The annual March Through the Arches, undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies bring the St. Thomas community together to recognize the accomplishments of the Class of 2018. Sights and Sounds highlight some of the many thoughts, experiences and memories from the year’s biggest celebration of Tommies.On a cool May afternoon, more than 1,000 graduate students became the newest alumni from St. Thomas. #UST2018
President Julie Sullivan welcomed the newest University of St. Thomas graduates with enthusiasm on their special day. "We look forward with great excitement and anticipation to the next leg of your journeys," she said. "Today we wish you much happiness ... and we promise you a warm welcome home when you return to your alma mater. Please remember, 'Once a Tommie, always a Tommie.' You are Tommies forever!"
One graduate, Zeinab Yusuf Abdalla '18 MA in autism spectrum disorders, participated in the commencement ceremony one day after welcoming her new baby girl into the world. "Thank you to the University of St. Thomas for being there for me, supporting me through nights and days that I was sick [during my pregnancy] ... I made it – everything is possible!"
"I came here to Minnesota [from Saudi Arabia] in 2016, and the first thing that I was worried about was the snow. It was my first experience with snow in the United States. I thought that [dealing with snow] would be hard, but here I am ... I'm graduating!" – Abdulaziz Alreshidi '18 MS in software engineering
"[Getting my degree] was a lot of work, but it was a great experience. I'm 54 years old, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I felt like I learned a lot. I really grew in my ability to be a leader in the school system and I learned from the instructors but also from our cohort, which was really an amazing experience." – Rick Yonker '18 Ed.S., district science and technology specialist for Farmington Area Public Schools
"One of the programs that I teach in is the evening MBA. [The students] are generally 30-year-olds to 40-year-olds. They have families and full-time jobs, and they are taking one or two classes per semester in the MBA program. They're juggling a lot. ... It's a lot of work to do that." – Mark Spriggs, associate professor of entrepreneurship in University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business
"It took a lot of long hours at night, early mornings and juggling family and work [to get my degree]. It was a lot of fun, but a lot of work as well." – Fergus Falls resident Luke Draxten '18 MBA, who completed most of his coursework online
"Dr. Mike Porter has been my go-to person for everything in my program. He's a great guy." – Kelsey Heinze '18 MS in health care communication, who starts a new job on Monday at St. Cloud Hospital Emergency Trauma Center
"After my undergraduate degree [in communication and journalism], I started working at the Lunds & Byerlys corporate office in their marketing department. I realized that communication and journalism served me well in the writing world ... but an MBA was always on my bucket list. Both of my parents received their master's degree, and [getting a master's degree] was always a dream of mine." – Bridget Rissmann '11, '18 MBA
"As an undergraduate, you're learning at a basic level. ... [At the graduate level] you learn, and then go and apply what you have learned at work." – Furqan Rauf '18, who earned a master's degree in software systems
"There is such a different energy at the graduate ceremony compared to the undergraduate ceremony. Instead of just starting their careers, you have graduates who are in careers, changing careers ... and their kids come to the ceremony. It's just a different feel." – Joe Kreitzer, dean of College of Education, Leadership, and Counseling
"My employer, Element Materials Technology, was really flexible and supportive in me getting my degree. And John Abraham, the mechanical engineering program director, was very helpful here at St. Thomas." – Tyler Jacobson '18 MS in mechanical engineering
"Watching my son go through the process and seeing what he has done makes me very proud." – Neil Jacobson, Tyler's father
"[Balancing work and school] was hard at times. My 7-year-old daughter has kept me balanced throughout the program ... spending time with her got me through it." – Luzangelica Salinas '18 PsyD
Commencement speaker Penny George '95 PsyD, board chair of the George Family Foundation and co-founder of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing at Allina Health in Minneapolis, shared her journey with cancer. "More than two decades ago, when I was sitting here, I felt proud and relieved. I had no idea that my life path would be so different from what I thought that day."
George explained how her life unfolded 22 years ago when she learned that she had cancer, and that it was challenging for her to have to rely on others.
"When you think you might die, you wonder what your life has added up to ... nothing you do can stop time's unfolding."
George defined leadership as "accepting responsibility for enabling others to achieve shared purpose under conditions of uncertainty." She gave the graduates three points of advice:
- Realize that your hardest crucible is likely to become the source of your leadership.
- Remember the thread that connects you with your personal story.
- Go easy on yourself. We connect more powerfully through our vulnerabilities.