University of St. Thomas Magazine Fall/Winter 2020


BUILDING ONASOLID FOUNDATION St. Thomas' campus continues to evolve in ways that will greatly influence its path for decades to come. P.28


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FEATURES 8 12 18 24 28 34 38

ADAPTING TO CHANGE THROUGH A PANDEMIC COVID-19 has caused departments across the university to reexamine how things are done. A HISTORIC MOVE TO DIVISION I ATHLETICS In many ways the shift to D-I falls neatly in line with St. Thomas’ long history of entrepreneurial evolution. A YEAR OF LESSONS As St. Thomas looks back on this challenging year, here are some ways university members moved forward with purpose.





New construction shows us just how much campus has evolved in the past 50 years. ‘WE MARCH FOR JUSTICE’ LOOKS TO THE PAST TO INFLUENCE THE FUTURE A group of students are applying lessons from the civil rights movement to today's fight against racial injustice. TRAUMA-INFORMED TRAINING A new program helps educators spot trauma-related behaviors.



UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS MAGAZINE. Volume 36, Number 2. No part of this publication may be reprinted without written permission. Contact us at EDITOR: Amy Carlson Gustafson ASSISTANT EDITOR: Brant Skogrand CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Pete Winecke ART DIRECTOR: John Mau DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: Mark Brown CONTRIBUTORS: Liam James Doyle / Joanne Pauley / Jamie Proulx / Andy Ybarra BACK COVER PHOTO: Mark Brown

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I am thankful for our brilliant faculty, who always put our students first and have completely overhauled their instruction methods to accommodate online, in-person, hybrid, CoFlex, HyFlex and just about any other “flex” modality you can imagine. I am thankful for our service staff – everyone from our cleaning and dining staffs to our Tommie Central workers and new contact tracers – for serving right on the front lines of our response to the pandemic. I am thankful for our leaders and administrators for spending countless hours and losing nights of sleep pouring over every last detail to ensure our community members were safe. I am thankful for our students, who demonstrated unbelievable resiliency in the face of uncertainty and continued performing exceptionally well in their studies and helped sustain a culture of care on campus. And yes, we did this while managing to complete construction of our new residence halls and the Iversen Center for Faith, forming the Morrison Family College of Health’s new School of Nursing, becoming the first NCAA Division III to gain approval to transition directly to Division I, and setting the course for our next five-year strategic plan. I could not be prouder of how this community has responded in the face of such adversity. There is still so much work to be done, and I have more confidence than ever in St. Thomas’ resiliency. I thank all of you for your support and will hold you and your families in my prayers this Christmas season and beyond. May God’s peace be with you. n



hank you, 2020. … No, really, thank you. That may seem like an odd statement, considering this was one of the most challenging years many of us have faced. This year did not unfold how anyone would have predicted (or wanted). The frightening onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that took hundreds of thousands of lives across the globe. The heartbreak of social injustice that overtook cities in the wake of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Jacob Blake and countless others. A presidential election that left the country very divided. And even as I write this, another deadly surge of COVID-19 is sweeping our nation. Yes, it feels 2020 cannot end soon enough. And yet, 2021 will not magically bring an end to our challenges. Even so … I am thankful. For all its trials, 2020 has reminded us of our strength and resilience. In New Testament scripture, James reminds us to consider it “all joy … when you encounter various trials for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” Like the rest of the world, St. Thomas was greatly tested in 2020, and the strength of our community has helped us persevere. For that, I am so thankful.


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on the quad



In the U.S. News &World Report's annual Best Colleges report, St. Thomas ranked among the top 20 Catholic universities in the country and within the top third of all national universities. Additionally, St. Thomas again received high marks for its

it is still encouraging to see efforts to strengthen our reputation for academic excellence are getting noticed,” said President Julie Sullivan .

veterans programs, as well as for the School of Engineering and Opus College of Business. “St. Thomas will always place a greater importance on student outcomes than on rankings, but


NEWMEMBERS JOIN BOARD OF TRUSTEES Six newmembers with strong St. Thomas ties (five alumni and one parent) joined the University of St. Thomas Board of Trustees. The new trustees are: KatharineA. Groethe; Sister Mary Haddad ’07MBA, RSM; James P. Kolar ’85; Nancy Peterson ’85, ’04MBA; Debbra L. Schoneman ’96 MBA; and Carol FreyWolfe ’83. “These six new trustees are very involved not only in the St. Thomas community, but in their broader communities as well,” President Julie Sullivan said. “They understand the importance of our university and higher education overall in advancing the common good at this crucial time in our society.We are honored to have their expertise on our board.”

