The University of St. Thomas President’s Office is proud to recognize the recipients of the 2023 Presidential Volunteer Awards. These awards honor quality contributions to civic and community engagement efforts by students, faculty, staff and organizations who are a part of the Tommie community. Recipients of the awards embody a commitment to positive social change, making an impact and advancing the common good.
Dr. Ernest “Ernie” Owens is the recipient of the 2023 President’s Faculty Volunteer Leadership Award. Owens has advanced the common good through the courses he teaches and his leadership in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at St. Thomas.
Owens’ commitment to active engagement is evidenced by his teaching of project management in the Opus College of Business. His MGMT 384 class is heralded as a transformative experience by both Tommie students and community partner sponsors who take the class together and learn from one another.
Dr. Salina Renninger, associate professor of professional psychology in the Morrison Family College of Health, was one of many to nominate Owens for the award. Renninger shared, “Dr. Owens demonstrates (a) strong commitment to civic engagement with community partners through his teaching. … A sample of organizations he has worked with includes YWCA St. Paul, Catholic Charities, Pillsbury United Communities, and St. Paul Public Library. (His) applied approach to education not only teaches the principles of project management but also brings concepts of diversity and inclusion directly to the students’ experience.”
In addition to his innovative work in the classroom, Owens serves as a SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) program leader and frequently takes on positions of leadership at St. Thomas.
The 2023 President’s Student Volunteer Leadership Award has been awarded to Macy Meilahn-Kinard ’24. Throughout her time at St. Thomas, Meilahn-Kinard has exhibited an earnest commitment to leadership and community engagement. She is a resident assistant and Page Scholar and has been a consistent volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters over the course of her college career. Since 2020, Meilahn-Kinard has contributed more than 65 volunteer hours to this recognized community organization which focuses on quality mentorship that amplifies the power and promise of youth.
Meilahn-Kinard is also active in student organizations on campus, participating in the Aquinas Scholars Program, Tommie Marketing Club, and Women in Business.
Ana Theisen is the recipient of the 2023 President’s Staff Volunteer Leadership Award. Theisen, who works in the Dean of Students Office, demonstrates a strong commitment to the common good through her work with the Kitchen Coalition, a program of Second Harvest Heartland. Theisen has taken on a leadership role in ensuring the meals get delivered and distributed on the St. Paul campus so that students facing food insecurity have access to quality, healthy meals.
In addition to her work with Kitchen Coalition, Theisen supports the overall Tommie Shelf St. Paul grocery giveaway program.
“Ana creates a welcoming environment for everyone, including the volunteers, by always having a smile on her face and a warm and welcoming attitude!” said Ana Ware, Tommie Shelf student director in the Tommies Together Volunteer Center. “She does a great job giving our grocery shoppers advice for future meals and snacks to make with the groceries we have each month.”
The 2023 President’s Community Partner Award has been awarded to Junior Achievement North. Amanda Hillman, director of metro K-5 programs, and Sonya Yermishkin, metro K-5 program manager, were specifically highlighted for their efforts to actively connect Tommies to volunteer opportunities.
Junior Achievement North consistently works with numerous students through its partnerships with the Tutor-Mentor Program, BUSN 200, Women in Business Club, Finance Club, and Delta Sigma Pi. In a typical year, approximately 100 students actively engage with Junior Achievement and support the organization’s goals of promoting financial literacy, career readiness, and entrepreneurship. Hillman and Yermishkin go above and beyond to actively support these student volunteers and help connect them with opportunities related to increasing the financial literacy and entrepreneurial interest of local youth.
Teri Mueller is a senior program manager in the Center for the Common Good.