Michael Adkins

Catholic Studies: Working in Education

Catholic Studies is particularly well suited to serve the mission of Catholic schools.

Catholic Studies is particularly well suited to serve the mission of Catholic schools. Our students develop a way of thinking that strives to see the deep ways in which their faith integrates all aspects of learning and life. Many have brought this to their work in Catholic schools where they strive to create a rich and vibrant Catholic culture for their colleagues and their students.

We are especially proud of three of our graduates who were appointed principals of Catholic grade schools this past fall: Allison Frank (M.A. ’09) at St. Peter’s in North St. Paul, Tina Monosmith (B.A. ’05; M.A. ’08) at St. Rose of Lima in Roseville and Zack Zeckser (B.A. ’00) at St. Mark’s in St. Paul. In addition, two of our alumni have long worked in education: Michael Adkins as academic dean at St. Agnes in St. Paul (M.A. ’10) and Jason Slattery as a longtime principal at Ave Maria Academy (B.A. ’03). He currently is pursuing doctoral studies at Creighton University. We have asked each of them to speak about how Catholic Studies has helped shape their vision and lives as leaders in education.

Michael Adkins Academic dean, St. Agnes School, St. Paul

Looking back on my old CSMA files, I found a personal statement I submitted as part of my application in which I reflected on how I was first inspired to pursue a CSMA degree: “As I thought to myself during Dr. Thompson’s presentation [an RCIA talk on the moral teachings of the Church], I decided that ‘I wanted to be able to speak like that’ about the Catholic faith; his presentation was both accessible to the common person as well as piercingly deep into the Catholic theological tradition.” In that moment I was able to see how a proposal of the value and depth of the Catholic faith can be truly edifying and transformative for everyone, especially when presented at a level appropriate to the audience. This encounter got me excited about the opportunities the CSMA program could offer me. My hope was that I could, as Dr. Thompson had shown, better engage my own students in the pursuit of truth, beauty and goodness; in hindsight, the CSMA program had afforded me this along with many other skills and opportunities to grow.

I learned the essential principles of Catholic doctrine and Catholic thought, and I believe I am able, thanks to the modeling of peers and professors in the CSMA program, to apply those principles in just about any context − but most importantly in my field of continuous school improvement.

On a practical level, CSMA provides excellent training in essential intellectual habits of mind. This is accomplished through the rigor of classroom discussion, the level of outside reading and the demands of independent course work. In addition, I found that all CS professors modeled exceptional integrity, scholarship, pedagogy and Christian hospitality. I was fortunate to be able to participate in opportunities to work with undergraduates and leadership interns as an administrative assistant to one of my professors, gaining new leadership, organizational and administrative skills. As a full-time teacher while in the CSMA program, I believe that I benefited from the simultaneous work of teaching and pursuing my degree because I was able to apply immediately (even the next day) the content knowledge, dialectical skills and teaching abilities that I gleaned from my courses and professors.

On a philosophical level, the CSMA program effectively emphasizes a proper Catholic anthropology, which is absolutely essential in the field of education, and this was emphasized by many of my classes providing a common theme for my studies. I witnessed how the program successfully forms Catholic minds: a way of seeing the world and synthesizing truth in the light of Christ from every imaginable perspective. The program also does a great job of offering a truly liberal arts experience, forming free and independent thinkers; once one has developed the essential skills and habits of mind afforded by the program, gradually he no longer needs to rely on instructors or col- leagues to form sound opinions and draw conclusions. This approach effectively creates Catholic leaders who will serve as a desperately needed leaven in the realm of modern education.

CS helped me to see and respect more fully that “Catholic identity” is not merely the externals: stained glass, liturgy, prayer, art, etc. Those things are key, but a school’s Catholic identity is one that fully embraces the Logos – the Word. The Christian faith is by its very nature an intelligent faith, and it demands that believers engage in a dialectic with the Word, both in its written and spoken forms. I learned, through the example of my professors and the CS program itself, to understand that Catholic educational institutions ought to develop a “culture of the Word,” as Pope Emeritus Benedict has called it; one where all can, in a community of scholarship and charity, embrace the pursuit of what is true, good and beautiful regardless of our abilities and interests. Everyone is enriched by a culture of the Word; a rich engagement with the Scriptures, Catholic literature, philosophy and theology is for the plumber, pediatrician, pipe-fitter, president and piano player.