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Sociology and Criminal Justice Associate Professor and Law Enforcement Program Coordinator Tanya Gladney was appointed by Gov. Tim Walz to the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), which is responsible for licensing Minnesota’s peace officers. Dr. Gladney has a law enforcement and military background that includes 10 years of experience with the Office of Capitol Police in

As an occupational regulatory agency, POST is responsible for licensing 10,500 active peace officers and 109 active part-time peace officers. The board has the legislative authority to adopt administrative rules that have the force and effect of law, rules that enable the board to establish policies and standards to which all licensees must adhere.

Jackson, Mississippi, and eight years with the United States Army Reserve. For more than seven years, Gladney has provided cultural awareness training to the Saint Paul Police Department. She currently works with local police departments on racial equity and implicit bias training.



At the academic convocation in September, Dr. Cara Anthony, associate professor of theology in the College of Arts and Sciences, was named the 2020 Professor of the Year. The honor is usually announced in June but was delayed due to the pandemic. The Professor of the Year is selected by faculty in recognition of excellence in teaching, scholarship and service. Anthony is known for her ability to make the type of connections with students that empower them to fully engage. “When I saw the nomination letter, that was my biggest reward,” she said. “The esteem of my colleagues is priceless.”


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on the quad



Last summer, the Playful Learning Lab (PLL) introduced the PLAYground project, providing 30 St. Thomas students both a paying job and the experience of creating a virtual summer program for more than 80 deaf and hard of hearing elementary-age children. The PLAYground supplied free weekly themed boxes of activities and materials to students from the Metro Deaf School and the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf. PLL camp counselors (along with interpreters and staff from schools and community volunteers) hosted virtual check-ins on weekdays with the children to guide them through playful lessons on everything from nature and magic to science and engineering. When AnnMarie Thomas, founder and director of the PLL and professor in the School of Engineering and Schulze School of Entrepreneurship, realized many students had lost coveted summer internships due to the pandemic, she decided to add to the PLL’s workforce.

“I originally thought I’d have 10 people working in the Playful Learning Lab this summer and I have about 30 students on the payroll,” said Thomas, in an interview from last July. She noted Cognizant and LEGO Foundation prize money helped to pay the PLL salaries. “Anyone who wanted an internship – I hired them all back and gave them all raises. You always save your money for a rainy day and it’s pouring right now.”



The Toro Company and The Hoffman Family Foundation have joined together to honor Ken Melrose with the Melrose and The Toro Company Center for Principled Leadership at the University of St. Thomas. The four-year gift commitment will create a $3 million endowment with contributions totaling $2 million from The Toro Company and $1 million from The Hoffman Family Foundation. Building upon the legacy of the Center for Ethics in Practice, the newly renamed center in the Opus College of Business will honor the memory of former chairman and CEO of The Toro Company Ken Melrose through research, teaching and practice activities that promote and celebrate principled leadership.

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The Racial Justice Scholarship was established to support undergraduate students whose identities are underrepresented at the University of St. Thomas or whose studies focus on racial and social justice. During a memorial service for George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by Minneapolis police on May 25, universities were called upon to create a scholarship in his

memory that would support efforts to create a more just and equitable world.

for the Racial Justice Scholarship are still in the planning stages, potential donors can give to the scholarship at give.stthomas. edu/give/racial-justice- scholarship.

While the application process and criteria for students to apply


SCHOOL OF NURSING FOUNDING DIRECTOR NAMED The Morrison Family College of Health named Dr. Martha Scheckel as the founding director of its School of Nursing. Scheckel, a community and public health nursing expert, is the former dean of the College of Nursing, Health and Human Behavior at Viterbo University in Wisconsin. The School of Nursing will offer a curriculum aimed at showing students how to address health disparities and change the systems that produce them. The school expects to start accepting applications in fall 2021 in advance of its first class in fall 2022.

