Tommie the mascot gives high fives to seniors during the 2018 March Through the Arches ceremony for graduating seniors on May 18, 2018 in St. Paul.

Seniors Reflect on Their Time at St. Thomas, Offer Advice for First-year Students

With graduation just around the corner, we asked Tommie Award nominees about their time at St. Thomas. Here’s what the seniors who responded to our query had to say about memorable St. Thomas moments, post-graduation plans and advice they’d give to first-year students arriving in the fall.

Michelle Wise
Major: Operations and supply chain management with a minor in public health studies
Most memorable St. Thomas moment: When I was working as the Business Living Learning Community resident adviser and my residents surprised me by baking me a birthday cake and singing "Happy Birthday." The sense of community and support came full circle in that moment.
Post-graduation plans: After I graduate, I will begin my master’s degree in healthcare administration at the second-ranked program in the country, the University of Minnesota. I'm ecstatic to meet my cohort and continue my journey in becoming a hospital administrator so I can serve my community during their most vulnerable times.
Advice to incoming first-year students: Regularly set goals and work to achieve them. I also suggest they get involved on campus and take advantage of all the resources and connections available while in college. You never know who could become your best friend or mentor.


Anne LoCoco
Major: Business administration with a double minor in Catholic studies and general science
Most memorable St. Thomas moment: I will remember living in Dowling Hall as a senior RA with my best friend who is a senior peer minister (and another Tommie Award nominee!). Being able to walk downstairs to see my best friend, and Jesus in the adoration chapel in Koch Commons has been the biggest blessing.
Post-graduation plans: I will be working as a sales consultant at an insurance company called Unum.
Advice to incoming first-year students: Focus on your classes. Grades matter. Everyone gets so excited about all of the big life transitions that college brings (living in dorms, new independence, a new social scene, etc.) that no one talked to me about the rigor of college classes. Remember that you are at college to LEARN.


Jayda Pounds
Major: Entrepreneurship with a theology minor
Most memorable St. Thomas moment: The time I was able to lead a club meeting. I was so tired – tired of being bogged down by the things plaguing our society, tired of having to deal with racism or racist acts, and tired because of finals. So, I decided to make everyone go around the room and give each other a compliment. The atmosphere changed and smiles became contagious. It was the best feeling and I know my week ended strong because of that.
Post-graduation plans:  Taking a year off to travel and to start a business before going back to school.
Advice to incoming first-year students: I know you know all of the clichés: take advantage of all of the opportunities, meet as many people as you can, make sure to step outside of your comfort zone – things like that. Honestly, just be yourself. A lot of people are as scared and excited as you are, so don't let that deter you from doing what you enjoy. If you like being alone, it's okay to eat by yourself – just don't make it a habit. If you love socializing, join all the clubs you can handle – just don't let it consume you. Most importantly though, don't lose sight of why you are in college in the first place – to get an education. Get your work done and reap the benefits later.


McKenna Peplinski
Major: Mechanical engineering with a minor in peace engineering
Most memorable St. Thomas moment:
I played on the soccer team at St. Thomas, so my most memorable moment is when my team won the MIAC championship my senior year. 
Post-graduation plans:
Next year I will be starting a doctoral program in environmental engineering at USC.


Bisrat Bayou
Major: Neuroscience and public health
Most memorable St. Thomas moment: Being elected as student body president for this school year. My life has changed ever since and I am so grateful for the experience.
Post-graduation plans: After graduation, I will be working with the Minneapolis City Council as a policy associate, where I’m excited to begin my journey in intersecting neuroscience and public health.
Advice to incoming first-year students: Embrace who you are and don’t ever doubt yourself. Find self-assurance in the diligence that got you here!