With that in mind, I could see that St. Agnes School already possessed a healthy external Catholic identity, but the internal Catholic identity needed strengthening: the curriculum itself needed the benefit of infusing a culture of the Word. To do so, I and my colleagues focused on the Catholic intellectual tradition: for example, we oriented the English program to the classics of Western literature; we required all freshmen to take an introduction to logic and philosophy; we aimed to integrate all subject areas in order to unify the pursuits of faith and reason; we offered studies in Greek and Latin; we changed the Social Studies Department to “History, Philosophy and Economics,” for example. In summary, we infused the Catholic intellectual tradition back into the curriculum and by doing so the external Catholic identity of stained glass, devotionals, beautiful liturgy and prayer now harmoniously resonate with the internal identity − the new curriculum − creating a seamless education and formation of the whole person that speaks to the heart and the mind.

Alison Frank Principal, St. Peter’s Catholic School, North St. Paul, Minn.

Allison Frank

As a graduate Catholic Studies student I was able to immerse myself in the world of Catholic thought and culture. Through my classes at St. Thomas, and in a unique way my experience in Rome at Bernardi and the Angelicum, I learned to think with the eyes, heart and mind of the Church. My formation gave me a vocabulary for what I always knew to be true and provided a solid academic foundation to share with others.

Catholic education is essential in the evangelizing life of the Church. Everything that is done in Catholic schools should show young children that they are called to be saints in the world. It is absolutely imperative that Catholic Schools are imbued with all that it means to be Catholic. This cannot be an add-on that occurs by hanging a picture of Pope Francis or having students memorize the Hail Mary. In order for a Catholic school to participate in the mission of the Church, the leadership, faculty and staff must all share the same vision. St. Thomas gave me words for that vision, and it is now my job to share it and form others in the same way.

A small example of how Catholic culture can be alive and vibrant in a preschool-8th grade school: This year we have placed much focus on being called to holiness, to sainthood. The students hear stories of the saints. We discuss the virtues, and at every opportunity we are reminded of how we are called to do more. The seventh grade girls were talking about this at lunch one day and one of them informed me that she is working on being holier. The others talked about what that meant and how she was doing it. She cited a number of ways that St. Peter’s has helped her to see why holiness is desirable for a 13-year-old girl. This is what Catholic Schools should hope to do along with provide an excellent academic experience. Catholic Studies models this through study, community and prayer.

Jason Slattery Principal, Ave Maria Academy, Maple Grove, Minn.

Jason Slattery

Catholic Studies provided for me and many others in education the freedom for excellence. For nearly two decades, we have been reading and hearing about excellence in education. Many schools have even enshrined the notion of excellence in their mission statements with the catch phrase “a school of academic excellence.” One might on occasion be led to conclude that excellence and education are synonyms. After all, what else should schools be about?

As schools are places where learning takes place, it naturally follows that they should be academically focused; however, are lessons in mathematics, science, literature, rhetoric and the arts the only things students learn in school? What about lessons in virtues like honesty, friendship, sincerity, prudence, justice or fortitude? Ought not a school seek excellence for every student in all areas of their young lives?

Catholic Studies helped me understand the role of market theory in education. Parents choose schools. Identity is key in discerning market choices. In the shrewdest sense, an authentic, joyful commitment to Catholic identity is job security. A school grounded in a commitment to an encouraging and safe environment transformed by faith, reason, and virtue is a choice parents can make for their children. Faith, reason and virtue are gifts from God. Many schools lack the freedom to even acknowledge God, let alone teach about the gifts He has given us. Many schools and teachers lack the freedom to acknowledge or speak to the reality of the soul. Could it be that simple that in Catholic education we can admit our students have souls?

Catholic Studies provided an integrated and complete vision of a school dedicated to unfettered excellence for the good of its students, which is not the product of accident or chance. Animating Catholic education is the virtue of charity. Catholic education has at its heart the virtue of charity. The exceptionality of students wells up from their deepening practice of charity. In an environment of love almost anything is possible. Students teach us daily in many ways, but none greater than the care they show for God and one another.

Tina Monosmith Principal, St. Rose of Lima School, Roseville, Minn.

Tina Monosmith

As the principal of a Catholic elementary school, my degree in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas is an asset each and every day. As an undergraduate student, majoring in Theology and Secondary Education, I chose to minor in Catholic Studies. The experience in the Catholic Studies program was the perfect companion to my theology degree and allowed me the opportunity to see the various ways I could infuse all of the aspects of Catholicism into my teaching.