“Martha was the top candidate after a very thorough search,” said Dr. MayKao Y. Hang, vice president of strategic initiatives and the the founding dean of the Morrison Family College of Health. “Aside from the academic and practice skills required to be a founding director, we needed a leader who views their vocation as service to society’s most disadvantaged people. Martha is a leader, practitioner, scholar and teacher who understands we must address social, cultural and economic conditions if we’re to create and sustain healthy communities.”

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Associate Professor of Management Ernest (Ernie) Owens Jr., Associate Professor of Justice and Peace Studies Amy Finnegan and Associate Professor of Management Kevin Henderson were named Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Faculty Fellows for the 2020-21 academic year.

closely with Associate Vice President for Inclusive Excellence Kha Yang to develop DEI-related faculty programs and support services. They also assist the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to champion broader DEI efforts at St. Thomas.

The fellows serve as DEI resources and consultants for faculty across the various academic units and work

Editor’s Note: Please note that changes have been made to the online version of the story “Strength: Resolve Throughout Previous Crises,” originally printed in the COVID-19 Special Edition of St. Thomas magazine (June 2020). The online version of the story has been updated to remove original references to the 1918 influenza pandemic due to cultural sensitivity concerns and accuracy considerations. The online story can be found at

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F ive months after sending students home to finish spring semester online, St. Thomas faculty and staff put the finishing touches on preparations to allow the university to resume in-person instruction in the fall. New signage. Stickers on tables marking where to sit. Extra cleaning supply caddies. Added classroom equipment to accommodate online instruction. Telehealth visits at the Center for Well-Being. Barriers and floor decals to direct foot traffic. Extra face coverings for students who forgot to bring their own. Common Good Capacities (in place of old room capacities).

Those were just some of the more visible measures outlined in the comprehensive COVID-19 preparedness plan.

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Yes, campus looked different when students finally returned in September. While it remains to be seen when things will “return to normal,” campus operations may never completely look the same …and that may not be a bad thing. In fact, adjusting campus operations to keep community members safe may have uncovered processes that could serve the university well into the future long after the COVID-19 era is over.

Center for Well-Being staff from registered nurses to the front desk team learned new skills, such as additional screening and contact tracing best practices, to effectively respond to the pandemic. “Every single role and every single person had to learn a lot of new skills very quickly and they have done it with grace and compassion,” McDermott, director of the center, said. “They have been just amazing while still themselves having to cope with the world outside where a pandemic is our day-to- day reality.”

Assistant Director of Campus Life Jeff Holstein hands out care kits including face coverings and hand sanitizer on John P. Monahan Plaza. Photo by Liam James Doyle.

Facilities Management staff Candyce “Candy” Sauer, right, and Dennis Hollie work together to sanitize surfaces in the Anderson Student Center. Photo by Liam James Doyle.

Telehealth and new skills Making the campus as safe as possible for students, faculty and staff was a priority for MadonnaMcDermott and her teamat the Center forWell-Being. The center, she noted, has continuously adjusted tomeet people's needs during the pandemic. Changes made early on at the center carried over into the fall including shifting counseling sessions online, conducting medical visits virtually when possible, developing and implementing new flow processes and adding 24/7 mental health urgent care.

In-person, online and mixed-mode learning

St. Thomas was prepared more for last spring’s shift to online learning thanks to St. Thomas E-learning and Research (STELAR), a part of Innovation and Technology Services at the forefront of technology- enhanced instruction. In fact, many faculty members who hadn’t taught online prior to the pandemic were already trained to do so.

Close to 2,500 courses were taught online last spring and summer.

