University of St. Thomas alumnus DeAmonte Block ’22 landed a job after graduation at U.S. Bank as a staff auditor. He started there as an intern during his first year at the university’s Dougherty Family College (DFC), and is one of dozens of students who have received internships at the company. U.S. Bank recently renewed its sponsorship of DFC.
The internship gave Block a foot in the door. “With the competitive nature of trying to get a job, you never know when an opportunity could come around,” he said.
As one of Minnesota’s largest employers, U.S. Bank’s connection with Minnesota’s largest private university runs deep. Charitable contributions to the University of St. Thomas from U.S. Bank and its predecessor, First Bank, go back at least 60 years. In the present day, this relationship has focused on shared values around ethical behavior and diversity, equity and inclusion. That’s part of what they seek to accomplish with the internship program.
For Block, the U.S. Bank internship was his first formal job apart from working carpentry and construction with his father. He said the internship taught him about corporate culture, attire and the expectations of working with a variety of people.
“The commitment of U.S. Bank and our corporate partners to mentor our scholars is an intentional action to create more diverse, equitable, and inclusive work communities,” DFC Dean Buffy Smith said. “DFC emerging leaders start their internships as empowered agents with cultural assets that will contribute to the overall success of organizations. DFC scholars represent the future transformational leaders in our community.”
Since DFC’s inception in 2017, 81% of scholars who graduate from DFC also completed an internship.
“Supporting Dougherty Family College is a natural extension of our commitment to serve,” said Andy Cecere ’82, chairman, president and CEO of U.S. Bancorp who also serves on the St. Thomas Board of Trustees. “We are especially inspired by the students it reaches – many of whom face significant challenges in pursuing higher education and may be the first in their families to attend college.”
The corporation’s support of St. Thomas also extends to the university’s business school.
U.S. Bank was the founding sponsor of the Business Ethics Resource Center (BERC), which opened in 2019 and is managed by a team from the Melrose & The Toro Company Center for Principled Leadership at the Opus College of Business. Ethical conduct is central to St. Thomas’ mission and identity, and U.S. Bank has been recognized internationally for advancing ethical conduct.
BERC is an open-access, user-friendly, web-based service aimed at small- to mid-sized businesses that may not have resources to develop an ethics or compliance program on their own.
“Ethics toolkits are consistently one of the most popular information sources on the website,” said Nicole Zwieg-Daly, executive director of the Melrose Center. The BERC website has averaged nine pieces of published content per month; all focused on practical ethics and compliance.
Support for small businesses is one way to increase the prosperity of underserved populations. She noted that in the past decade, about 2 million entrepreneur start-ups were launched in the U.S and minority-owned companies made up more than half. (Related: St. Thomas’ Family Business Center received donor support with a priority on family businesses in underserved communities.)
BERC’s focus is expanding as expectations for principled leadership evolve, Zwieg-Daly said. The perception of ethical behavior includes sustainability; diversity, equity and inclusion; the impact of emerging technologies; human resources and more.
“Businesses that intentionally prioritize ethical decision-making and a culture of integrity will see better results follow,” said Katie Lawler, U.S. Bank senior vice president and global chief ethics officer. “We have been proud to partner with the university in this endeavor.”