Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas

Angelica Franaschouk: First-Gen Student to Student Body President

On a busy campus day, you’ll often find Angelica Franaschouk ’23 running from one side of campus to another. As student body president, she often bounds from event to event, juggling a full slate of details, large and small, from room reservations to talking points.

No matter where you find Franaschouk, it’s clear she’s perfected the art of time management.

Underneath that professional Tommie drive is a personal quest to solve problems, and she’s certainly solved her fair share. A first-generation college student, Franaschouk’s journey to eventually become student body president was not so straightforward as one might imagine.

“Being first-generation, it's definitely had its challenges ... trying to figure out how to navigate college, starting from the college search to how to register for my classes,” Franaschouk said.

Forging her own path as a first-gen student

Franaschouk’s parents and older brothers immigrated to Minnesota from Kazakhstan in the late 1990s. She was born just a few years later. At home in Rogers, Minnesota, Russian is her first and primary language.

“I'm so happy my father made that first decision to move our family to the U.S.,” Franaschouk said. “My family saw a lot of opportunities here. They wanted to experience life here.”

Through it all, Franaschouk’s parents have supported her biggest aspirations, and at the top of that list, higher education.

“They always pushed me to my full potential, and that’s part of the reason why I decided to stay in Minnesota for college,” Franaschouk said. “I wanted to make sure that I could be there to support my family and be there for them – to give back a little.”

Unfortunately, that parental support has come with certain limitations.

“When I first came to St. Thomas, I had to figure out what I needed to bring to my dorm,” Franaschouk said. “Little things like that where other students had help from their parents – I was trying to navigate with less support, but my parents definitely did as much as they could.”

Tackling the hidden curriculum

Franaschouk has faced head on the unwritten curriculum of the college experience. And she’s found additional resources all over campus. A First-Gen Forward Institution, St. Thomas is dedicated to supporting the richness that first-generation students bring to the university. In fact, nearly one in four Tommies will be the first in their families to attend or graduate from a four-year institution.

“At first I didn’t even realize it, but being a first-generation student has definitely had an impact on my college journey,” Franaschouk said. “I think the University of St. Thomas does a really good job of promoting a community-rich education … growing everyone holistically as people as they pursue their degree here.”

Undergraduate Student Government President Angelica Franaschouk poses for a portrait at the O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library, one of her favorite study spots on campus. Franaschouk plans to pursue a career in consulting after graduation. (Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas)

Finding a community while representing others

As the pandemic hit just months into her tenure on campus, Franaschouk was forced to navigate college … from home. Yearning for the community that she had just begun to build in St. Paul, she ran for Undergraduate Student Government.

“When we were doing our online learning at the peak of the pandemic, I was searching for a student organization where I could feel a sense of community and also feel like I was making a change on campus,” Franaschouk said. “It was really awesome because we could learn about what was going on here on campus without being physically here.”

As the pandemic has slowly eased its grip, Franaschouk has increased her involvement back on campus. Beyond her work as a business communications and business law and compliance double major, she’s also the student adviser for Off-Campus Student Life, designs graphics for the Athletics Department, and, of course, ran for and was elected to the position of Undergraduate Student Government president. It’s a level of involvement that she’s seeing reflected all over St. Thomas.

“A lot of students are trying new things and I’m also trying new things,” Franaschouk said. “Seeing campus this busy has motivated me to leave some kind of positive change on campus and really make an impact.”

Leading through risk-taking

This year’s Undergraduate Student Government is working on a variety of initiatives, from new campus maps to updating the USG constitution to better reflect the needs of students.

No matter the project, Franaschouk is aware she’s leading her peers as the first woman in several years to hold the role of Undergraduate Student Government president.

“It’s been a very interesting journey to find the right approach to leadership as a woman and the right approach to communicating with the student body,” Franaschouk said. “I’ve found great role models in our student government advisers Patricia Conde-Brooks and Margaret Cahill, and also Karen Lange and in my mom.”

After nearly four years of finding a community of support at St. Thomas, Franaschouk is now preparing for life post-college. She’d love to someday open a small business, a coffee shop perhaps. More immediately she’s planning to pursue a career in consulting.

As she counts down her final months at St. Thomas, Franaschouk encourages future Tommies to embrace a love of problem-solving and risk-taking.

“Take safe risks and try things that you normally wouldn't,” Franaschouk said. “Try out new opportunities and kind of see where it takes you, because you'll never know. Maybe one day you'll run to become sophomore senator and then you'll end up student body president in your senior year.”