Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas

Sights and Sounds: 2024 Undergraduate Commencement

Nearly 1,300 undergraduate students became the newest alumni from the University of St. Thomas as they walked across the commencement stage on Saturday, May 25. For the Class of 2024, it was a particularly powerful moment to celebrate in person with friends, family and the St. Thomas community.

Just months before embarking on their college experience, many students saw their high school graduation ceremonies canceled or moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Student speaker Scout Mason '24, a journalism and digital media production major in the College of Arts and Sciences, commended his fellow graduates for their perseverance during a challenging transition.

Scout Mason addresses the 2024 College of Arts and Science Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony. (Brandon Woller '17/University of St. Thomas)

“It was an unprecedented time. But luckily for us, that was something that St. Thomas embraced,” Mason said. “We were facing these challenges head-on, and together. While the world was supposed to be shut down, we still moved forward.”

Mason is moving to Cleveland, where he’ll be working as a member of the Cleveland Browns video production and content team. He’s excited to see how his classmates make their mark on the world.

“We beat the odds and made the things the world threw at us look silly,” Mason said. “And guess what, Tommies? We’re gonna keep on pushing no matter how unprecedented something may be because that’s exactly what we’ve learned to do.”

University President Rob Vischer reflected on a transformative time, encouraging graduates to appreciate all that they’ve accomplished at St. Thomas and why, before launching into their next chapter.

“There will always be something big coming next to worry about,” Vischer said. “And when what's coming next occupies all of our waking moments, we can unintentionally diminish our capacity for joy. This is a moment for joy."

This year’s graduates will leave behind a lasting impact at St. Thomas, including student speaker Lisan Hasnain '24, a business administration entrepreneurship major at the Opus College of Business. As a student who is visually impaired, Hasnain discovered gaps in the digital accessibility of the university’s apps and websites and worked with web teams to make improvements.

Hasnain urged his fellow graduates to walk in other people’s shoes to truly change the world.

“To solve problems and create outstanding solutions, it isn't about working in a room like a mad scientist by yourself,” Hasnain said. “Rather, the best solutions come by talking to people, by empathizing with them."

President Rob Vischer speaks during the 2024 Morrison Family College of Health, School of Education and School of Engineering Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony. (Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas)

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar made a guest appearance at the undergraduate ceremonies. She commended graduates for their accomplishments at St. Thomas and called on them to keep working together to create a brighter, more united future.

“Out of this school you have a path to lifelong friendships, a path to understanding different backgrounds, cultures, religions, different ideological views,” Klobuchar said. “It is the path that generates new ideas for our country and the world."

Student speaker Bridget Zenk '24, a vocal music education major in the School of Education, is currently teaching music at Woodbury Leadership Academy and plans to continue her role there this fall. She challenged her fellow graduates to boldly use their unique talents for the common good.

“As we leave the University of St. Thomas and we reflect on how we have changed and grown, I am confident that our faces will be familiar to many in the world,” Zenk said. “Our faces will be painted by our dedication to the world and the hard work we are willing to put in to make it a better place. This is the face of a Tommie.”

During the commencement ceremonies, St. Thomas awarded Board of Trustees member Pat Ryan ’75 a Doctorate of Humane Letters for his leadership and service to the university. After graduating from St. Thomas in 1975 with a bachelor's in finance, Ryan would become one of Minnesota’s most successful businessmen. He joined the St. Thomas Board of Trustees in 2012, serving as chair from 2016 – 2023.

“Many of you are going to be starting new jobs. Some of you are still in search for jobs, but don't look for a job. Look for a profession,” Ryan told graduates. “Once you find that profession you will never have a job the rest of your life.”

The graduates of the Class of 2024 have embraced a front-row seat to change and innovation during its their time at St. Thomas. They were the first class housed in the brand-new Tommie North residence hall. One year later, they would help the St. Thomas Athletics Department jump to Division I competition. And this past February, they were on hand for the first classes inside the university’s new home for STEAM education, the Schoenecker Center.

Graduates celebrate with family and friends after the 2024 College of Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony on the quad in St. Paul on May 25, 2024. (Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas)

Neuroscience major Gracelyn Riedel ’24 plans to apply for medical school soon. She encourages future Tommies to embrace hands-on learning opportunities across campus.

“It is never too early to start shadowing in your intended career fields,” Riedel said. “The best way to figure out what you want to do in life is to see it firsthand. My advice to future Tommies is to soak up every moment in ‘Tommieland’ because while the days are long, the years go by fast.”

Accounting and Catholic studies major Betsy Schoenwetter ’24 is kicking off her professional journey at EY, formerly known as Ernst & Young. She’s excited to lean on both of her majors after graduation.

“My St. Thomas education has formed me not only academically, but spiritually and socially as well,” Schoenwetter said. “My Catholic studies major helps me professionally just as much as my accounting major because it has taught me communication skills, enhanced my cultural literacy, and showed me the importance of an interdisciplinary approach.”