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“When we made that quick shift, what kept us going was faculty’s care for their students,” Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Wendy Wyatt said. “Even if things were a little rocky in figuring out how to have class online, students felt cared for by their professors. Students and faculty were giving each other a lot of grace.” Opus College of Business leadership and management major Viridiana Martinez ’21 said her professors in the spring were “open and flexible” with the shift to online learning.

fall were offered in three ways: in-person, online or mixed-mode (a combination of both). Regardless of the format, the university worked hard to make sure its values were carried forward. “St. Thomas has always been committed to giving students personal attention – that’s just who we are and what we do,” Dr. Nakeisha Lewis, associate dean of undergraduate and accelerated master’s programs in Opus College of Business, said.

International student Simon Zamani wears a mask on campus. Photo by Mark Brown.

Students wear masks in an economics class in O'Shaughnessy Educational Center. Photo by Mark Brown.

“Even though it was virtual and through emails, I still felt very connected with them,” Martinez said.

Over the summer, all classrooms and teaching spaces were upgraded to support broadcasting content to remote students, as well as to record class sessions. With new pan-tilt-zoom cameras, microphones with broad audio pickup, and annotation monitors, St. Thomas has the ability to be more flexible in delivering courses. “Good teaching is good teaching, regardless of the mode, and we have so many amazing faculty teaching at St. Thomas who were really committed to making their spring courses the best possible given

While technology made the shift to online learning possible, it’s not a cure-all. Dr. Paul J. Wojda, chair of faculty for 2020-21, said online courses give flexibility to faculty and students, but it can be challenging to assess what works and what doesn’t in evaluating teaching effectiveness. He also noted creating a good online course takes time, effort and technical support.

In order to support room capacity limits, individual learning preferences and health needs, courses in the

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the conditions,” Director of STELAR Lisa Burke said. “Faculty worked extremely hard over the summer to prepare for fall, participating in our online teaching certificate courses and faculty forums, and consulting with instructional designers to plan engaging course content, activities and assessments that will leverage the existing technologies.” Burke said STELAR has also done a lot of work supporting the way content is presented online in terms of accessibility and equity. “Technology can be a great equalizer by giving students access to materials in a way that meets their learning needs and personal preferences,” she said. Preparing the campus While faculty shifted to teaching online and planning for the fall, Associate Vice President of Facilities Management Jim Brummer and his team got to work right away on the eventual return of the St. Thomas community. Hundreds of new hand sanitizer stations were placed throughout campus. Classrooms were set up according to social distancing criteria. Signs to direct traffic flow and designate room occupancies were posted. Designated areas for students unable to isolate or quarantine at home were created. Some noteworthy changes to ensure a healthy campus community weren’t as noticeable. Brummer’s team studied heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to determine capabilities. He noted there are two ways HVAC systems can be used in response to concerns about infectious disease within spaces – filtering or diluting the indoor air. One potential change for the future is ensuring that the university’s HVAC systems are designed for extremely efficient filters such as MERV 13. Since many of the university’s HVAC systems aren’t currently equipped for that level of filtration, Facilities Management increased the amount of fresh outdoor

air – sometimes two to three times the normal amount – supplied to indoor spaces. This level is consistent with standards set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Minnesota Department of Health.

We’re prepared to do whatever we have to do to make sure that we can educate students and fulfill our mission. – JIM BRUMMER, ASSOCIATE VICE PRESIDENT OF FACILITIES MANAGEMENT

Training staff was another important initiative.

“We went through an extensive process of making sure the staff understands what COVID-19 is, understands their role in protecting the St. Thomas community and the users of our facilities, and their role in protecting themselves from possibly contracting the virus,” Brummer said. “That will be a continuous education process with our staff ... that they know how to access the personal protective equipment required to do their job, that they understand overall how the virus acts within spaces on surfaces and why it’s important to do the job the way that they do.” Looking into the future, Brummer said the pandemic is being taken into account in the design of classrooms for the future Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) complex on south campus. “We’re prepared to do whatever we have to do to make sure that we can educate students and fulfill our mission,” Brummer said. n

Left: People walk by the Anderson Student Center on a beautiful autumn day. Photo by Liam James Doyle.

