As is often true, challenges give rise to inspiration. Last fall semester began with bright promise as more than 1,600 first-year students marched through the arches to the applause of students, faculty, staff and families. Each year we look forward to delivering on our promise of: academic excellence, personal attention and character formation.
Just weeks later, a racial incident on our campus jarred our community. It challenged our students, faculty and staff to make an intentional commitment to become a more inclusive, equitable and just institution. It inspired us to make systemic changes that will help our university thrive. This work has energized and humbled us. We are committed to taking the time necessary to instill long-term change to combat racism on our campus and in our society.
In all that we do, we remain committed to serving our students within the context of our mission and convictions. This commitment extends to providing opportunities for students to engage in service to others in meaningful ways. Through the St. Thomas Center for the Common Good, we solidify this strong tradition. The center connects students with a network of nonprofits such as Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities and Ashoka, becoming a hub for meaningful opportunities to create sustainable change in our world. More than 3,000 Tommies log about 60,000 service hours per year, working with 200 partner nonprofit organizations, schools and agencies. In addition, working with faculty, the center has offered 70 courses designed to engage students directly in the community.
I am pleased to announce that this robust work is why St. Thomas has been chosen to host the 2020 Ashoka U Changemaker Exchange, an annual meeting of about 700 social innovators and faculty, staff and students from Ashoka U colleges and universities. Ashoka U is a select community of 45 “changemaker campuses” around the world, placing St. Thomas in distinguished company and enabling us to learn from and share with like-minded institutions.
These transformational experiences help our students develop important skills to make the world a better place. I am proud that St. Thomas continues to educate life-ready, values-based leaders who can persuasively communicate, see connections and solve complex problems, and I am honored to be on this journey with them.