Throughout his four years at St. Thomas, Derrick Diedrich ’21 found himself growing in ways he could’ve never predicted before starting college. With experiences in campus ministry, student government and as a Tommie Ambassador, Diedrich has been able to cultivate both his leadership skills and personal goals.
“I’m a senior, so I’ll be finishing my victory lap soon,” Diedrich said. “I really love being a Tommie.”
A native of Hortonville, Wisconsin, and one of this year’s Tommie Award finalists, Diedrich’s affection for the university is evident through his heavy involvement with the campus community. He explained that his various roles on campus have given him the opportunity to interact with and get to know many people within St. Thomas administration and the student body, while also allowing him to act as a voice for his fellow students.
“I just love getting to know people and being kind of in the thick of things going on around here,” he said.
With a major in business leadership and management and a minor in Catholic studies, Diedrich hopes to take what he’s learned over the last four years – both inside the classroom and out – to positively make an impact on the lives of others as he continues to follow his passions.
We sat down with Diedrich to discuss everything from what it means to him to be a Tommie award finalist to how he likes to spend a free Saturday afternoon. (Fun fact: Diedrich won the competition to name the new dining hall on campus, the Northsider.) Here are some highlights from our conversation.
What have you learned about yourself during your time at St. Thomas?
I’ve grown a lot in my leadership and in my knowledge of my personal mission. I’ve learned how I can use the gifts and skills that make up who I am to best influence the world. One thing that I’ve really noticed is my ability to look at other people and to delight in their success. I love being the catalyst for that, whether that’s through a good conversation, sharing with them resources and information, or just being a friend. It’s so fun to watch my friends succeed and accomplish their goals. I’m able to recognize I’m only successful insofar as those around me are successful and growing.
Another thing would be my ability to make connections and establish relationships. For me it started to come so naturally, I’d go into conversations with people and realize that this is a particular gift that I have and I’ve been able to cultivate at St. Thomas.
What does it mean to you to be nominated for the Tommie Award this year?
It has meant a lot. It’s made for some fun conversations, especially with people who I don’t know that well. Everyone who was nominated are awesome people. I wish I could have had individual conversations with each of them to talk about their experiences, their love for our institution and their fellow students.
To me it also represents someone who students look to – it says that this person represents who we are at St. Thomas. It represents a person who reflects our student experience. To be one of those students, and to be one of the top three, is just something I feel really honored to be a part of. My time here has been one of the greatest experiences of my life and being a finalist for the Tommie Award shows me that I’ve made an impact at St. Thomas.
What advice do you have for first-year students?
I would say to take full advantage of the educational opportunity the university offers, especially the liberal arts. I think it’s commonly undercut what a liberal arts education means. We’re human beings with a crazy amount of potential and there’s more to life than just formulating our skills to work. It’s more about formulating ourselves through education on a higher level. By investing in things like theology, philosophy and literature, it brings us to that fullness of the human person. That’s not something that is easily attained. Reflect on why you’re getting an education, and why you’re here. Take advantage of it instead of disregarding it for the other aspects of college like the great social life because that’s all secondary to the education.
What is something that always makes you smile?
This question reminds me of my favorite Mother Teresa quote, ‘Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.’ One of my favorite things is to take a walk across campus and just smile at life. I find myself doing that all the time and sometimes I’ll notice people looking at me because it’s not that normal to be alone walking around campus with a smile for no particular reason.
What is the last TV show or book that you’ve enjoyed?
My roommates got rid of our TV for Lent, so I’ve been pushed more toward reading. But I did recently watch “The Umbrella Academy” on Netflix.
The book I’ve been reading is He Leadeth Me by Walter Ciszek. It’s a book about a Catholic priest who is a Jesuit and was sent to a work camp when the Soviets took over part of Poland. The book has really inspired me and taught me that life can get hard, but the Lord and our faith can get us through tough situations. In the book, he went through so much suffering and the whole time he kept his faith. He continued to give even though he literally had nothing.
You have a free Saturday afternoon – no homework or school duties. What does that look like to you?
I am notoriously a planner. I have a ton of ideas of fun things that I want to do with other people. I really like being outside and seeing new things. I like to get a good number of people together to go for a hike. I like having an opportunity to be with people, have good conversations and laugh. For me, what that has looked like at St. Thomas throughout the years is that we would hop on the Tommie shuttle, go to Minneapolis and then walk around for a couple of hours in the city. We would go get milkshakes in Dinkytown and then take the light rail back – it was so much fun! It’s simple, you get to be active, you get to be with other people, and you never know where the conversation will go or what inside jokes will be created.
What are your hopes for the future?
A major goal that I have is to positively benefit a lot of people. How that looks and how I see that coming out is through business right now. I think there’s a ton of room for growth for me and for a lot of people at every stage. By being a business leader, not only can I lead my organization, but I can help lead other people in their life. Whether it’s helping them grow in virtue, honesty, integrity, ethical practices or in their relationships. My vision for my life is that I’ll do that in some capacity in terms of career and education. I would like to end up at a company whose mission and vision I believe in and whose values relate closely to mine. I also want to continue in my education. I’m thinking about getting a master’s in Catholic studies, and then also an MBA at some point because of the valuable skills that I can gain from it and because I love learning. I also want to have a tangible way to continue to grow that would fit me and would also provide me with better opportunities and connections going forward.
In terms of my faith, I want to continue helping people grow their own faith. I also want to continue growing my faith and becoming closer to Jesus Christ. It’s about constantly learning more and that’ll be the greatest adventure of my life – going deeper with my relationship with Jesus.