Encouraging Progress: The Class Of 2025 – Most Diverse Class Ever
This year’s incoming first-year class of students was more racially, globally and economically diverse than that of any previous year, according to the final count from the fall semester.
The final tally shows year-over-year increases in the number of first-generation college students, and students who graduated in the top 10% of their high school class. Among this year’s 1,274 new first-time, first-year bachelor’s degree-seeking students, 25% are students of color – compared to 19.2% last year. This jump marks encouraging progress for St. Thomas as it strives to continue diversifying its student population.
2020 Commencement: Pomp and Patience
Members of the Class of 2020 came back to St. Thomas during the 2021 Homecoming and Family Weekend for more than just a return to their stomping grounds. St. Thomas celebrated them in person with March Out of the Arches, Mass and a ceremony. Due to the pandemic, the graduates had to forgo celebrating in person in 2020.
“I was really happy to see the email about a day to celebrate commencement for the Class of 2020,” said Karina Boos ‘20 MS in systems engineering. “For me it is really important; it took me more than 10 years to return to do my master’s degree after college and then it took me about seven years to finally complete all the classes.“ She added she was grateful to be able to have her husband and two boys, Ryan and Erik, see her cross the stage. “I shared with them this important moment and showed especially my kids that it doesn‘t matter how hard or how many obstacles I had, I did not give up on my goal.”
Restorative Justice: Law for the Common Good
Restorative justice is a worldwide movement that dates to the 1970s. The approach creates outlets for victims to express their thoughts on the impact of a perpetrator’s actions and for those who have caused harm to understand and accept responsibility for their behavior.
St. Thomas recognizes that the approach is one way the legal community can help foster greater justice and healing in society. In fall 2021, it launched the Initiative on Restorative Justice and Healing (IRJH) at the School of Law.
“I am heartened by the launch of the Initiative on Restorative Justice and Healing,” Founding Director Father Daniel Griffith said. “It is a vital time to foster greater justice and healing in our community and I look forward to the contributions that IRJH can make to informative dialogue and meaningful change.”
The work of the IRJH will focus on racial injustice, sexual abuse by clergy and institutional failures within the Catholic Church and societal polarization.
“This work is a powerful example of the law school’s mission in action – combining legal expertise with empathy, concern for the whole person, and the transformative power of human connection,” School of Law Dean Robert Vischer said. “Leadership in the restorative justice movement is a natural outgrowth of our commitment to advance the common good.”
Broadening Awareness: St. Thomas Launches Spanish-Language Ads
St. Thomas introduced two commercials in Spanish this year as a part of its We Are Tommies marketing campaign. Both spots, which highlight current students and their journey to St. Thomas, have the goal of reaching a more diverse audience. These Spanish spots began airing in mid-February exclusively on Univision.
Other new television commercials focusing on current students and alumni build on success from last year’s campaign. With the goal of increasing awareness for St. Thomas, these commercials feature key programs and initiatives across CAS, Business, Education and Engineering.
All six commercials are set to air through early May across local Twin Cities major TV stations. The English language placements included “Shark Tank,” “The Bachelor” and both the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.
New Grant: Interfaith Fellows
Interfaith understanding is core to St. Thomas as a Catholic university. Now, through its inaugural Interfaith Fellows Program, St. Thomas will educate and prepare interreligious literate leaders who are better informed by how lived religious practices and beliefs shape the way people live, work and play together.
Funded by a $100,000 grant through the Interfaith Leadership and Religious Literacy Program of the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, the program will offer opportunities for approximately 15 student fellows over the course of the four-year pilot, which started in fall 2021.
The fellows will complete coursework in the new theology minor in interfaith leadership, complete an internship with a community partner that engages religious diversity, and put their leadership skills into practice on campus and in the community.
“The fellows will have opportunities to get off campus and put into practice the skills they’ve learned through the program’s various components, under the mentorship of professionals in the community who already do it day in and day out,” said Hans Gustafson, PhD, director of the Jay Phillips Center for Interreligious Studies and the Interfaith Fellows Program.
New Scholarship: Getting in 'Good Trouble'
In an ongoing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, the University of St. Thomas established the Good Trouble Legacy Scholarship to support undergraduate students whose identities are underrepresented at the university or whose studies focus on racial and social justice.
The Good Trouble Legacy Scholarship was conceived in honor of George Floyd and U.S. Rep. John Lewis by a small group of BIPOC staff who are also St. Thomas alumni.
One $5,000 scholarship per year will be granted each spring to a selected undergraduate student after being reviewed by the award committee. Applicants are to be in good academic standing and in the spring semester of their junior year. They must demonstrate academic prowess, serve as role models for their peers, and be involved on campus or in the community related to issues that promote racial equity and inclusion.
Initial funders included alumni Brad Pulles ‘08, Ryan Blake ‘09, Teron Buford ‘10, Codi Soeun ‘14 and Shanea Turner-Smith ‘14, all of whom are current or former staff or faculty.