dennis Dease, who counted Gerry as one of his closest friends.
Dease recounted his annual beach walks in Florida near the home of longtime board member Rauenhorst, who was “like a popcorn machine” of ideas about St. Thomas’ growth. The incorporation of so many of those ideas – from opening a business school in downtown Minneapolis, to bringing a law school back to St. Thomas, to evolving from a college to a university – speaks volumes to Rauenhorst’s leadership. He wanted other people to have the benefit of everything St. Thomas could offer, which for him as a first-generation college student was very influential.
“I love this place, this University of St. Thomas,” Rauenhorst said not long before he died in 2014, four years after Henrietta.
“He was so thankful for not only the skills that he learned, but that he learned in an environment of faith, of values,” Mark said.
“My dad would really point to St. Thomas as just transformational for him,” Goldman added.$50 million gift funds GHR Fellows program
With that transformational experience in mind, GHR Foundation, now chaired by Goldman, a St. Thomas trustee and the foundation’s CEO, has moved to the next stage in helping the university move forward yet again. The foundation and St. Thomas have developed GHR Fellows program, a highly competitive program for undergraduate students majoring in business, which will welcome its first cohort in fall 2019.
“I’m really excited that GHR Fellows program will animate the campus with students and alumni that embody Gerry’s spirit,” President Julie Sullivan said. “They will be selected based on their embracing of that spirit, wanting to envision new possibilities, wanting to advance the common good, to be people of integrity.”
The students will emulate that entrepreneurial and ethical spirit, and learn how to use them to be successful. Students will have a dynamic wraparound of programming alongside their St. Thomas education, including full-tuition scholarships for four years; a fully funded January Term study abroad experience; access to unique summer internships and C-suite community, business and university leaders; customized service learning and social entrepreneurship opportunities; and eventually, membership in a GHR Fellows alumni network of fellowship and support.
“The people who are given the opportunity to go through this program are high achievers with high potential, and this program will give them the skillset to advance that. … Students graduating from this program will be fast-tracked into leadership roles,” said Joe Reardon ’78, ’01 MBA, managing director at Versique Executive Search and Consulting, one of the top-ranked search firms and executive recruiters in Minnesota. “I had never heard of a program like this before. I’ve heard of programs with a heavier focus on internships, but that’s one small piece of what these students will be exposed to.”
A large part of the program’s development focused on infusing GHR Foundation’s four pillars – ethically minded, innovative, community engaged and globally aware – with the Fellows programming. As Sullivan pointed out, those pillars already aligned with the St. Thomas mission.
“That’s clearly a part of our educational mission here, to develop these skills and have people apply them to imagining these new possibilities,” she said.
With an emphasis on bringing professional experience into students’ education, GHR Fellows will help prepare students to be effective, ethical business leaders.
“They will be exposed to entrepreneurial ways of doing business as undergraduates, will be connected to business leaders within our community, and understand that they can be an ethical businessperson as well as be a successful businessperson,” Goldman said.
For U.S. Bancorp CEO Andy Cecere ’82, the Fellows program is exactly what the companies of the Twin Cities and beyond are seeking.
“It matches the needs of companies, which are great, together with the opportunities for students, and puts St. Thomas in the middle of it. GHR Fellows is doing the right thing,” he said.
With 15-person cohorts each year, a high level of personal attention will be geared toward each student’s growth and development as they benefit from mentoring relationships, individual leadership plans and coaching.
“These are all tactics employed by executives well into their career. Starting these practices early on and enabling students to see the benefits they provide is going to put them in position to accelerate that growth process,” Reardon said. “I coach executives on starting a lot of things included in the curriculum, and many executives don’t start until 20 years into their career or more.”
The Fellows program is coupled with St. Thomas’ long tradition of creating ethically minded leaders who make it their business to advance the common good. It is no surprise, then, to hear how such a strong partnership with GHR Foundation is once again helping St. Thomas move forward into the future, creating another chapter in these ongoing love stories.St. Thomas Kicks Off $200 Million Scholarship Initiative
With its seminal $50 million commitment to cultivating ethical business excellence in St. Thomas students, GHR Foundation kicked off a drive to infuse $200 million into scholarships over the next eight years.
“Reducing student debt is a priority for St. Thomas,” President Julie Sullivan said.
In the 2016-17 academic year, 99 percent of St. Thomas first-year students received financial aid, yet too many students still have unmet financial needs. With $200 million scholarship support, St. Thomas expects to double the scholarship endowment, thereby providing a sustainable source of scholarship funds to help decrease the amount of students’ unmet financial need.
The Office for Diversity and Inclusion is launching a Diversity Roundtable on Feb. 19 and invites all members of the campus community to participate.
The roundtable is an opportunity for key stakeholders across the university to learn and grow together. It will serve as a learning hub for diversity and inclusion where we will work together collaboratively to advance our diversity and inclusion mission and convictions, develop new skills, strategies and perspectives, and explore best practices in diversity and inclusion.
The meeting will be held on Monday, Feb. 19, from 1-2 p.m., Anderson Student Center, Room 202. Light refreshments will be provided.
Those planning to attend should RSVP to Michelle Goodson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please remember in your prayers Marilyn Scapanski, former gift officer in the development office, and spouse of Gene Scapanski, former Vice President for Mission. Marilyn died on Feb. 1 after a seven-year battle with cancer.
Visitation is schedule for Friday, Feb. 16, 4-8 p.m. at O’Halloran & Murphy (575 Snelling Ave S, St. Paul) 651-698-0796. Ecumenical celebration of life: Westminster Presbyterian Church (1200 S. Marquette Ave., Minneapolis) on Saturday, Feb. 17 at 11 a.m. with visitation one hour prior.