Maddie Giesen
Major: International business
Most memorable St. Thomas moment:
My most memorable moment at St. Thomas occurred during my sophomore year. For my management class, my professor gave us the option to participate in the Hult Prize competition. The topic for the 2017 challenge was Reawakening Human Potential. My group and I made it to the final round of the competition, and although we didn't win, I had such a fantastic time hearing the other contestants' ideas and learning about refugee-related issues around the world.
Post-graduation plans: I will be working in the sales department at C.H. Robinson in Minneapolis. 
Advice to incoming first-year students:
Study abroad! St. Thomas has so many fantastic study abroad options for students in all majors. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and see the world during your four years at St. Thomas.


Shonni Krengel
Major: Psychology with a double minor in justice and peace studies and sociology
Most memorable St. Thomas moment:
It was recently. I am president of Asian Students in America (ASIA) Club and we had our annual ASIA Night, a multicultural dinner with performers. It was most memorable because I have been president for the past two years but on the eboard since the club was founded. We had a full house and had to bring in extra chairs because more people came that we could seat. So it was amazing to see the club grow over the years and to have a full house during my last big event for this club!
Post-graduation plans:
I am going to New York University (NYU) to get my master's degree in psychology, with a concentration in social psychology. I hope to use this degree to work toward social justice and racial equity!
Advice to incoming first-year students:
I struggled a lot when I first came to St. Thomas because there are not a lot of people of color, so I struggled to find my niche. For students of color that are coming to St. Thomas, I found the most supportive and encouraging people in the clubs I joined. I especially recommend multicultural clubs because you can find affinity with other students of color, you can learn about new cultures, and have dialogues about topics that will challenge your worldview. It's a hard transition for anyone so keep your head high and you will eventually find friends that will last a lifetime!


Micaela Flores
Major: Exercise science
Most memorable St. Thomas moment:
I don't think I could pick just one moment. Working in the Athletic Department, mostly with the football team, and Campus Life as part of STAR, have given me so many memories. One highlight was working at the Tommie-Johnnie football game at Target Field. Experiencing that game on the field was such an incredible experience. Additionally, being part of STAR has allowed me to meet so many other students, whether it be other STAR interns or students attending the events. I have made many friends being part of this group. I have really enjoyed my four years here at St. Thomas. All of the friends I have made, professors I have had, and staff that I have worked with have made my college experience so memorable.
Advice to incoming first-year students: Get involved. Try different clubs, attend on-campus events, and make connections with faculty and staff. Personally, doing those things helped me feel more connected in the St. Thomas community and made my time here more enjoyable. I also would encourage students to take advantage of study abroad opportunities, whether it be a J-Term or a semester-long program. I took part in two J-Terms abroad – one in Paris and the other in Spain. Both of those experiences were highlights of my college career.


Jason Ortiz
Major: Communication and Journalism with a minor in computer science
Most memorable St. Thomas moment: Homecoming week, which is full of fun events and AMAZING food trucks.
Post-graduation plans:  I am currently working full time with a company called Accra as a consumer choice navigator. In the future, I would like to be able to own my own media company. 
Advice to incoming first-year students: Network as much as possible. Potentially even making it a weekly task and networking with someone different each week. Having a network will help tremendously in the future and will also create opportunities.


Sue Truong
Major: Applied mathematics
Most memorable St. Thomas moment: Rowing on the crew team. I met my best friends through it, traveled around, and learned a new sport.
Advice to incoming first-year students: Get involved! Make new friends, join a club, find a job, do research with a professor, study abroad. The people that you are surrounded by will be your friends, your teammates, your classmates, your advisers, your networking circle, your letters of recommendations and your future job opportunities. It's a new time in your life, so explore!


