Students celebrating.
Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas

Sights and Sounds: 2024 Graduate Commencement

More than 700 University of St. Thomas students earning their graduate degrees in 2024 crossed the commencement stage May 26, including the first cohort of students receiving their master’s degree in nursing.

President Rob Vischer speaks during the Morrison Family College of Health and Opus College of Business graduate commencement ceremony. (Brandon Woller ’17/University of St. Thomas)

St. Thomas President Rob Vischer urged the university’s newest alumni to create truth, beauty and goodness in the world.

“I encourage you to use your gifts, your knowledge, your life experiences, your values to reach outside yourselves. The path to joy is usually through connection and contribution, connecting with others in a story that’s bigger than ourselves,” Vischer said. “This often means engaging with the world as it is, not the world as we wish it were, not the world as we pretend it is – the world as it is. In all its brokenness and pain, being a light shining through the darkness. The world needs you more than it ever has.”

Commencement speaker Kassim Ismail ’24 MSN, one of the first Tommie nurses, addressed the graduates from Morrison Family College of Health and Opus College of Business.

Commencement speaker Kassim Ismail ’24 MSN addresses the graduates from Morrison Family College of Health and Opus College of Business. (Brandon Woller ’17/University of St. Thomas)

“We have trained tirelessly, mastering the delicate art of care, and the rigorous science that sustains life,” Ismail said. “And I know my Opus College of Business peers – like those of us in the Morrison Family College of Health – have also experienced the weight of sleepless nights, the burn of invisible tears, and the challenge of dehydration from endless hours without a moment to care for yourselves. These are the silent testimonies of our dedication.”

Shiwen Hou ’24 MS in software engineering, an international student from China, talked about the challenges and opportunities related to studying in a different country at the ceremony for graduates of College of Arts and Sciences, The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity, School of Engineering and School of Education.

“Being a first-generation college student, the access to education here was not just about acquiring knowledge; it was about changing destinies. It was about breaking barriers that once seemed invincible,” Hou said. “Each class, each assignment, each interaction was a step toward reshaping not only my future but also the future of my family and my community back home.”

Student speaker Shiwen Hou.
Shiwen Hou ’24 MS in software engineering speaks during the graduate commencement ceremony for the College of Arts and Sciences, The School of Divinity, the School of Engineering and the School of Education. (Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas)

Reflections and insights

“My time at the University of St. Thomas, particularly through the Work and Learn route, was transformative. Balancing a full-time job with evening classes taught me perseverance, time management and dedication. The support from classmates and faculty was crucial. This humbling journey instilled in me a lasting sense of gratitude and resilience.” – Catherine M. Gordy ’24 MA in special education

“I received a Master of Arts degree in Catholic studies, and it has already influenced every segment of my life. My thesis explored how human beings can grow in their ability to encounter one another, and I see this as crucial to not just my career, but everything I do. Community is essential to our flourishing, and I want to continue to find ways to help each other thrive.” – Elizabeth Bina ’24 CSMA

“Value the treasure of your Tommie years! The uniqueness of a St. Thomas education is truly a gift. The emphasis on the formation of the whole person will shape your life and professional calling and the kind of leader you will become. Be resilient, work hard, learn from others, believe in yourself and your God-given talents, which will make this world a better place.” – Marta Pereira ’05, ’09 MA, ’24 EdD

“Confidence in yourself is key to your success. In the ups and downs of life as a student it is always important to uphold the confidence you have in yourself.” – Bettina Bugatto ’24 MSN

“I have learned the value of authenticity, especially in leadership. I’m an introvert who prefers to listen instead of talk, and before Opus I didn’t realize this can be a strength. Sometimes leadership is seen as the person who talks the loudest. I’ve learned leadership is about purposefully supporting others so they can do their best work.” – Kelsey Bumgardner ’24 Health Care MBA

“The purpose of great leaders is to create more leaders. I’ve learned that the intersection of purpose and leadership centers around people. I believe our purpose on Earth is to lead a meaningful life by setting a good example and helping others. Similarly, leadership is a journey, not a destination; it’s about influence, not titles. To effectively influence, one must connect with people on a personal level. For example, a brave person must meet an anxious person where they are before the anxious person can become brave.” – Rubén Hidalgo ’24 Part-time Flex MBA

“Think about the meaningfulness of your work not just to yourself, but to the people that you supervise. One of the most meaningful things that you can do as an employer is create meaningful work opportunities for other people.” – Christopher Wong Michaelson, Opus Distinguished Professor of Principled Leadership and co-author of Is Your Work Worth It?