Please remember in your prayers Joseph Sarne, a first-year student and White Bear Lake native who died Tuesday after a motor vehicle accident on Saturday.
Visitation is scheduled for 5-9 p.m. Friday, February 16 at Bradshaw Celebration of Life Center, 4600 Greenhaven Drive, White Bear Lake. Memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, February 17 at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 2499 Helen Street N, St. Paul, with visitation beginning at 9:30.
“Joe was literally the nicest guy you’d ever meet. He was always a kindhearted guy, didn’t hold any grudges. He had the biggest heart, made everyone laugh and feel welcome,” said Cade McSherry, Sarne’s roommate. “You became instant friends with him as soon as you met him. He’s such a genuine guy. He put a smile on everyone’s face that he talked to. … He brightened up your day as soon as you saw him. Everyone loved him.”
“Joe was a light in what is often a very dim and convoluted world, and I am overjoyed at the fact that Joe was one of my residents and that I got to know him as the kind hearted human that he was,” said Galen Rakestraw, Sarne’s resident advisor in Brady Hall. “I knew how important friendship was to Joe and his roommate Cade and it is clear from how highly his peers speak of him, and still speak of him, how good of a friend he was and the importance of his life in their lives, including my own.”
Members of the St. Thomas community who would like support or assistance in dealing with Joseph’s death or support for a mental health issue, are encouraged to contact the Center for Ministry at (651) 962-6560 or Counseling and Psychological Services at (651) 962-6780. Public Safety is available to assist anyone in our community 24 hours a day at (651) 962-5100.
For the first time, the University of St. Thomas has a full-time employee dedicated to campus-wide sustainability.
The university recently welcomed Amir Nadav as its new assistant director of campus sustainability, a role long-envisioned as a key piece of organizing and coordinating St. Thomas’ growing, campus-wide work in sustainability.
“This is a total game changer,” said Elise Amel, professor of psychology and director of the Office for Sustainability Initiatives. “Having Amir on board is such a gift. His job is to scan the environment, take incoming information, distribute it appropriately, take people inside the community and leverage their skills to ratchet things up here.”
St. Thomas has a long history of integrating sustainability into many aspects of the university, a commitment solidified in 2008 when then-president Father Dennis Dease signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which included a goal of carbon neutrality by 2035.
“One thing I was excited about is that I’m not starting from scratch. St. Thomas has a strong history of thinking about sustainability and implementing it in a variety of ways,” Nadav said. “There’s a great foundation and a lot of partners who are engaged.”
Nadav’s first task will be assessing the full scope of St. Thomas’ current sustainability work and using that to inform a sustainability plan to move forward with.
St. Thomas will host a panel, “Exploring the Spiritual Lives of Millennials” on Feb. 22, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. in Woulfe Alumni Hall in the Anderson Student Center.
Presentation by two theology faculty members and newly-ordained priests (Fr. James-Peter Trares, OP and Fr. Vincent Davila, OP) with a panel discussion featuring students from St. Catherine University and the University of St. Thomas. This presentation will attempt to shed some insight on the values and religious preferences of emerging Catholic adults and its implications for parish ministry.
Cost is $10 to cover the cost of the meal.
For registration, contact Michele Goodson (email@example.com) or 651-962-5200.
What’s it like standing in front of a bunch of sharks? Mike Fox ’12 has firsthand experience. Last month, Fox and Pat Hughes, the founders of Hyde Sportswear, appeared on “Shark Tank,” the popular ABC show where up-and-coming entrepreneurs pitch their businesses to a wealthy panel of investors, aka the sharks.
Fox, a Milwaukee native and finance major at St. Thomas, and Hughes attempted to sell the sharks on their Wingman Life Jacket, a personal flotation device that is lighter and thinner than a traditional life vest with an over-the-shoulder ripcord and a CO2 cylinder located on the back of the vest. The idea for the Wingman came after Hughes was in a triathlon where a fellow athlete drowned during the swimming part of the competition.
On “Shark Tank,” Fox and Hughes were looking for $200,000 in exchange for 12.5 percent of their company. Only one shark – Kevin O’Leary – made an offer: $200,000 for 50 percent of the business. Not wanting to give up that much equity in their company, Fox and Hughes walked away without a deal.
We recently caught up with the two entrepreneurs to talk about their “Shark Tank” experience.
How did you get on “Shark Tank”?
Fox: We originally received an email from a casting director on the show asking us if we had interest in applying. We set up a call with them and then went through the application process – it gets more intense as you go on. Then we were lucky enough to get on the show.
We’ve been working on our business for awhile. We had done a Kickstarter and three other business competitions that we won, so we had been making a name for ourselves in the entrepreneurship community.
How did the actual filming compare with what we saw on TV?
Fox: We can’t talk too much about what happened behind the scenes. They have four companies go in a 45-minute window, so we were in there pitching for much longer than you see. It’s interesting how it gets edited down.
Hughes: The time spent talking to the sharks is a lot longer than what gets edited down for TV. Not only is it shortened, but the order of the conversation changes. That’s something we were anxious about, because we know how the discussions went when we were there. The question becomes how will it get edited and what will they make it look like. Overall, it was a very fair representation of how the discussion went.
Is there a lot of pressure to decide on the spot if you’re going to take the deal a shark offers you?
Fox: You literally have to decide right on the spot. They offer the deal up, and then you could accept right away. Most people don’t because they try to negotiate a little bit. There isn’t much time. You could ramble and buy yourself some time, but the discussion flows naturally and there is no interruption. It’s just you talking to the sharks. You either negotiate a different offer, accept or decline.
How did you feel about walking away from Kevin O’Leary’s offer?