After teaching only a few months I was certain that I would be a better teacher and better prepared to be an administrator someday if I enhanced my experience in the Catholic Studies program. Through my master’s degree in Catholic Studies I had the opportunity to explore the history of Catholic education, Catholic literature and the development of the Catholic musical tradition. My own educational experience in the Catholic Studies program enhanced the education I was able to provide for my students and provided me with a fuller understanding of the Roman Catholic tradition.

Today, as a school administrator, the deepened understanding of Catholicism provided by my Catholic Studies degree guides me as I strive to be a successful leader of a Catholic school. Selecting curriculum, human resources management, liturgy planning, marketing, admissions and event organization are all processes that require a full understanding of the Catholic educational tradition, and I call upon my Catholic Studies degree every day. As an administrator, my background in Catholic Studies helps me to create and foster a Catholic culture in the whole school community, and not just within the confines of our religion classes.

Zachary Zeckser Principal, St. Mark’s School, St. Paul

Zack Zeckser

The educational and spiritual formation that the Catholic Studies program provided me helped me develop a disposition of discernment. My first semester in Catholic studies sparked my heightened reflection process not only on day-to-day matters but also, and especially, on the big picture of my vocational path. Relationships with professors like Dr. Don Briel and Dr. Michael Naughton really helped me, even after graduation, in prayerfully and actively considering where God is calling me. This has led me to marriage, fatherhood, teaching and now education administration.

My background in Catholic Studies, to a significant degree, has set me on a trajectory of goodness while seeking greatness. The high standards, academic, spiritual, social, ethical and so on, have helped to instill in me a desire to do things with a sort of magnanimity (a word I learned in Catholic Studies). At the same time, I know that the focus, even more than excellence, is goodness − virtue. I do not, however, think of the benefits of the degree as much as I think the hard work, the community and the attitude that it represents.

From experiences like those of Catholic Studies, my paradigm of Catholic education has shifted such that I do not simply consider Catholic schools to be just one of the many options people in Minnesota have from which to choose; rather, I see Catholic education as a primary ministry of the Church. As such, the work I do in my office, in the cafeteria and in the classrooms is one of ministry. Canon law tells us that we need to be at least as academically excellent as our public school neighbors down the street, but our call to “Aim Higher” means that academics are only the beginning of what we do. Our Catholic schools are, in fact, ex corde, or “from the heart” of the Church.

Click to See Catholic Studies Alumni Working as Teachers, Administrators in Catholic Schools

Elementary (K-8)

Audrey (Anderson) Moorhouse, B.A. ’12, 6-8 science, St. Croix Catholic, Stillwater, Minn.

Oscar Echandi, B.A. ’04, teacher, Country Day School, Escazú, Costa Rica

Mary Eilen, B.A. ’13, third grade, St. Agnes, St. Paul

Alison Frank, M.A. ’09, principal, St. Peter School, North St. Paul, Minn.

R. Nolan Gutierrez, B.A. ’13, K-8 Spanish, St. Mark’s, St. Paul

Sheila (Keeling) Gutierrez, B.A. ’11 fourth grade, St. Agnes, St. Paul

Sara Joyce, B.A. ’11, sixth grade, St. Agnes, St. Paul

Tina Monosmith, M.A. ’08, principal, St. Rose of Lima, Roseville, Minn.

Beth Reopelle, B.A. ’98, fifth grade, Providence Academy, Plymouth, Minn.

Jason Slattery, B.A. ’03, president, Ave Maria Academy, Maple Grove, Minn.

Kristin Vasko, B.A. ’12, third grade, St. Croix Catholic, Stillwater, Minn

Gabriel Yurko B.A. ’13, K-8 physical education/athletic director, Spiritus Sanctus Academy, Plymouth Mich.

Zachary Zeckser, B.A. ’00, principal, St. Mark’s, St. Paul High School (9-12)

Michael Adkins, M.A. ’10, academic dean, St. Agnes, St. Paul

Gretchen Amigon, B.A. ’01, theology/technology, Academy of Holy Angels, Richfield, Minn.

Daniel Berthiaume, B.A. ’04, Latin, St. Agnes, St. Paul

Father Robert Bolding, B.A. ’05, president rector, St. Mary’s High School, Phoenix, Ariz.

Kevin Clemens, M.A. ’10, Latin, Northridge Preparatory School, Chicago

Peter Dahdah, B.A. ’00, history, St. Agnes High School, St. Paul

Laura Eusterman, M.A. ’13, Trinity at River Ridge, Eagan, Minn.