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A bout three hours after St. Thomas’ historic Division I athletics news finally became official on July 15, Phil Esten arrived home in Mendota Heights to find a special message awaiting him. Taped to the door leading from the garage into his family’s mudroom were two sheets of white paper – the message “Congrats Dad 1 ! You Did 1 It!” colored in. The Tommies’ vice president and director of athletics took special note of the D1 mark, which was created by St. Thomas' marketing team. “The kids were on brand,” he joked to reporters the next day at the school’s first-ever virtual press conference. The Esten kids knew dad had done something big. It was, after all, the culmination of a 14-month whirlwind that began when the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) announced in May 2019 it was removing St. Thomas due to competitive parity reasons.

Now, here Esten was – fresh off announcing St. Thomas would be the first modern National College Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III program to reclassify straight to Division I.

The Esten children created a celebratory message for their dad in honor of St. Thomas going D-I.

A bold move, for sure. Historically, programs transitioning to higher divisions are afforded years to plan these types of shifts. When the Tommies begin competing in their new D-I conferences next

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fall, barely a year will have gone by since the NCAA approved St. Thomas’ waiver request to bypass D-II.

• Starting the first bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at a private college/university in Minnesota in 1998 • Opening a law school in 2001 • Evolving the Engineering Department into the School of Engineering in 2004 • Opening Dougherty Family College in 2017 • Launching the Morrison Family College of Health in 2019

And yet, a key theme mentioned amid the swirl of media stories following the July announcement was that this move comes at “the right time.” That may not be nearly as crazy as it sounds. In many ways the shift falls neatly in line with St. Thomas’ long history of entrepreneurial evolution.

“We’ve been on, and will always be on, a journey,” Executive Vice President and Provost Richard Plumb said. “We won’t ever not be.” Fitting the plan Gaining a bigger picture perspective on St. Thomas’ long-term trajectory requires looking back at the last 50 years. In 1970, when the university constructed the O’Shaughnessy Educational Center, it kicked off a series of projects and program additions that shaped St. Thomas into the institution it is today.

Vice President and Director of Athletics Phil Esten led a virtual press conference in July announcing that the NCAA approved St. Thomas' waiver to move directly from Division III to Division I, joining the Summit League for most sports and the Pioneer Football League. Photo by Mark Brown.

And that’s not even mentioning the 27 new buildings and 38 acquired properties during that 50-year time period. (Read more on Page 28 about St. Thomas' physical transformation.) “When you look back at the evolution of our school over the last 40 or 50 years, it’s been very entrepreneurial in spirit,” Esten told Axios in July. “Whether that’s going coed, moving from college to university, expanding to a second campus or adding a law school.”

Those advancements include: • Starting an MBA program in 1974 • Becoming coed in 1977 • Signing an affiliation agreement with The Saint Paul Seminary/Archdiocese in 1987 • Transitioning from a college to a university in 1990 • Opening the Minneapolis campus in 1992

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That same entrepreneurial spirit drove the path to D-I. While the athletics transition wasn’t exactly planned (up until May 2019, St. Thomas intended on remaining a D-III MIAC school), it did fit the direction outlined in the St. Thomas 2020 strategic plan aimed at achieving a long-term vision for the university. Among the priorities in that plan was a commitment to enhancing the university’s visibility and profile. In May 2019 – as St. Thomas heard its name on national sports talk shows – it became very clear the circumstances surrounding the Tommies’ departure from the MIAC would have the unintended benefit of national visibility. Esten called the national attention “quite remarkable.” “I wasn’t surprised it was of interest to many in college athletics, as the conditions were unprecedented,” he said. “The coverage beyond our industry was both humbling and inspiring at the

same time. We had now piqued the interest of many across the country, and our story had become one with momentum and great support for a positive resolution.” A bigger footprint The Tommies’ new D-I conferences immediately provide an expanded geographic footprint. The Summit League, Women’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) and Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) will have the Tommies traveling across the Midwest on a regular basis. The Pioneer Football League goes broader – with competition as far west as San Diego (the University of San Diego) and as far east as Poughkeepsie, New York (Marist University). That means audiences in all those areas will begin to see the St. Thomas name – and become aware of its story – on a regular basis. Considering the vast majority of the university’s students currently come from the immediate region (Minnesota and neighboring states within driving distances of the Twin

Cities), going D-I provides another avenue to reach a wider audience. Long term, this could lead to a more geographically diverse student body. This is particularly important considering the Minnesota state demographer reports a peak in graduating high school seniors in the 2024-25 school year, followed by a sharp decline. Considering that Minnesota exports more high school graduates to other states for college than almost every other state in

St. Thomas Division I reclassification in 2021. Division I conferences include Summit League, WCHA, Pioneer Football League and CCHA.

