st. thomas students

Class of '18 in the Spotlight

Congratulations, Class of '18 – you did it!

And along the way you made us very proud to call you Tommies. You researched topics ranging from autism to money laundering in Russia. You launched nonprofits. You survived Minnesota winters. You won prestigious awards.

Below is a roundup of some of the stories the Newsroom has written about graduating seniors in their time at St. Thomas.

Erin Abbe and Sarah Beck grew as leaders during their time at St. Thomas. Beck served as a resident adviser and as a member of the Pre-Dental Club’s executive board; Abbe spent three years as the marketing intern for St. Thomas Activities and Recreation, and three years on the Residence Hall Association e-board, including one year as president.

Murad Abduselam was one of four undergraduate University of St. Thomas students named University Innovation Fellows by Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (

Chelsea AkinJake Hartmann, Chase LauAmanda Post and Mark Shipman shared some of their favorite things to do on the weekends, both on campus and off.

Akin and Hartmann, along with Paige Fellows, were involved in planning options to help students stress less.

Buddy the Golden Retriever is shown during a visit from therapy animals December 15, 2014 in O'Shaughnessy-Frey Library. The animals were on hand to help students relieve the stress of studying for finals.

Buddy the Golden Retriever is shown during a visit from therapy animals Dec. 15, 2014, in O'Shaughnessy-Frey Library. The animals were on hand to help students relieve the stress of studying for finals.

Kelly Ancel described her experiences as a female in the mechanical engineering program at the University of St. Thomas.

Chris Anderson, David McGoff, Nick Sable and Katie Stadheim cheered on the University of St. Thomas football team at the Tommie-Johnnie game at Target Field on Sept. 23, 2017. There were 37,355 people were on hand, more than doubling the previous record for Division III attendance.

Chelsea Balthazar, a student from Dominica, reflected on Hurricane Maria and shared what it took to survive her first Minnesota winter.

Josiah Bardwell shared his opinion on choosing a major.

Maggie Becker, daughter of engineering adjunct faculty member Tom Becker, shared her thoughts on tuition remission and choosing St. Thomas for her education.

Valerie Brukhis (Photo by Mike Ekern '02)

Valerie Brukhis

Valerie Brukhis turned her college years into an endless stream of experiences: researching money laundering in Russia, helping children on a subsequent trip to Ukraine, presenting at a conference in Lithuania about post-Soviet states and monitoring Russian disinformation campaigns while working at the German Marshall Fund in Washington, D.C. She was named a Fulbright Scholar and, after graduation, will hold an internship with the United States Mission to the United Nations in New York, and will then leave in October for Tel Aviv, Israel. There her Fulbright scholarship will fund her earning over one year an accelerated master’s degree in security and diplomacy.

Zach Emond worked as a research assistant on the weather station at the St. Thomas microgrid research and testing facilities, housed on the roofs of the Facilities and Designs Center and McCarthy Gym on the university’s St. Paul south campus.

Erin Engstran was among the Tommies expressing appreciation for Anderson Student Center.

John Fetzner worked on autism research with assistant professor Cheol-Hong Min. As most of Fetzner's family, including himself, has moderate to severe hearing loss, the research had strong personal meaning.

With the use of a St. Thomas Collaborative Inquiry grant, Patrick Fisher examined what the university's namesake, 13th century Catholic priest Thomas Aquinas, might have to say on modern sustainability.

Student body president Ryan Foster welcomed the university’s newest, incoming class of students at March Through the Arches this past fall. He also was featured as a Human of St. Thomas.

Football teammates Johnny Heller and Jack Dummer competed off the field to vie for the Hult Prize. The team’s concept, InjECOllect, focused on slums in India with the goal of employing local residents to collect and sort plastic trash, which is then melted into injectionable machines and molded into valuable products to be sold in First World markets.

Paige Hieptas was part of a class that logged online to Soliya, virtual chat rooms that brought together students from “The East” and “The West,” to talk about the relationships between their cultures, what issues their countries face, how different cultures deal with similar issues and, in general, what life is like for their global peers.

Chris Hornung started Tommies Unplugged, which works to improve students’ relationship with technology and sleep. While Tyler Lifke had better sleep habits than many of his peers, the Center for College Sleep (CCS) and the Wellness Center worked to address students’ sleep issues. Hornung also researched cellphone use by students at St. Thomas and reclaiming conversations.

In the first year of a new national award, the Department of Defense recognized St. Thomas’ Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) as one of the best in the country. Luke Hubers was also recognized this year as one of the top five cadets nationally in his class, and served as an elite cadet training assistant last summer.