Hughes: We were grateful to get an offer, but it was certainly a lot more than we were looking to give up. We threw out the two counteroffers to see if there was interest, and there wasn’t. I felt totally fine saying no and walking out of there. At the end of the day, you’re not just going out there looking for any deal; you’re looking for the right deal. That wasn’t the right deal for us, so we confidently walked out of there with our heads held high.
Fox: Sometimes the best deal is the one you walk away from.
Has anything come from your appearance on the show?
Fox: We’ve received interest from potential investors. We’re going through all the emails right now. There’s been a lot of interest and excitement. We’ve seen a huge spike in sales as well. We’re really starting to experience the ‘Shark Tank’ effect.
What was your biggest takeaway from being on the show?
Fox: I would highly recommend going through the application process and giving it a shot. It’s a phenomenal stage for entrepreneurs to look up to those five sharks there in the room, who have all started businesses and know how to be successful. Pitching yourself to them is a great learning opportunity.
Undergraduate students, faculty and staff are encouraged to participate in St. Thomas “Day at the Capitol” on Wednesday, Feb. 28.
The day is an opportunity to thank legislators for their investment in the Minnesota State Grant Program, which provides $7 million in need-based financial aid to 1,434 St. Thomas students who are Minnesota residents. The average grant is $5,027 for four-year students and $1,700 for Dougherty Family College students.
The visit will be from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., and participants will join members of St. Thomas political science classes in meetings with senators and representatives from their home districts. St. Thomas will run a bus between the St. Paul campus and the Capitol.
“Our Day at the Capitol visit will allow students to thank their legislators for the grant program,” said Doug Hennes, vice president for government relations. “We are fortunate to have received such strong support for the program over the years, and legislators need to know how grateful we are.”
You can sign up for Day at the Capitol by Feb. 26 but are encouraged to do so as early as possible in order to give the Minnesota Private College Council enough time to schedule meetings with legislators. To sign up, go to http://www.mnprivatecolleges.org/day-capitol-registration.
Questions? Contact Hennes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (651) 962-6402.
Is a liberal arts degree worth it? It’s a question that has risen in prominence over the last few years, prompting consideration over what methods of education best prepare students for future workplaces and provide them with the most value for their tuition dollars.
The question was one of many discussed at Envision, a career exploration program sponsored by the Career Development Center, held Jan. 25-26. The sessions focused on helping students discern what careers might fit them and the steps needed to achieve that goal, including networking practice, hearing from alumni and visiting Twin Cities companies.
Throughout, the many strengths of a liberal arts degree were raised. Below is a list of the top reasons a liberal arts degree can help students be successful.
For additional information on how to grow or leverage any of these to their maximum potential, please contact the St. Thomas Career Development Center.
A liberal arts degree is about the process of becoming.
College of Arts and Sciences Dean Yohuru Williams delivered the keynote speech specifically on the value of a liberal arts degree, and this was his primary point. He emphasized that while a liberal arts education does prepare students for careers, it also helps them evolve into a sense of who they are and who they want to be.
“You’re learning to be the best you, you can possibly be,” Williams said.
A liberal arts degree prompts students to experience and explore many opportunities.
“It exposes you to so much so you can find what you’re interested in,” Williams pointed out. In addition to the core requirements of one’s major, liberal arts students are expected to take classes across several fields, so they complete their degree with a strong foundation.
While the classroom is a major aspect, Williams and many of the industry panelists emphasized there are many other resources at a school such as St. Thomas: mentorships, internships, studying abroad, participating in extracurriculars and networking with alumni. All of these, they pointed out, can help students continue to discern what fields of work they might be interested in while providing skills and knowledge to prepare.
A liberal arts education is timeless …
Williams pointed out liberal arts education has a long history, and several of the panelists said that was because it left room for students to grow within it.
“The liberal arts degree will help you win the war,” said Randy Lindberg, a software development program manager with Optum Technology who spoke on the business and technology panel. “Specific knowledge addresses the battle.”
… because it promotes critical thinking, which allows students to be nimble.
Lindberg said many people believe the technology field is based in specifics, but in a field that changes so rapidly, it’s important to adapt rather than just have a specific set of knowledge. This allows liberal arts graduates to be flexible and nimble, and to foresee and adapt to arising problems.
“Liberal arts gives a breadth of study, which opens up options for what we can’t plan for,” said Rachael Barnes, who is on the marketing team at engineering firm VAA.
“Recruiters love to hire liberal arts graduates,” echoed Maura Bremer, a recruiter with Boom Lab. “They have comfort with something new again and again and again.”
A liberal arts degree teaches students to work across disciplines.
Williams pointed out that because students are not remaining specifically within their fields of study, they have opportunities to collaborate across disciplines and combine knowledge. He cited the Peace Engineering program as one example, which blends a major in any engineering field with a minor in justice and peace studies. Students tackle issues such as energy and water resources, aid of technology in conflict areas or natural disasters, public safety in engineering decisions, and agricultural tools to fight poverty and hunger.
“Cross-disciplinary work is the wave of the future,” Williams said.
A liberal arts degree can enhance other degrees.
Hand in hand with the cross-disciplinary work, Williams encouraged those who might be earning degrees in fields such as engineering or business not to shy away from the liberal arts. He said a liberal arts degree will still bring broad foundational skills.
He added that while we live in a world where we have more information than ever, a human being will always provide value in making that information accessible to others by providing relevance and context. Having a liberal arts background can help people do that in any field.
A liberal arts education is tied into a worthy objective.
Williams presented the mission statements of St. Thomas and for the College of Arts and Sciences, reminding students that when they’re also being taught values and ethics, not only are they being trained to be successful, but they’re learning how to work in meaningful ways that contribute to surrounding communities.
A liberal arts degree provides strong communication skills, so students can tell the stories of themselves.
