Graduate Student Athletes

Graduate Student-Athletes Bring Leadership and Skill to Tommie Rosters

Basketball standout Raheem Anthony averaged nearly 20 points per game against the University of St. Thomas when he was a first-year at Saint Mary’s University.

His performance impressed St. Thomas head coach Johnny Tauer, who wouldn’t forget their meetings even after the Tommies jumped to Division I. Four years later, Anthony now plays for his former foe as a graduate student-athlete, swapping out Cardinal red for Tommie purple.

“Raheem is a catalyst everywhere for our team – albeit while playing a slightly different role,” Tauer said. “He has done all of this with positive energy, and an open mind and heart, and I could not be more grateful to get the opportunity to coach him.”

From the baseball diamond to the tennis court, graduate student-athletes are providing a powerful boost to rosters across the St. Thomas Athletics Department. For the 2023-24 season, 20 students are pursuing their graduate studies at St. Thomas while embracing a rigorous athletics schedule.

Most of the graduate student-athletes at St. Thomas – including Anthony – received an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Traditionally, college athletes have five years to complete four seasons of play. But with the cancellation of thousands of games from 2020 to 2021, the NCAA issued an extension.

The St. Thomas Men’s Basketball team takes on Idaho State in a basketball game in Schoenecker Arena in St. Paul on November 10, 2023.
Raheem Anthony dunks the ball as the St. Thomas men’s basketball team takes on Idaho State in Schoenecker Arena on Nov. 11, 2023. (Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas)

An extra year to lead

Anthony is using his “bonus” year to eclipse 1,600 career points, and in the process, propel the Tommies to new heights in its Division I era. Among the team’s leaders in rebounds, assists, steals and trips to the free-throw line, the Chicago native has embraced his “advanced age” at St. Thomas.

“Me coming in, being my fifth year of college, I knew that the program would need somebody to lead, and here I am trying my best,” Anthony said.

Olivia Paradise on the court at a recent tennis tournament. Paradise is pursuing a graduate degree in integrated marketing communications.

Off the court, Anthony is pursuing an MBA in digital marketing. He’s grateful to the faculty at Opus College of Business, and his coaches who have helped him successfully juggle a full course load, late nights traveling, and finding time for sleep.

“The coaches are always talking about putting your academics first,” Anthony said. “If I have to be late or leave early from practice to head to class, that’s just how it is, and they always work with me to make sure I’m caught up before our next session.”

Anthony is hardly alone in his status as a graduate-student athlete on the men’s basketball team. Fellow top scorers Parker Bjorklund and Brooks Allen are also pursuing graduate degrees.

“Raheem, Parker and Brooks … each of them has had a unique journey to where they are now,” Tauer said. “Their collective experience, wisdom and passion, both on and off the court, has provided our team with role models who care deeply about the short- and long-term progress of our basketball program.”

Navigating double lives

While away from their court or field of choice, graduate student-athletes at St. Thomas have varied academic interests, ranging from law to engineering. First baseman Max Nyrop on the men's baseball team is working on his graduate certificate in transformational change and organization development. Tennis player Olivia Paradise is pursuing an integrated marketing degree.

Allie Monrean is pursuing her Master of Science in nursing. The forward on the women’s hockey team laced up her first skates when she was two and jumped at the chance to play a fifth year at St. Thomas.

“It’s such a great opportunity to see my friends every day and just leave everything else behind,” Monrean said. “I’ve grown so much on the ice, and it’s taught me a lot about what I want in life.”

In 2020, the women’s hockey team only got to play a handful of games before the COVID-19 pandemic shut their season down. Monrean returned to her hometown of Anchorage, Alaska, where the pandemic caused supply chain issues throughout the health care industry.

“Alaska didn’t have a lot of great resources right at the beginning, and it was hard watching everything and not being able to do anything about it,” Monrean said. “That’s what got me into nursing is wanting to be able to help other people.”

Allie Monrean at the St. Thomas Ice Arena in Mendota Heights. (Nick Wosika/University of St. Thomas)

To navigate a robust schedule of practices, games, labs and clinical time, Monrean relies on her trusty calendar. “Everything is written out.” But she also has the staff at the Susan S. Morrison School of Nursing firmly in her corner.

Ashley Walker, director of the Master of Science in nursing program, works to create flexible and accommodating schedules, all while staying in constant communication with her student-athletes.

“Our school’s mission is based around whole person health, and that not only applies to our patients but also to our students,” Walker said. “We recognize that our students, including our student-athletes, have lives outside of the classroom and outside the nursing profession – we want to make sure that we are supporting them here, and taking good care of them.”

Anna Swanson
Anna Swanson throws the javelin at a recent track and field competition. The graduate student-athlete is also pursuing a Master of Science in nursing. (Zachary Lucy Photography)

Monrean’s time on the ice as a Division I athlete is about to come to an end, but she still has one more year at St. Thomas to complete her nursing degree. She plans to eventually return home to Alaska and look for a job as a nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit.

She’s savoring her final moments as a Tommie graduate student-athlete.

“I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to play another year,” Monrean said. “If anyone’s ever on the fence about being a student-athlete at St. Thomas, do it. You’re going to look back in 20 years I feel and be so glad you did this.”