Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas

A Moment for Joy: 2023 Graduate Commencement

In a pair of commencement ceremonies May 21, graduate students at the University of St. Thomas celebrated their accomplishments as they were awarded their degrees.

President Vischer greets a student at the graduate commencement ceremonies. (Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas)

Newly inaugurated President Rob Vischer encouraged the graduates to appreciate the moment.

“I hope one legacy for each of you is an unshakable recognition of that spark, that energy, that joy that comes from true human connection. And I encourage you to take that forth with you and to be a source, a facilitator of joy in all of your circles. At the same time, don’t just bring joy to others; remember to open yourselves to joy as well,” Vischer said. “This is a moment for joy. So let yourself be present in this moment. Class of 2023, you are a remarkable and resilient class. We are so proud of you. We cannot wait to see the ways in which you will use your gifts to help the world.”

Student Speaker Dr. Mark Bergeron ’23 Health Care MBA addresses graduate students from Opus College of Business, College of Arts and Sciences, and The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity. (Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas)

Commencement speaker Mark Bergeron MD, MPH, ’23 Health Care MBA addressed the graduates from Opus College of Business, College of Arts and Sciences, and The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity.

“While our degree programs are different, they are united in their commitment to the university’s mission to produce graduates dedicated to serving the broader community through advancements of the common good,” Bergeron said. “The value of the St. Thomas education is at a premium today; there are endless worldwide needs where we can individually and collectively make a difference. Use your St. Thomas education to advance the common good in countless ways. You have the tools that you need.”

As the medical director of digital health transformation at Children’s Minnesota who also has a full-time practice in neonatal-perinatal medicine at the hospital, Bergeron noted how graduates needed to balance the challenges of everyday life with rigorous academic studies.

David Lemon ’23 EdD, who worked at St. Thomas for more than a decade, spoke at the ceremony for graduates of the Morrison Family College of Health, the School of Education, and the School of Engineering. Lemon now works at Hennepin Healthcare in the health equity department as a diversity, equity and inclusion coach. In his commencement address, Lemon talked about the shifts in society over the last four years as a result of the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd.

Student speaker David Lemon ’23 EdD speaks at the commencement ceremony for graduate students from the Morrison Family College of Health, the School of Education, and the School of Engineering. (Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas)

“Complex systems, politics, and identities have been converging all over the country. And with those complexities, I have also seen an increase in fear and rejection that is pulling many communities apart,” Lemon said. “When I look at everything that has happened, it only makes sense that many of us were overwhelmed by the complexity of the world and unsure of how to begin moving toward any kind of resolution. As we face that kind of complexity, without the right tools, it’s easy for those feelings of being overwhelmed to turn into being scared. And when we operate from fear, it’s second nature to self-preserve, stick to what we know, and condemn anything that we fear may cause us harm. But education helps us to recognize those complex moments. ... Rather than giving into the fear and choosing to reject the unknown, we can embrace the complexities of life as scholars and lifelong learners.”

“Try to reach out and build connections with your colleagues and professors. Even with the COVID-related limitations still in place when I first joined the program, I was fortunate to interact (and become friends) with so many brilliant students who have joined the program; the professors are also very knowledgeable and have significant professional experience in the field. I truly recommend this master’s degree in data science to anyone that seeks to continue learning and is willing to embrace a new challenge.” – Joao Vitor Xavier Coelho ’23 MS in data science, on advice to future St. Thomas students

“The intellectual, spiritual and human formation I’ve received through my Catholic Studies classes and community has given me an eye for the whole of reality, to see the interconnectedness and order of the universe and human life. I know this degree will be invaluable for my career in campus ministry and education as I work to share the truth, goodness, and beauty of God and human life in a culture experiencing devastating isolation, confusion, and despair.” – Rachel Sherry ’21, ’23 CSMA

“Graduating for me is finally achieving something that I had been wanting to pursue, even several years before I started my program at St. Thomas. I have wanted to work in the field of higher education for a long time, and this program has been such a joy.” – Eve Christensen ’23, who received a Master of Arts in Leadership in Student Affairs

“(Graduating) is an acknowledgment that determination and dedication can be stronger than doubt and disbelief. For me, becoming a Doctor of Psychology signifies the completion of a lifelong goal, bringing me just one step closer to the person I want to become and the person I’m meant to be.” – Melissa Mccarty ’23 PsyD

“A highlight for me (of the Executive MBA program) was the diversity within the cohort regarding their education and industries, which provided amazing insight into the world of business from many vantage points.” – Heather Olson ’23 Executive MBA

“The Catholic Studies master’s degree program has been a faith-enriching experience for me throughout the past three years. As I begin my legal career, graduating with my MA in Catholic Studies means that I am equipped with the insight that I need to integrate my faith into my legal practice and to witness to my coworkers and clients on a daily basis.” – Andrew J. Rydlund ’23 J.D./CSMA, who will start his legal career with Jones Day after taking the bar exam

“(This degree) marks a big milestone of my life as an immigrant after 19 years living in the U.S. I have also proven to my children that if I can earn my graduate degree, so do you. Please follow my footsteps – I will support you, as you always were on my side the last three years.” – Huy Nguyen ’23 MS in systems engineering

“My MBA program wrapped up with great capstones. I was a part of Professor Rama Hart’s Inclusive Leadership in Diverse Organization and Professor Jack Field’s Executive Perspectives course. Both offered me new views of how I can be a stronger and more inclusive leader as I take my next steps after St. Thomas.” – Chris Casey ’23 Part-time MBA, on highlights of his degree program