Several panel participants discussed just how important writing and speaking well is, no matter what field you’re in.
“You have to be able to write, read, interpret and explain in ways that people can understand,” said Theresa Klein, an occupational therapist on the science panel. “If you can’t do that, what’s the point?”
Not only are these communication skills vital to a well-functioning career, Bremer pointed out they are beneficial in landing a job: They allow a student to take all of the points mentioned above, reflect on them, and speak to them in a way that shows growth as a person or in skills.
“It’s important to be able to speak to experiences in a way that shares what students took,” Bremer said, “to be able to tell the story of why an experience matters.”
Father Dennis Dease, president emeritus of St. Thomas, has received an award from the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.
Dease received the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh Award, named after the late University of Notre Dame president, for “outstanding contributions to Catholic higher education.” The ACCU conferred the honor Saturday on Dease, St. Thomas’ 14th president from 1991 to 2013, at its annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
Dease is a former ACCU board chairman and also served as American representative to the International Federation of Catholic Universities and on the board of the National Catholic Education Association. He has been on the St. Thomas Board of Trustees since 1982, and before he became president he taught theology at St. Thomas, was spiritual director and dean of formation at the St. Paul Seminary, and was rector of the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.
He received the NCEA’s highest honor – the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award – in 2008 in recognition of his lifelong work as a Catholic educator.
Among those in attendance at the ACCU banquet were St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan; Alverno College President Sister Andrea Lee, president of St. Catherine University from 1998-2016; Tom Mengler, president of St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, new chair of the ACCU board and St. Thomas School of Law dean from 2002-2012; and Dr. Christopher Puto, president of Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, and Opus College of Business dean at St. Thomas from 2002-2014.
College of Arts and Sciences Dean Yohuru Williams promised an entertaining afternoon to those in attendance at the year’s opening First Friday, and speaker Mike McAvoy ’02 certainly delivered.
President and CEO of The Onion, one of the nation’s leading satirical publications, McAvoy leveraged the comedic nature of his company’s product to deliver his message amid plenty of laughter. Slides of past Onion headlines and videos underlined McAvoy’s discussion of the evolving role of satire in a nation struggling to establish collective truth.
“The goal of fake news is to be accepted as truth by its reader. Satire has precisely the opposite goal,” McAvoy said. “We use the tools of humor to ridicule ignorant worldviews and shed light on the truth.”
The recipient of a Peabody in 2008, The Onion has had a storied role over the past decades in helping the country use comedy to pierce difficult topics and discussions. An audience member highlighted the publication’s role after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as crucial, and The Onion’s role has become increasingly apparent in recent years.
“The divisive political climate allowed fake news to flourish. The Onion is important because it gets you to question those articles, beliefs, what you’re reading … and making you consider if they’re just confirming a bias or belief,” McAvoy said.
McAvoy pointed to the 2008 elections and the continued emergence of social media as the factors that started the country down a line it is continuing on, where personal beliefs and preferences are more easily confirmed because that’s the content that shows up in social media feeds.
“Satire, then, is a way to infiltrate people’s personal belief bubble,” he said.
Care is taken in determining which stories The Onion will use, McAvoy said: Some 1,500 headlines are pitched every week and only 30-40 are selected for use. The final stories are meant to be so ridiculous so as to be unbelievable, but McAvoy said some of the most important education for a person can come when they point to an Onion article as proof of their own belief, only to find out it’s satirical and made up.
A digital publication, The Onion’s articles often end up in spaces alongside truly “fake news.” The lessons its articles look to make – think critically about what you’re reading, what it’s saying and where it’s coming from – should be applied everywhere readers are consuming information.
“It’s more important than ever for people to take ownership of the information they consume,” he said.
All eyes will be on Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday with thousands of football fans arriving early to partake in game-related activities in the days leading up to the big event. The Minnesota Super Bowl Committee Host website is the first stop for many out-of-towners traveling to the Bold North and local folks, alike, looking for information and guidance during the festivities.
The person behind the host committee’s high-profile website? St. Thomas’ own Gino Giovannelli, a digital marketing guru and an Opus College of Business Distinguished Service Faculty member.
Giovannelli’s involvement with the project began a few years ago when plans to host a Super Bowl in Minneapolis were in their infancy. He was hired to lead digital marketing for the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee including the website and search programs supporting 52 weeks of events leading up to Sunday’s game.
Over the course of the project, Giovannelli gave his students a behind-the-scenes peek at his work.
“It’s been fun for the students,” said Giovannelli, an East Coast native with a mechanical engineering and marketing background. “I start every class by saying, ‘You want to know what’s going on with the Super Bowl?’ I’m going to miss that because we would spend the first 15 minutes of class talking about what was happening.”
An interactive marketing expert, Giovannelli created Miles Interactive more than 10 years ago. Along with the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, his clients have included the University of Minnesota Alumni Association, Caribou Coffee, SUPERVALU, Famous Dave’s, Life Time Fitness and Sun Country Airlines. Prior to striking out on his own, he served as vice president of Carlson Interactive, an interactive agency within Carlson Companies.
Even though he has worked on a myriad of websites, from a world stage point-of-view the Super Bowl is his biggest project yet. He’ll also be shift lead in the social media command center run by The Social Lights in days leading up to the football’s premier event.
We caught up with Giovannelli – who, in his spare time, is a drummer in the rock band Twin Star Rocket – and asked him about his Super Bowl involvement, classroom observations and the world of digital marketing.
What’s it like overseeing the creation of the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee website?
It’s fun. It’s exhilarating. It’s a blast. It started with just a few of us including the CEO, the VP of sales and marketing, an admin and me. We started out working on building out the infrastructure to support the website. Over time, more people joined as we continued to evolve the site. It’s up to more than 30 people now. It felt, ironically, very much like a start-up at first. Now it feels big because we have the NFL, we have the host committee, we have 10,000 volunteers and the city.