Courtney Gregar, M.A. ’12, history, St. Agnes, St. Paul

Jillian Gubash, B.A. '04, advancement associate, St. Agnes, St. Paul

Per Hansen, M.A. ’12, mathematics, Chesterton Academy, Edina, Minn.

Mark Jahnke, B.A. ’04, M.a. ’07, junior high dean, Holy Family Academy, St. Louis Park, Minn.

Jonathan Janz, M.A. ’12, science, Providence Academy, Plymouth, Minn.

Sister Elizabeth Marie Kalscheur, O.P., B.A. ’05, religion, Mount de Sales Academy, Baltimore, Md.

Rachel (Koskey) Kemp, B.A. ’08, guidance counselor, St. Agnes, St. Paul

Hank Kemp, B.A. ’08, science, St. Agnes, St. Paul

Katie Lahti, B.A. ’10, coordinator of communications, Providence Academy, Plymouth, Minn.

Angela Lambert, B.A. ’00, M.A. ’13, religion, Providence Academy, Plymouth, Minn.

Zita Larson, B.A. ’12, religion, St. Agnes, St. Paul

Laura Leonard, M.A. ’12, English, Providence Academy, Plymouth, Minn.

Matthew McQuillan, B.A. ’11, mathematics, DeLaSalle High School, Minneapolis

Katherine Moosbrugger, B.A. ’12, theology and German, St. Mary’s Catholic High School, Sleepy Eye, Minn.

Stephanie Monson, B.A. ’06, assistant director of Campus Ministry, Divine Savior Holy Angels High School, Milwaukee, Wis.

Father Mark Moriarty, M.A. '99, pastor and superintendent, St. Agnes, St. Paul

Dan Nguyen, B.A., ’03, M.a. ’13, Theology Department chair, St. Mary’s Catholic High School, Phoenix, Ariz.; theology adjunct, University of Mary, Tempe Ariz.

Michael Olson, B.A. ’99, English and literature, Providence Academy, Plymouth, Minn.

Brittany Ostlie, M.A. ’13, English and literature, Holy Family Academy, Manchester, N.H.

Karl Pederson, B.a. ’01, Latin, logic and theology, St. Agnes, St. Paul

John Rogers, M.A. ’10, English, St. Thomas Academy, Mendota Heights, Minn.

Justin Shay, B.A. ’10, M.A. ’13, religion, Ave Maria Academy, Maple Grove, Minn.

John Stauble, B.A. ’02, 7-10 Catholic doctrine and Latin, Trinity at River Ridge, Eagan, Minn.

Miriam Stella, M.A. ’11, 9-12 mathematics, St. Bernard Preparatory School, Cullman, Ala.

Stephen Sylvester, B.A. ’12, religion, Christ the King High School, Daphne, Ala.

Paula Thelen, B.A. ’12, religion, McDonell Central Catholic High School, Chippewa Falls, Wis.

Gregory Westerhaus, B.A. ’12, religion, Holy Trinity High School (ACE program), Chicago

Laura Pederson Zeckser, M.A. ’09, 9-12 theology, Holy Angels, Richfield, Minn.


Matthew Gerlach, Ph.D., B.A. ’97, Catholic Studies Department, University of Mary, Bismarck, N.D.

Eric Johnston, Ph.D., B.A. ’00, Theology Department, Seton Hall University, South Orange, N.J.

Robert Koerpel, Ph.D., B.A. ’99, Theology Department, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul

Lindsey (Adornato) Mayernick, B.A., ’10, admissions coordinator, University of Mary, Bismarck, N.D.

Gregory Murry, Ph.D., B.A. ’03, History Department, Mount St. Mary, Emmitsburg, Md.

Amanda Osheim, Ph.D., B.A. ’98, Religion Department, Loras College, Dubuque, Iowa

Marta Pereira Vindas, B.A. ’04, Campus Ministry, St. Catherine University, St. Paul

Thomas Schulzetenberg, B.A. ’05, Rome program director, University of Mary, Bismarck, N.D.

Robert Staudt, Ph.D., B.A. ’03, M.A. ’05, assistant professor, Augustine Institute, Denver

Mathew Sutton, Ph.D., Theology and Religious Studies Department, St. John’s University, Jamaica, N.Y.

Many of our graduates now are working as teachers or administrators in Catholic grade schools and high schools around the country (listed on pages 22-23). If we have managed to omit someone you know, please let us know.

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