Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas

Tommie Award Finalist: Katie McGinnis ’23

Nick Reichert/University of St. Thomas

From being involved with the Stewardship Garden to Undergraduate Student Government, St. Thomas Tommie Award finalist Katie McGinnis has been active on campus. The Newsroom talked with McGinnis about her interest in environmental science and theology, the school community, and involvement in student clubs.

What made you interested in environmental science and theology? Why did you choose that major/minor combination?

I became interested in environmental science after creating positive relationships with my professors in general chemistry and environmental geology my first year at St. Thomas. I liked how the major requires a deep knowledge of earth processes but also allows for creativity in the ways environmental scientists ask questions and present their findings.

The theology minor was a way for me to place all my environmental work in the context of society. I believe that communicating environmental knowledge to the community requires a more intimate understanding than one would think, so enhancing that skill through theology classes lets me allow more people to participate in the scientific process.

What is your favorite thing about the St. Thomas community?

My favorite thing about the St. Thomas community is how we follow the conviction of personal attention. Especially in my role as a resident advisor, it’s heartwarming to see how much professors, Public Safety, the Center for Well-Being, and friends will go out of their way to show they care. For example, I contracted COVID-19 on a study abroad program and my professor chose to stay with me until the end of my isolation period. That is just one example of the selfless love that drives the St. Thomas community and inspires me to give back personal attention to residents and friends.

What was your work in the Geology Department? How did you feel receiving the Jack Brownstein Award?

Jack Brownstein started the Geology Department, and my geology professors speak highly of him. Being nominated for the Jack Brownstein Award was such an honor because it makes you reflect on what kind of legacy you create for yourself at St. Thomas. Within the Geology Department, I have assisted with soil research in the Stewardship Garden, operated the department vans to research sites, and mentored incoming students. I hope that the small moments I have shared with my classmates and professors in the Geology Department will be remembered beyond my time at St. Thomas too.

What have you learned working in Undergraduate Student Government and clubs?

I’ve learned that each person plays their own role in the St. Thomas community so it’s important to understand how you can best use your sphere of influence to advance the common good. In the Undergraduate Student Government, we used our influence to promote Care for Creation by interviewing and collaborating with many organizations across campus to pass the Zero Waste Resolution.

Representing the student body has called me to be a good listener to the thoughts of the undergraduate community. I’ve also found that clubs offer a unique opportunity to meet similar minded people and create spaces that provide more meaning to the St. Thomas experience. Our active campus life indicates that St. Thomas is not just about receiving a job after graduation, but also developing your personhood and discerning what you’re called to be in life.

What are your goals after graduation?

After graduation, I plan on staying in the Twin Cities and pursuing a career in environmental consulting. Some goals are to continue singing through an off-campus liturgical choir, practicing jiujitsu and hosting dinners for friends. Overall, I want to embrace this next season of life and trust that it’s OK not to know exactly what happens next.