What has been the most rewarding part of the process?
Seeing it come to life. On the website, we have this countdown clock. I remember when it had a couple hundred days. Now we’re less than a week out. It is such a visual reminder because it’s on the homepage. Then it’s all going to be done.
What have you learned from working on the website?
I’ve learned to be nimble, more so than ever. I usually play the same role on projects. Strategist right into project managing a big website build. With this, I’ve learned I need to be more focused on whatever is needed. Fortunately, I like that. I love being the person that can do a variety of things. I like to use my head some days of the week. I like to use my hands other days of the week. It’s a great blend and balance. This project – more than any other I’ve worked on – it is so important to be able to be willing to jump in and help out in areas that aren’t in your wheelhouse. I’ve learned a ton because I had to.
Digital marketing can be key in a company’s success (or, in some cases, failure). Why do you feel it’s important for a university to have digital marketing courses?
The big one I’m shocked about is that about 70 percent of companies doing digital marketing daily do it without a strategy. Imagine doing anything without a strategy. Companies actively doing social media, email, mobile marketing or websites are doing it without a strategy. That’s a big part of what I teach – figuring out what you should do versus what you could do.
When students take your course, what do they come away with at the end?
They have developed a digital marketing strategy and a marketing plan for either a concept business or a real business. Every single student, working in teams. I want to make sure everyone knows how to create a strategy. I tell them to bring this strategy to their job interview. Ask that employer, ‘Do you have one of these?’ Because 70 percent of them will say no. Then you say, ‘Do you want one of these? If you do, hire me.’
They also each individually build a website following the same methodology I used when I built the Super Bowl website, the University of Minnesota’s Alumni Association website, Caribou Coffee, Sun Country Airlines, Radisson Hotels and Resorts. Usually they create a website to promote themselves to employers.
They build a website, do the strategy and do a marketing plan. Then they do deep dives into each of the five digital marketing channels. That’s for the undergrad class. Many MBA students choose to create a website for their current employer or a business idea they are considering on the side or sometime in the future.
As hundreds of thousands of people descend on Minnesota for Super Bowl LII this week, the gathering force and marketing power of the country’s biggest sporting event will be on full display. Opus College of Business assistant professor of marketing Ashley Stadler-Blank appreciates that power as much as anyone: with her professional and academic expertise she is one of the best people you’ll find to talk about sports marketing with.
With that in mind, the Newsroom reached out to Stadler-Blank a week out from the big game to pick her brain about what goes into something this big. Before talking with her she laid out some mind-boggling facts about what we’re discussing: 19 of the most-viewed 20 TV broadcasts in U.S. history are Super Bowls; the price of advertisements during the Super Bowl has gone up 76 percent in the last decade, up to more than $5 million a spot; and that last year 114 million people watched the Super Bowl, more than a third of the country’s population.
Before we get into this little event the Twin Cities are hosting, how did you yourself get into this field of sports marketing?
I just grew up a fan. It was something I did with my dad as our family bonding thing, so translated that into a career interest.
There’s this really interesting dichotomy from what the fan sees to what the business is. I got this advice when I got into the industry, to never to work for your favorite team. The business of it kind of ruins the fun of being a fan. It’s different working it as opposed to being a fan.
I worked in sports for about two years before getting into the education piece of it. I went to teach at two schools in sports management, before pursuing a doctorate at Penn State University. They had a center in sports interest research. My research interest is related to consumer behavior as it pertains to sports. Sports are special because unlike a lot of other product industries, there’s so much emotional engagement. (Much of Stadler-Blank’s research involves fan-avidity, or the level of fanhood, including studying distances fans of teams are located.)
An event like this, the number of people that come here and the number of people that watch, this is such an American cultural touch point for so many people. From the lens you view with sports marketing, how do you see an event like this that is a sport, but is so much bigger?
First and foremost, the line between sport and entertainment is blurring. Sport is entertainment now. There is a 24 hour news cycle with sports; the way we look at sport today is drastically differently than even 10 years ago. Players themselves are brands. … It’s this interesting mix on a lot of levels.
You have people attracted to players, teams, but the NFL in general has the highest level of fan-avidity of any sport in the U.S. … [Super Bowl Sunday] is almost like a holiday. I recently watched the movie ‘Concussion,’ and they make the point the NFL now owns the day the church used to. It is the big dog and everyone wants to see it. For a lot of people it’s not so much the game as it is the social aspect.
It’s not just the Super Bowl, it’s Super Bowl week. … By and large, that is really an event for the community so they can feel part of it. Often times people in the community don’t get to go to the game, so that’s a way the community gets to engage with the NFL and the Super Bowl.
It’s been more than a year since we’ve started to see things around about “Bold North” and this marketing theme pulling all this together. What’s your sense of what goes into planning something like that from a marketing perspective?
This event is almost like the Olympics on a smaller scale, in that it’s a point of pride for the local community. A smart marketer will try to differentiate the event from others, but do that in a way that’s unique to the local community. One of the reasons I think it’s so powerful is that people can take pride in saying, “Bold North.” It’s forward, edgy. I love the slogan; it’s really successful and gets a lot of buy-in from the local community, which an event like this needs. … A lot of Minneapolis is shut down because of this event, so getting community buy-in goes a long way into facilitating the success of the event.
The Bold North, it’s them turning a negative into a positive and being proud of where they come from, highlighting all this area has to offer. There are a lot of events the Super Bowl and host committee puts on; there are start-up conferences, all these events that try to highlight all the local community has to offer. … I think they nailed it on the head with this one.
