University of St. Thomas Magazine COVID-19 Special Edition


unemployment numbers started to climb – some students and their families were going to be challenged financially. “Our goal always at St. Thomas is to graduate each and every enrolled student, and we didn’t want students’ inability to pay for rent, utilities, food, medical expenses, tuition or other expenses related to their educational experience to be a barrier to that end,” Thurman said. The university currently has three COVID-19-related fundraising priorities to directly support students and the student experience during the pandemic: Hardship Scholarships, the Student Emergency Fund and the Student Excellence Fund. Thurman notes scholarships are always the No. 1 priority at St. Thomas. (See Page 33). Along with helping students be successful in school, Thurman said they’ve doubled down efforts to help the Class of 2020 secure jobs and internships. One way of making these connections is through the university’s online networking platform, St. Thomas Connect. “The university’s Career Development Center surveyed graduating seniors to understand the circumstances of students’ employment plans after graduation, and we’re engaging our alumni to help fill any gaps however we can,” Thurman said. “Our Tommie Network of over 110,000 St. Thomas alumni is already a powerful force helping students make connections to jobs and careers, and we plan to leverage this even more knowing the pandemic has turned the economy and jobmarket upside down in ways that are completely unprecedented. Tommies help Tommies, and we want tomake it easy for our alumni tomake meaningful connections.”

“The commitment to students is so strong at St. Thomas,” said Linda Baughman, dean of students. “Everyone changed the way they worked within about 48 hours. It has really emphasized or brought to light what a strong community we have at St. Thomas. You know, I’ve seen everybody across the board rally. And it makes you proud that you work at the university.” The division also led the charge of reaching out to students to see how they were doing by calling all first- year students and transfer students and sending individual texts to sophomores, juniors and seniors. “The text said we miss seeing our students on campus and this is just a quick check-in as to how you’re doing. There are many resources available – let me know any questions and have a great day,” said sophomore elementary education major Emma Monson about the message she received. “It was really nice that it came personally to me. My professors will reach out because they know me, but this person from St. Thomas reaching out who doesn’t knowme – that was cool.”

One of the big challenges was figuring out how to celebrate the seniors in a meaningful way. The university sent a “Cap and Gown Celebration Box” to each senior and Student Affairs collaborated with other organizations for a weeklong Senior Days celebration featuring a host of activities including a virtual graduation cap design session, a toast to the senior class, a celebratory video and a special Zoom edition of March Through the Arches. “We met with several student leaders to figure out what we could do to still help celebrate graduation,” said Karen Lange, vice president for Student Affairs. “This is such a milestone in their lives,” she continued. “It’s so important to be able to celebrate that and to acknowledge all of their hard work.” While the St. Thomas community continues to rally around its students during the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is looking forward to a time when it’s safe to be together again. Baughman, for one, is looking forward to getting back on campus and engaging with students in person once again. “I hope I never take for granted again what it means to be in community on campus with students, faculty and staff and what a gift it is to be on campus together, working and learning,” Baughman said. n


As things began to quickly unfold in mid-March, Vice President of University Advancement Erik Thurman said it was clear – especially when

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