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the nation, the ability to attract additional out-of- state students becomes more critical by the day.

became a part of daily life in the spring. The pandemic’s onset has exacerbated the situation.

“We are the largest private university in the state, by far,” President Julie Sullivan said. “We’re the only private comprehensive university in Minnesota. There is so much that’s distinct about us and who we are, and our profile is not the same as anyone else in this state.”

For starters, the financial impact of the pandemic has already caused the university to reexamine its transition expenses and reduce total investment, while implementing a longer transitional period. The athletics department is anticipating incremental athletics expenses to be offset by philanthropy and additional revenue associated with D-I athletics. Progress is already being made; earlier in the fall, for example, Esten announced the hiring of Ben Fraser as senior associate athletic director, development. Then in October, St. Thomas launched the Tommie Athletic Fund as the main philanthropic arm of the D-I move, along with the program’s first two fully endowed scholarships (one each for men’s and women’s basketball). Aside from philanthropy and incremental revenue, financing also will come from a Board-of-Trustees- controlled endowment fund that supports strategic initiatives to match the university’s long-term goals

Sullivan is confident St. Thomas can use the D-I move to help spread that word.

“My optimism about St. Thomas has never been higher,” Sullivan continued. “We are stepping onto a larger platform to tell our story about what we do, why we do it and how we do it well.” The road ahead Of course, the reclassification needs to be completed first, and no one has any illusions the journey to D-I will be easy – particularly during a global pandemic that has upended college sports. The hard question of financing was on the table long before COVID-19

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When the U.S. News & World Report’s annual Best Colleges report published in August, St. Thomas was ranked among the top third of all national universities and moved up among the top 20 Catholic universities in the country. A look at the universities ranked ahead of St. Thomas reveals a list of institutions with D-I athletics programs. While athletics may not be the measure of a comprehensive university, St. Thomas’ leaders understand the platform it provides.

– the same fund that supported the 2017 Dougherty Family College launch and the 2019 opening of the Morrison Family College of Health. Yes, COVID-19 makes things challenging in the short term, but university leaders view the move to D-I athletics as very much a long-term, strategic initiative. “This opportunity might not be here for St. Thomas in another year or two, or three years. The opportunity is here for us now,” Sullivan told the Star Tribune. “So knowing that we have the belief that it is the right long-term decision for us, then we just have to pace the transition and pace the investment such that we don’t compromise any of our other priorities, particularly our academic programs.” Keeping a strong focus on academics starts with admissions and recruiting; the university says it will continue to look for students (regardless of whether they are student-athletes or students-at-large) capable of successfully graduating from St. Thomas in four years. There’s also the question of competition itself. Moving from D-III to D-I will present its own challenges on the fields, courts, pools and courses as the student-athletes adjust to a higher caliber of competition. Sullivan and Esten both, however, emphasize the move was always about more than just athletics, pointing to the fact that many of St. Thomas’ new competitors look very similar from an institutional perspective. Both the Summit League and the Pioneer Football League, for example, include member colleges and universities with profiles similar to St. Thomas’ (think Denver, San Diego, etc.) while the new hockey leagues provide opportunities to extend visibility across the Midwest region for a school steadily rising in national rankings.

We are stepping onto a larger platform to tell our story about what we do, why we do it and how we do it well.


Even though D-I may not have been the plan before May 2019, the results are fitting the university’s larger goals nicely. “If you get into a prescribed path, you miss probably the most exciting opportunities,” Sullivan told the Star Tribune in August.

The Tommies won’t miss this one. n

Learn how you can support St. Thomas’ transition to Division I at

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AS 2020 draws to a close, it’ll likely be remembered as one that turned life as everyone knew it upside down.