So it’s as big of a spotlight outside of an Olympics as an area can get for their community. After we secured the hosting, from a marketing perspective, what does it take to make sure we’re showing Minnesota in a way we want to?
Part of it is encouraging people to come to Minnesota. It’s an incredible facility and a huge draw, but it’s showing we don’t have just the game but all these incredible amenities you can take advantage of here. … They’ve done a great job highlighting some of the things you have to do while you’re here, and getting that engagement from the local community is huge to do that.
Another thing beyond Minnesota marketing is this marketing and advertising push around the event. In sports marketing there’s the marketing of the actual sport, the Super Bowl, and the other is marketing through sport, using the platform to elevate your brand. If you think about the money that’s going into advertising in the Super Bowl, not just TV but online, estimates are that this is the most revenue any corporation in the United States will get in a 24-hour window, period.
“Zip Codes: Destination or Destiny?” Center for Common Good to Host Panel on Racial Discrimination and Housing Stability
Fifty years after the landmark Fair Housing Act, how fair and equitable is housing in the Twin Cities? Join the Catholic Charities Advocacy Team and the University of St. Thomas Center for Common Good as we explore perspectives related to racial discrimination and its impact on housing stability.
A panel of community experts will lead an interactive discussion on where we are, how we got here and how far we still have to go.
The event is Monday, Feb. 12, 5:30-8:30 p.m., Woulfe Alumni Hall in the Anderson Student Center. The event is free, but space if limited. RSVP here.
First-year Cin Morris had known for years he wanted to connect with people in the music business, perhaps as a DJ. He loves the music and the prospect of fame.
So when Morris’ high school counselor told him about Dougherty Family College at the University of St. Thomas, he was interested to find out whether it would be the right step toward that musical dream. When he learned how its corporate internship program would combine his classroom education with professional experience in communications, he was all in.
“I feel like every opportunity that you have, you have to build on yourself. So while I’m here I’m going to be focusing on building, building, building and becoming more well-rounded,” said Morris, who started interning with Hubbard Broadcasting last fall. He also has developed a newfound interest in law enforcement.
“The better person that I can become, the more doors that will open up for me, you know? I have more opportunities to come, so with the Dougherty Family College and the two years here, I’m just looking to pave that way,” Morris said. “I’m not looking for anything to be handed to me or given to me. I’m ready to work hard and go get what I want.”The inaugural class
As President Julie Sullivan stood at the front of Schulze Hall auditorium on the St. Thomas Minneapolis campus last August, tears welled up in her eyes. She was looking out at Morris and his 106 classmates who make up Dougherty Family College’s inaugural class. Their presence on campus represents the realization of a vision, a dream long in the making for Sullivan and St. Thomas to offer a rigorous, affordable two-year college experience for students who face some of the many obstacles to accessing and succeeding within higher education.
“When I opened the door of that auditorium and saw all our students … and I saw the excitement and energy in that room, I was just flooded with emotion,” Sullivan said. “I felt excited, joyful. I felt grateful, but most of all I just teared up and said, ‘This is real. This is happening.’”
That reality has been almost surreal for Dougherty Family College student Kyle Mikesell, the first in his family to attend college. He’s interested in pursuing courses that appeal to his creative interests. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that he’s enjoying Treza Rosado’s English writing course, or that he painted a “DFC” mural in the college’s student lounge, which is now surrounded by the signatures of all 107 students.
“There are actually no words to describe how awesome it feels to be in the inaugural class,” Mikesell said. “It’s a great feeling.”
Unfortunately not enough students in Minnesota and the nation share Mikesell’s feeling of being part of a college class; the continuing, pervasive achievement gap has been well-documented and, in many ways, the data are daunting. According to a 2016 Minnesota Office of Higher Education report, white Minnesota students were far more likely than students of color to enroll in college and to graduate from college. Nationally the college participation rate for high-income families (80 percent) is 31 percentage points higher than for low-income families.
In the Dougherty Family College, St. Thomas has positioned itself as a pioneering model to help do something about this gap.
That model has several core characteristics: the college’s financial accessibility; rigorous academics that prepare students to make the jump to a four-year degree program at St. Thomas or elsewhere; high levels of academic support from faculty, staff and classmates within a cohort system; and the school’s corporate internship program.
“Every student deserves a chance, no matter where they come from,” said Alvin Abraham, dean and the Eugene and Mary Frey Endowed Chair at Dougherty Family College. “And being able to provide that, I believe, is perfectly aligned to the St. Thomas [mission], this idea of advancing the common good.”Combating the achievement gap
Sullivan became president in July 2013 and as she learned what makes St. Thomas unique and strong, as well as the needs of the greater community, of which the university is part, several things soon became apparent.
“I realized we have some prosperity gaps in Minnesota and not everyone is realizing their full potential here,” Sullivan said. “I also realized there was a real workforce shortage in Minnesota. When you project forward, we have a number of people retiring and a need for more four-year graduates who are skilled professionals to be the leaders of this community.”
Despite the shrinking workforce, only one-third of young adults are obtaining four-year degrees needed for those emerging jobs. Those numbers are even lower for underserved populations, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. St. Thomas is no stranger to addressing these issues, as the school was founded to aid Minnesota’s immigrant population.
“This is so compatible with why Archbishop John Ireland founded St. Thomas,” Sullivan said. “He really founded St. Thomas because he had an immigrant community … and he wanted to build a university that would allow them to be the public intellectuals of their time. Lifting them up to be the leaders of Minnesota and of our country.
“We have the same opportunity. We all recognize that there is an educational gap, an economic gap in our state. … The way to [address] that is to get to know people, walk beside them, let them be part of finding the solution … and accompany them on that journey.”
