Cesar Oswaldo Mendez Portillo participates in a Spanish language awareness campaign television advertisement in the St. Thomas multimedia studio on January 26, 2022, in St. Paul.
Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas

New St. Thomas TV Ads Aim to Boost University Awareness

Spanish is the most-spoken non-English language in the U.S., which means many college-bound students, including St. Thomas students, grow up speaking Spanish at home. So, this year, the university's first-ever Spanish-language TV commercials – a part of its annual “We Are Tommies” marketing campaign – will boost awareness among influencers in the Spanish-speaking community.

The 30-second spots highlight two current students, Adalí Flores-Mendoza ’23 and César Osvaldo Mendez-Portillo ’23, and their journey to St. Thomas. The spots will air exclusively on Spanish-language network Univision for seven weeks.

“We didn’t want to just translate a commercial from English to Spanish; we wanted to tell unique stories with the voices of Spanish-speaking students who have chosen St. Thomas as their higher ed home,” Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Kymm Martinez said. “We want our campus to represent the diverse demographics of our Minnesota community and we hope these ads will attract others to join the next class of Tommies.”

“There are so many opportunities [at St. Thomas],” Flores-Mendoza said in Spanish in the ad. “I can’t imagine myself anywhere else.”

Flores-Mendoza is a Minneapolis native whose merits earned her a full-tuition Dease Scholarship to attend St. Thomas. She is triple majoring in communication studies, Spanish, and English with an emphasis in professional writing in the College of Arts and Sciences. On campus, Flores-Mendoza is already starting to live out her dreams. She was a social media intern in the office of the VP for Student Affairs and is now a student worker with ITS, the Innovation & Technology Services department.

Mendez-Portillo, who is vice president of the Hispanic and Latinx student club HOLA, hails from El Salvador and immigrated to Minnesota in 2017. Starting his St. Thomas journey at Dougherty Family College, Mendez earned a full-tuition scholarship to pursue a bachelor’s degree in marketing in the College of Arts and Sciences. While other schools offered financial support, Mendez said DFC and St. Thomas gave him the whole package.

“With small classes, the professors know me by first name, and the Hispanic community within St. Thomas makes me feel like family,” Mendez said in Spanish in his ad.

These TV ads were produced by the university’s Marketing, Insights and Communications team (MIC) working closely with Student Diversity and Inclusion Services. The university also collaborated with a native Spanish-speaking copywriter. The Spanish-language TV spots were not the first non-English language ads for the university. St. Thomas also recently produced radio ads in Somali and Hmong.

Since first launching the awareness campaign in 2017, St. Thomas has seen an increase in the number of Minnesotans giving the university an “exceptional” or “excellent” rating, with the latest results at 43% of survey respondents, Martinez said.

Advertising is only one aspect of St. Thomas’ efforts to bring awareness of the university as an option to a broad range of students and their families. “Additional enrollment nurturing activities to influence the selection of St. Thomas, as well as retention efforts once a student enrolls, are equally important,” Martinez said, with a reminder that Fostering Belonging and Dismantling Racism is a campus priority in the 2025 strategic plan.  “Ensuring diverse populations feel welcomed and included at St. Thomas is a critical ‘One University’ effort.”

The awareness TV campaign this year also includes four English-language ads that will air during prime time on “Shark Tank,” “The Bachelor” and the NCAA Tournament, among others. They focus on key programs and initiatives from across the university.

One commercial features School of Education alumnus Martin Odima ’13 MA, who earned his master’s degree through the Collaborative Urban and Greater Minnesota Educators of Color scholarship, a full-tuition scholarship dedicated to increasing teacher diversity. Now, Martin is paying it forward, making a difference as a teacher and coach, empowering more students to reach higher.

A GHR fellow, Himani Joshi ’23 is the focus of a commercial that highlights her experience in the unique, full-tuition scholarship and immersive Opus College of Business program designed to develop principled business leaders.

As a student, Shukrani Nangwala ’21 joined St. Thomas’ Urban Art Mapping Research project. His commercial highlights how working with College of Arts and Sciences professors from geography, art history and English to document street art all over the world has opened his and others’ eyes to diverse stories and experiences.

Six commercials in all, including one produced featuring Dr. Ann Majewicz ’08, a School of Engineering alumna, are set to run through early May across major Minnesota TV stations. This is the fifth year the university has told St. Thomas stories on TV.