Maggee Becker
Major: Graduated in December with majors in Catholic studies and English with a minor in education
Most memorable St. Thomas moment: It is hard to choose! My favorite time of the year on campus is when the snow melts and students can start to play sports and hang out outside after being cooped up for so many months. The quads come alive and the community on campus is really present. One afternoon during my first year, on the first nice day of spring, there was music blasting from the football field speakers and three or four different soccer and Frisbee games happening on the field. People were running on the track, watching their friends from the bleachers, and just sitting in the sun enjoying the nice weather. Everyone seems to have a renewed joy and zeal for life when spring finally comes – it is beautiful!
Post-graduation plans: I have been working since mid-January at Partnership for Youth as an outreach and event coordinator. Partnership for Youth is a nonprofit organization that puts on Catholic conferences, events, and retreats throughout the Midwest.
Advice to incoming first-year students: Get involved on campus. Don't just join in on the fun activities, sports clubs, etc., but find something to be a part of that is related to your major or closely connected to the university. Getting to know your professors and becoming involved in your major outside of the classroom will not only help make you a master in your field, but you will create connections that will last beyond your time at St. Thomas.


Elizabeth Rubbelke
Major: Mechanical engineering with a minor in Spanish
Most memorable St. Thomas moment: The national Society of Women Engineers (SWE) conference in Austin, Texas. It was so inspiring and uplifting and overall a great experience that I wouldn’t have been a part of without the St. Thomas SWE chapter.
Advice to incoming first-year students: Get involved in lots of clubs and activities and talk to people in your classes! I would have never met my best friend and future roommate if I hadn’t asked her to study with me for our Calculus II class.


Aaron Cornelius
Major: Communication and journalism
Most memorable St. Thomas moment: My job as a color commentator for broadcasts of Tommie sports. Getting to call Tommie-Johnnie basketball games at home was hype! Shout out to the Tommie Sports Network.
Post-graduation plans: I will be working as a writer at an advertising agency in Minneapolis.
Advice to incoming first-year students: Get off campus and go exploring. Experience all the awesome restaurants, parks, trails and sites that the Twin Cities has to offer. Ride the bus! Go for a bike ride! Look under a bridge! Do something you normally wouldn't.


Amira E. Warren-Yearby
Major: Communication and journalism
Most Memorable St. Thomas moment: The sit-in in Anderson Student Center.
Post-graduation plans: Orientation and registration intern this summer and gap year before graduate school in fall of 2021.
Advice to incoming first-year students: Be intentional with the people around you and watch yourself find lasting friendships/relationships.


Taylor Weeks
Major: English and communication and journalism with a minor in Renaissance Program
Most memorable St. Thomas moment: It's challenging to choose just one. I really enjoyed the opportunities I had with the St. Thomas Symphonic Wind Ensemble. We played at the Ordway in St. Paul, had a live televised performance at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, participated in an all-day professional recording session, had numerous pieces of music commissioned just for us and went on an international tour to Croatia.
Post-graduation plans: I am planning to enter the workforce in the field of communications, management, community relations, or sales and recruitment. I am busy interviewing right now, which is exciting!
Advice to incoming first-year students: The first year of college is both exhilarating and exhausting. Find what motivates you and makes you smile, take advantage of the various activities on campus (through STAR, Diversity Activities Board, create[space], and more) but remember to set aside some quiet moments as well, and be open to both academic and personal growth.


Fatoumata Jaiteh
Major: Biology of global health
Post-graduation plans: I plan to continue my work with From Mother to You and pursue a graduate degree in public health next year.
Advice to incoming first-year students: Be open! Be open to all the people you will meet from different religions, races, cultures and interests. Be open to opportunities that challenge or scare you. Be open to change and learn to adapt to the ever-changing world we live. Allowing for new experiences to enter your life will enhance your Tommie experience and allow you to be a better leader!


Abby Heller
Major: Neuroscience
Most memorable St. Thomas moment: Move-in day my first year as an RA. Welcoming all my residents to their new home and starting to build a community with them and my staff.
Post-graduation plans: I'm hoping to be a lab manager at an autism research lab to get more experience before applying to neuroscience doctoral programs.
Advice to incoming first-year students: St.Thomas has so many amazing opportunities that are open to students with no additional cost. Try a new type of feed, meet someone you haven't met, experience a culture you haven't experienced. This is the last time in your life so many opportunities like this will be available – take advantage of it!