A noted scholar of the civil rights and Black Power movement and an education activist, Williams is a sought-after national commentator on the pressing topics of race and social justice issues. He opted to stay at St. Thomas to help foster change within the Twin Cities community. “With the moment in front of us now, there is a tremendous opportunity to see the Twin Cities as a laboratory for change,” he said. “Here in Minnesota, if we can think creatively, engage broadly and partner, with humility, concerning the work we must all do together, we can make a big impact. There are a host of ways in which national conversations about equity, justice and race can have real impact here. Understanding and facing our history is a big part of that work.” Williams plans on collaborating with individuals and organizations already engaged in reimagining a future for the Twin Cities free from racial disparities. “If we’re successful,” he said, “we could then help to share that widely and be the model for how communities do this work elsewhere. Having the university be a big part of that work is exciting for me.” Tommie Corps Many nonprofits depend on retirees to serve as volunteers. But with older adults particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, younger people have been asked to step up and volunteer during the pandemic. The Center for the Common Good created Tommie Corps to help with this mission. The program, made possible by donations from Lee and Penny Anderson and the GHR Foundation, gave two dozen students $4,000 scholarships for 150 volunteer hours fulfilled last July and August. They were paired with one of 15 community partners including Pillsbury United Communities, Second Harvest Heartland, YWCA St. Paul and Keystone Community Services.

Dismissing 2020, though, would be a big mistake.

Through all the pain endured this year, there were several lessons to be learned as the COVID-19 pandemic and killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis exposed many inequities in the community. Forgetting those lessons would prevent much-needed progress. As St. Thomas looks back on this challenging year, here are some of the ways university members embraced those lessons and moved forward with purpose. Racial Justice Initiative Earlier this year, Yohuru Williams announced he was leaving his post as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for a position with St. John’s University in New York. Then George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police last May. Three weeks later, President Julie Sullivan and Provost Richard Plumb announced the Racial Justice Initiative (RJI) as an effort to drive meaningful community change. They also revealedWilliams had decided to stay, accepting the position of Distinguished University Chair, Professor and Founding Director of the Racial Justice Initiative (RJI). “The externally facing Racial Justice Initiative will be involved in facilitating research, exploring community partnerships, and encouraging dialogue and critical conversations around addressing the historical roots of racial inequality in the United States,” Williams said. “I have been involved in a number of these conversations across the country, and the RJI provides me a platform to continue that work while exploring ways to amplify efforts to rethink and tackle issues of racism and racial disparities in Minnesota and beyond.”

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your most vulnerable and make you feel like you belong,” she said. Vargas was impressed by the diverse group of speakers that talked to Tommie Corps students about their experiences.

Tommie Corps went beyond the realm of volunteering; it also included a built-in social justice component. “When we were getting this program set up, the killing of George Floyd happened, followed by the uprising in the Twin Cities and then the world,” said Casey Gordon, Tommie Corps director and Center for the Common Good programmanager.

The site where George Floyd was killed has become a powerful place of mourning and remembrance, and it belongs to the community. We have included this photograph – which shows a portrait mural of George Floyd created by Peyton Scott Russell – because it centers on Black experiences and voices. This portrait mural is included in the George Floyd and Anti-Racist Street Art database. Photo by Mark Brown.

“This knowledge has been critical in the work we are doing to make us better volunteers …as well as the work we will continue to do moving forward in our lives,” she said. Racial Justice Action Plan After George Floyd’s death, a series of emotion-filled meetings held last summer for law school students, faculty and staff led to a commitment to making changes. With input from the School of Law community, the Racial Justice Action Plan was created. “It’s not simply a response to the murder of George Floyd; it’s a response to the racial inequities in our society and in the Twin Cities particularly, that the murder of George Floyd underscored in a very painful way,” School of Law Dean Robert Vischer said.