Over the next several years, Sullivan and many others championed the idea to people in and around the St. Thomas community, including Mike and Kathy Dougherty. A longtime owner of a financial services firm, Mike is a 1966 alumnus and Board of Trustees member, and he and Kathy discussed Sullivan’s plan. One day in October 2016, though, the conversation was about their decision to financially support the university’s new venture.
“This is something we really believe in and it is a fit for us and it is a fit for our family,” Kathy said of their generous commitment to the college that now bears their name.
Many other contributions – including $5 million from Eugene and Mary Frey – have added to the Dougherty’s donations to help solidify the college’s model as sustainable outside main university funding.
“We all knew about the need, but the timing was perfect. It just touched a nerve in the community,” Kathy said. “People are behind the college; they want it to succeed.”A solid foundation
The plans for that success are being carried out by a Dougherty Family College administration, faculty and staff perfectly suited for the challenges the school aims to help students overcome. Longtime St. Thomas faculty member Dr. Buffy Smith is associate dean of academics at Dougherty Family College. Sullivan said Smith was crucial in shaping the college’s full model. Smith helped establish best practices and found the right people to support the school’s mission.
“This group of faculty assembled by Julie, Alvin and Buffy, I would stack up with any faculty anywhere, in Minnesota, the Midwest and beyond,” Mike Dougherty said.
Each element of the college’s plan was developed with the goal of setting up students for success. That starts with the financial accessibility of college, which for many families is an overwhelming obstacle. Thanks to a targeted curriculum, existing facilities available on the Minneapolis campus and the generosity of donors, St. Thomas has kept costs to a minimum.
A school year costs $15,000 per student, but – with the help of Pell and state grants, and St. Thomas scholarships – requires as little as $1,000 contribution from students and their families with highest financial need.
The focused curriculum has the same rigor and requirements of all St. Thomas undergraduate coursework. Students earn an Associate of Arts degree, which is designed so they can seamlessly transition to a four-year institution.
“We know how game-changing it is for families that we provide that [pathway to a four-year degree],” Abraham said.A support system for success
Students have an extensive support system with access to an adviser and a mentor; an alert and intervention process for follow-up on any falling academic performance; and a cohort model that puts students into groups of 25 or less, their “mini-family,” as first-year Xavier Abdullahi called it.
“It’s really great having people that check in on you and your professors know how you’re doing,” Abdullahi said, citing the value of the faculty’s mentoring role.
First-year Makda Araya said the students within each cohort – who share all the same classes – help hold each other accountable, and first-year Abukar Ahmed said the mix of strengths and weaknesses across each cohort means students can obtain guidance from classmates when they need it or provide it to others.
“It helps the teachers, too, because they have kind of figured out how to work with each cohort and what works best for that group,” first-year DeAmonte Block added. “It’s been a good experience.”
Students also have customized corporate internships where they get hands-on, professional experience once a week during the school year and full time during January and summer months. Kris Donnelly ’93 returned to St. Thomas to run Dougherty Family College’s corporate internship program after heading a similar program at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis, which is a Catholic college-preparatory school for students in urban communities with limited educational options.
“Continuing that mission at the higher-ed level was too much to pass up,” she said. “I’m immensely proud of St. Thomas for undertaking this and looking differently at what success in higher education means, and coming up with a really solid program. I’m thrilled to be part of the launch.”
“I’m very excited about the internship opportunities because I’m not sure what I want to do or major in yet, so being able to actually work somewhere along with learning about it in class is great,” said Cori Moore, a first-year student interested in building on her high school student government experience. “These are our stepping stones in changing the world, toward doing whatever it is we’re going to do.”New school, true Tommies
The Dougherty Family College is immersed in the St. Thomas community, from its academic rigor to its inclusion in the student body.
“We were very intentional that the school would be part, and students would feel part, of the greater university,” Sullivan said. “The Dougherty Family College students are St. Thomas students and they are a part of our fabric and our community. They bring their own richness and gifts to our community,” she added. “I look forward to the relationships they form, not only with their own peers, but with students, faculty and staff across campus.”
From participating in March Through the Arches in the fall, to taking part in and forming clubs and student organizations around campus, Dougherty Family College students have taken quickly to life as Tommies.
Throughout the first semester, students wondered about the challenges and opportunities any first-year does: Will my classes be hard? How will I manage my time? And the bigger question: Do I want to survive or thrive in college?
Smith posed that question to students in their early days at Dougherty Family College, and Mikesell said his hand went up immediately.
“My expectation for myself and for everyone here is to thrive. It will help me do the best that I can knowing the DFC can help me through it,” he said.
Proof of that is visible every day as the college’s students, faculty and staff embark on this historic year together. For months now, Dougherty Family College Associate Dean of Students Doug Thompson has rallied that feeling around a single phrase that echoes across the campus’ classrooms and halls.
“I’m all – !” Thompson yells.
“– In!” comes the resounding response from students.
Alvin Abraham helps students keep their eyes on the prize
The founding dean of the Dougherty Family College wholeheartedly welcomed 107 inaugural students last fall. He knows what this opportunity means to them.
“A college degree is a game changer and can break the cycle of generational poverty in a family,” he said. “It’s vital that the Dougherty Family College has both a strong academic focus and the support for students to be successful, with the confidence and skills to eventually graduate with a four-year degree.
“You have to have your eyes on the prize and know what we’re working toward, and I think everyone on our team is really clear what those metrics are. Our students know and understand what they’re aiming for is that four-year degree at the end of the road, ultimately.”
Abraham is the Eugene and Mary Frey Endowed Chair of the Dougherty Family College. He came to St. Thomas from KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Minnesota college-preparatory public schools, where he served as executive director.
