Prospective college students have a myriad of options, including nearly 200 in Minnesota alone. In the hopes of enticing more prospects to choose St. Thomas, the university is rolling out four new student-centric TV commercials on Feb. 8 that use storytelling suspense, drama and intrigue that mirror teasers for some of the popular prime time TV shows in which they are slotted to appear.

In the “Impactful Ideas” spot, “Shark Tank” lovers will have their curiosity piqued by an Opus College of Business student’s development of an eco-friendly water-soluble plastic bag, while viewers of “The Voice” will have a chance to watch as a stage is prepped for a School of Education alumna who steps up to the mic in the “Rockin’ It” spot.

Computer Engineering student Ian Masui participates in the filming of a television commercial on the roof of the Anderson Student.

Computer engineering student Ian Masui participates in the filming of a television commercial on the roof of the Anderson Student Center.

Centered on its commitment to academic excellence, St. Thomas positioned all four 30-second spots to reveal how it prepares students for their future careers. The “Awesome Power” spot, highlighting the only student-driven microgrid research facility in the country, focuses on how the School of Engineering supports students with access to real-world projects. In “Mission Possible,” a spot reminiscent of a trailer for a spy series like the Jason Bourne flicks or “Homeland” TV show, the College of Arts and Sciences spotlights one of its political science alumna, a Fulbright Scholar aiming to work for the United Nations.

The videos, part of a “We Are Tommies” marketing campaign, are airing during morning news and prime time on all four Twin Cities major TV stations as well as Fox Sports North through late April. In addition to “Shark Tank” and “The Voice,” they will also appear locally during “The Bachelor” and the Grammy Awards. Sports fans will see them during Gopher and Timberwolves games, as well as the NCAA Final Four National Championship on April 5.

“Our ‘We Are Tommies’ campaign is a chance to tell the St. Thomas story in a remarkable and visual way that we know people will react and respond to,” said Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Kymm Martinez. Her team, Marketing, Insights and Communications (MIC), created the spots in collaboration with the aforementioned schools and colleges and Enrollment Management. She noted that this is the first time the School of Education has participated in one of the university’s awareness campaigns.

A branded microsite under the name “We Are Tommies” is dedicated to the campaign and features written profiles of the students and alumni appearing in the four videos, as well as other successful Tommies who were featured in an earlier campaign, such as an alumna who, while a student, founded a nonprofit that provides pre- and post-natal care to women in The Gambia and a current senior who implements virtual reality programs for residents in nursing homes and assisted living communities, allowing them to travel virtually while staying safely connected from their homes.

Graduate Electrical Engineering student Carissa Cavalieri during production of one of the commercials.

Graduate electrical engineering student Carissa Cavalieri during production of one of the commercials.

“The campaigns have brought a clearer point to why a student and their family should consider St. Thomas and the academic capabilities that our schools provide,” said Vice President of Enrollment Management Al Cotrone. “A student can come to get a four-year college degree, but a St. Thomas education is a launching pad for where they want to go afterward. In our marketing campaigns we’ve been able to really sharpen that point to make it very clear to families that it’s not just a choice of where a student wants to go to college – it’s, ‘How will this place transform me and how will that set me up for what I want to achieve in life?’”

St. Thomas has run the “We Are Tommies” awareness campaign four years in a row. Results from surveys of a demographically representative subset of Minnesotans have demonstrated progress since the first awareness campaign was launched in 2017:

  • “Positive reputation” has eclipsed “expensive” as the most top-of-mind association with St. Thomas.
  • More than a third of Minnesotans now say St. Thomas is a good value and more than half would recommend the university.
  • Agreement that St. Thomas welcomes and celebrates diversity was up 14 points in 2020 compared to 2019.
  • Program-specific storytelling has increased the breadth of undergraduate program awareness.

“Minnesota is our bread and butter, and we need to make sure that we are maintaining and strengthening our reputation within Minnesota,” said Martinez. “However, these assets that we have created aren’t just Minnesota assets; we use them in many different ways, including across social media. Digital goes everywhere, far beyond Minnesota.”

Although there are many ways to consume media, TV remains the lowest-cost vehicle to reach the largest number of people. Prior to 2017 – the year the MIC department was formed – St. Thomas last had TV ads air in the early 2000s.

“The challenge with affording TV can be the high cost of producing ads,” Martinez said. “With the in-house talent that MIC has built, we are producing ads internally and saving money for the university. My favorite question, that I get asked all the time, is ‘What agency produces your ads?’ and I’m proud to tell them, ‘We did it ourselves.’”




Latanya Daniels ’01 MA, ’04 EdS, ’19 EdD is a rock star in the world of education. Before taking on her current role as assistant superintendent at Richfield Public Schools, Daniels was blazing a trail as principal of Patrick Henry High School in north Minneapolis. She helped the school earn the 2015 ranking by U.S. News & World Report of third best high school in Minnesota. As principal of Richfield High School, Daniels and her team increased graduation rates and doubled the number of advanced courses taken by students of color. Daniels’ persistence, perseverance and willingness to self-reflect have turned Daniels into a powerhouse educator who doesn’t shy away from shaking things up if it means helping students shine.



Valerie Kennedy ’18, who was named a prestigious Fulbright Scholar while at St. Thomas, stars in the College of Arts and Sciences video. While she was a Tommie, Kennedy built a network that exposed her to a variety of opportunities around the world. She conducted summer research in Ukraine, where she became a developing expert on post-Soviet states and presented her findings to a global conference in Lithuania. She completed an internship with the Ukrainian United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and headed to Washington, D.C., where she helped monitor Russian disinformation campaigns. She now works in Washington in cryptocurrency and cybersecurity, with her sights set on becoming U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.



Creator, innovator and entrepreneur Amy Helgeson ’22 is featured in the spot for Opus College of Business. With the help of Schulze School of Entrepreneurship Associate Dean Laura Dunham, Helgeson is driving forward her entrepreneurial ideas. One such idea is an eco-friendly alternative to traditional plastic bags that is both biodegradable and water-soluble. Her environmentally friendly bags are one idea she had to save the planet, without leaving a trace.



The video for the School of Engineering highlights the Center for Microgrid Research, one of the only student-driven microgrid research facilities in the nation. At the center, Tommies help develop technology and are trained to shape the evolution of energy in the face of climate change. The center attracts an array of students, researchers and industry partners interested in distributed energy resources. Its value is seemingly limitless. Using state-of-the-art electrical power research equipment, the 2020-launched microgrid is a resource for the power community. In fact, it is one of a few U.S. academic institutions exploring how solar energy can produce carbon-free electricity.

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