At the U.S. Bank Make-a-Thon, where students created ways to apply the technology of IBM’s TJBotMoise Igeno's team used TJBot to create an alert system to notify students what on-campus opportunities for free food at events align with their interests.

Jenna Laleman coordinated St. Thomas’ Science, Technology and Engineering Preview Summer (STEPS) camp, an annual, weeklong series of one-day camps for sixth and eighth grade girls.

Jeremy Little became the first in his family to attend scholarship after a significant scholarship, and made the most of his time at St. Thomas: Little won the 2014 Fowler Challenge and has continued to rack up success with his company, Unique Pontoons.

Mohamed Malim and fellow St. Thomas business student Amin Mahamoud launched Dream Refugee, a nonprofit “whose mission is to begin to tackle today’s most relevant and troubling

Student Mohamed Malim.

Mohamed Malim

themes of exclusion, xenophobia and apathy by connecting refugees with disparate communities in unique ways.” Malim was 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.” Promise Prize Scholars Malim and Jordan Pinnix described their time at the Change Create Transform Foundation’s leadership summit in Washington, D.C.

Halle Mason shared how her popular blog-turned-Instagram account – Looking for Mr. Darcy – was inspired by one of her favorite novels – Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” – in a Humans of St. Thomas feature.

Emily Meuer was the main software developer for Code and Chords, an interdisciplinary project at St. Thomas out of associate professor of Engineering and Entrepreneurship AnnMarie Thomas’ Playful Learning Lab.

Sarah Nelson took third place in the social venture category of the Fowler Business Concept Challenge for Project Hal, her business to end unnecessary euthanasia of rescue animals and promote animal adoption.

ROTC cadet Bryjett Nordmark learned to speak Mandarin and traveled to Boston and Taiwan thanks to Project Global Officer (Project GO), a Department of Defense (DOD) program. Nordmark and dozens of other St. Thomas Reserve Officers’ Training Corps students have taken advantage of the program to learn languages and cultures around the world.

David Willard and Whitney Oachs

Whitney Oachs and history professor David Williard

With a Young Scholars grantWhitney Oachs researched the citizen organization and protest that fought back against government plans to build Highway 94 and Interstate 35. As part of an “Is Slavery Dead?” panel, co-president of the History Club Oachs also presented her research on how the Western world’s desire for fast fashion contributes to the debt bondage and enslavement of women working in the fashion industry in developing countries in Southeast Asia.

Tyler Ogorek conducted research with chemistry professor Tom Ippoliti on compounds to help fight bacterial diseases that are becoming resistant to antibiotics such as penicillin.

Kyle Reid

Kyle Reid

Kyle Reid was featured in the cover story of St. Thomas magazine and the subject of an ongoing set of features. The student-athlete suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and conversion disorder, a condition in which people show psychological stress in physical ways, all the results of a 2011 Marine tour in Afghanistan.

Andrew Ryan helped build parts of the FarmBot and rover systems in the St. Thomas Owens Science Hall greenhouse and Facilities and Design Center. This included developing autonomous, smart rovers to support the world’s growing agriculture needs in conjunction with many students and faculty across the Engineering, Biology, Chemistry and Physics Departments.

Anna Schellpfeffer worked on research in collaboration with engineering professor Sarah Baxter in the department’s statics lab.

Jonathon Shields was featured as a Human of St. Thomas. As a music business major and president of the Music Industry Club, Shields sharpened skills to support his own performance career or to have other options in the music industry.

As part of an engineering class taught by Dr. AnnMarie Thomas, Brian Tierney designed projects for the Works Museum.

Andrew Tollefson

Andrew Tollefson

As a runner guide for blind athlete Ivonne Mosquera-Schmidt, Andrew Tollefson traveled to Qatar, and helped Mosquera-Schmidt on her road to compete at the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Tri “Tony” Vo volunteered with a Keystone Community Services food shelf and in an adult development classroom with Resource Minnesota.

Annika Wahlquist performed in Park Square Theatre's production of “Six Characters in Search of an Author.”

The Veterans Resource Center celebrated its grand opening in November 2017Peter Watson, club president of the St. Thomas Veterans’ Association, helped develop the plan centered around creating a physical space on campus dedicated to veterans.

Grace Winker shared her thoughts on O'Shaughnessy-Frey Library in a story on the university's libraries.

With the help of the Excel! Research Scholars Program, Divine Zheng examined whether states that are rated as having robust and comprehensive content standards in regard to the civil rights movement actually wind up with more comprehensive textbooks.