He started his career as an elementary educator with Teach for America and moved into education administration in two Texas school districts. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in political science from Texas A&M University and a master’s of educational administration from the University of Houston.
The university wants students, faculty and staff to be prepared for when inclement winter weather strikes. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety website provides information to help you plan for winter. It also contains current information on the types of winter weather storm warnings, safety kits and winter driving. Other winter weather warning information can be found at the National Weather Service, or you can install one of the many free weather apps available for your mobile device.
The university has developed the following information and guidelines for what to do and who to call during winter weather snow storms that may impact the campus.
Will a winter storm cancel classes?
When the university officially is closed because of inclement weather, all classes are canceled, and all administrative offices are closed for the day; however, it may be possible for classes to be canceled and for the university to be open. It is important to listen carefully to the status of the university. The decision to close the university or cancel classes during the day will be made by 6 a.m., whenever possible.
If weather improves during the day … or gets worse
On occasion, the inclement weather subsides as the day progresses. On these occasions, a decision to reopen the university for evening classes and other activities will be made by 3 p.m. In cases where the university is open during the day, but worsening conditions warrant the cancellation of evening classes and activities, that decision also will be announced by 3 p.m.
The University’s Emergency Notification System (USTALERT) will be used to issue a notice of classes canceled or closure of the university. Issuing a notice with USTALERT will automatically trigger the following:
- Registered phones will receive a text and/or phone alert.
- All stthomas.edu email addresses will receive an alert.
- An alert banner will appear on all St. Thomas websites, and the official St. Thomas Facebook page and Twitter feed will display the alert message. Information on registering for the USTALERT system is available here.
The notice also will be announced on the “Snow Line”: 651-962-SNOW or 651-962-7669. This will be the most up-to-date source for you to call. No other department or phone number will have more updated information.
Radio and television announcements
St. Thomas will use WCCO’s synchronized alert on WCCO radio (AM 830), WCCO TV and WCCO’s website as the official notification for closing or cancellation. Students, staff and faculty will know what decision has been made if they listen to or view the station updates about closing information between 6-8 a.m. In addition the university also alerts local television stations KARE and KSTP.
Who needs to come in and who can stay home
All employees who are not designated as “emergency essential employees” are excused from work, without change in compensation, for the day of closing. Emergency essential employees are required to report to work as scheduled.
The following positions are designated as emergency essential employees: Public Safety officers, IRT server administrators, resident dining food service workers and certain Facilities Management employees, such as managers, building service workers, grounds workers, shift supervisors and managers, maintenance mechanics and electricians. If you are unsure whether you are an emergency essential employee, contact your manager. Emergency essential employees will be compensated according to the university’s Inclement Weather Closing Policy, except that emergency essential employees who are represented by a union will be paid according to their collective bargaining agreement.
About the libraries
The O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library and Archbishop Ireland Memorial Library will attempt to be open during weather emergencies with a limited staff, though these staff are not designated as emergency essential employees. Other St. Thomas libraries likely will be closed. Any changes in the hours will be posted on the libraries’ website and social media sites. Changes also will be reflected on each library’s hours line. St. Thomas libraries’ staff generally will staff the chat reference service from remote locations during weather emergencies.
Parking on campus during snow emergencies
During a city-declared parking snow emergency, normal parking restrictions on campus still apply. Students and employees still are required to have a permit to park on campus; this necessary procedure allows for an orderly flow of the university’s internal snow removal. This includes no overnight parking from 2-5 a.m. in non-resident parking lots without the required permits.
In some cases, a university lot or location may be closed off due to snow removal. Parking-related information can be found on the Parking Services website.
Resident students with permits also should make sure to check for lot-closing postings during heavy snowfalls in the event it is necessary to close resident lots for plowing.
St. Paul and Minneapolis snow emergency information
The cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis may declare a “snow emergency” during snow events. This means that the city is placing a high priority on the plowing of city streets. To avoid having your vehicle ticketed and towed, it is very important for you to know when you must move your car and where you can park it during these events. In St. Paul, you can obtain an app for your phone and sign up to receive email or text message notifications when a snow emergency is declared. Notices also are posted on the city’s website, as well as its Facebook and Twitter accounts. In Minneapolis, in addition to email and text alerts, you also can sign up to have your phone called automatically when a snow emergency is declared. Notices also are posted through social media on Twitter and Facebook. Also note: It is illegal in St. Paul and Minneapolis to leave snow accumulation on a sidewalk. Saint Paul City Ordinance requires snow and ice to be removed from sidewalks, including access to the city streets, within 24 hours.
A place to stay on campus in case you are snowbound
During office hours, commuter students should work with Off-Campus Student Services or the Dean of Students Office. After business hours, students should work with Public Safety by going to its office on the first floor of Morrison Hall. Either of these offices will work with the students to meet their needs, which may include staying overnight. In that case, either office will contact Residence Life regarding availability.
The (off-campus) 48-hour parking rule overridden
Keep in mind that the city of St. Paul’s snow-emergency rules override the existing rule that cars must be moved every 48 hours if parked on a residential street. Vehicles still must be moved regularly.
As noted in the university’s St. Paul Parking Guide: “Even in areas where no permit is required, there is a 48-hour limit for parking a vehicle in the same location on city streets.”
For departments hosting special events
One of the most frequent oversights in the event planning process during the winter is creating a plan for inclement weather. Individual departments that host events should plan for how to communicate with guests should the weather prevent the event from being held. This may include having guests call a phone number and having the information on your website and social media accounts for cancellation updates. This way you are able to provide the most accurate and direct contact because your guests will look to you for this information. There is no central location or phone number for guests to learn of the cancellations unless the university closes.
If severe winter weather is on the way, you will find a link to this article to assist with your planning. You also may want to bookmark it.