“We knew we needed to have racial equity and racial justice be a lens that we use in all of our Tommie Corps talks.” Aside from volunteering, the program held learning sessions hosted by professors, staff members or community members on topics such as power and privilege. Training sessions for students also were scheduled. Tommie Corps member Dessi Vargas said her time with Keystone Community Services working with people from a wide range of backgrounds will help in her future career. A senior studying biochemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences, Vargas hopes to one day work in the medical field. “I’ve learned that it is really hard to ask for help, but that becomes much easier when you have a community that is designed to be there for you at

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Heather Shirey (Art History) are working to ensure the art created during this vital moment in history isn’t forgotten. They run the Urban Art Mapping Research Project that includes a George Floyd and Anti-Racist Street Art database. Along with student research collaborators, the team has documented hundreds of examples of street art since Floyd’s death as part

Three areas of focus outlined in the plan are: advancing societal reform, supporting professional formation and building a community of belonging. The plan is constantly evolving, and progress will be measured regularly. “We’re a predominantly white law school community,” he said. “Our first step is to grow in self-awareness of areas we can improve, both internally – becoming a more welcoming community for all people where it’s easier for everyone to get a sense that they belong; and externally – how we can leverage the resources we have as a law school community to impact our surrounding culture.”

Distinguished University Chair, Professor and Founding Director of the Racial Justice Initiative (RJI) Yohuru Williams. Photo by Mark Brown.

of an ongoing movement demanding social justice and equality. (A COVID-19 Street Art database was started last April.) “This is an important cultural moment, a historic moment,” Lawrence said. “And this is one way to preserve some of the communication around that, some of the cultural production inspired by the moment, and keep it in a place people can come back and look at it for as long as the computers are running. This is a way we’ll be able to revisit this moment and continue to think about what’s important.” Shirey added: “We want to keep the voices that are on the walls alive. We want to make sure that they continue to be heard going forward so that this can be used as an active tool for anti-racism in the future, too.” If you’re inspired to take action, the Center for the Common Good has collected opportunities to get involved at their Working for Justice site on stthomas. edu/center-for-common-good. n

Center for the Common Good intern Johannah Freund hands out food to students and community members in need on south campus in St. Paul. Photo by Mark Brown.

Vischer said lawyers have a big part to play in the quest for racial justice. “If you look back through our nation’s history, lawyers are almost always at the center of the struggle for justice,” he said. “Sometimes playing positive roles, sometimes playing negative roles. But lawyers are always there because the law is the shared language of social change. It’s not the exclusive set of levers, but it’s like an essential set of levers in facilitating justice in our society.” George Floyd and Anti-Racist Street Art database The killing of George Floyd last May reverberated across the world with people taking to the streets to protest police brutality and systemic racism. Some of those people responded by creating art. College of Arts and Sciences associate professors Todd Lawrence (English), Paul Lorah (Geography) and

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W hen faculty, staff and students returned for fall semester, many did a double take. While COVID-19 had kept many people off campus since mid-March, construction on the upper quad and northeast end of campus remained constant. For those returning, it was impossible not to notice the new additions – two gleaming five-story residence halls (Tommie East and Tommie North) and the striking Iversen Center for Faith.

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Left: New Tommie East Residence Hall Bottom left: Northsider dining facility in Tommie North Residence Hall Below: New Tommie North Residence Hall

Photos by Mark Brown.

Tommie East, on Cleveland Avenue between O’Shaughnessy Educational Center and the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas, was designed by ESG and constructed by Ryan Companies to house up to 260 mostly second-year students. The building has many sustainability features including the first green roof garden on campus. It also features two classrooms, a community kitchen and club and game rooms. Tommie North, on the corner of Cleveland and Selby avenues, was designed and constructed by The Opus Group to house up to 480 first-year students. It includes two classrooms, club and game rooms and the Northsider dining facility.

The Iversen Center for Faith, named for the Al and Brenda Iversen family, is a marvel of engineering and design featuring 4,500 square feet of exterior glass. During the day, the Opus Group-designed and constructed space is flooded with light (thanks to skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows) despite being 13 feet below the main level of the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas. The center is home to Campus Ministry, Guy and Barbara Schoenecker Hall, Hoedeman Gallery of Sacred Art, Nicole and Luigi Bernardi Bride’s and Groom’s Suites, Patricia M. Gregg Promenade and O’Neill Terrace.

The three buildings are linked via tunnels that connect to the existing campus tunnel system.

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Fifty years of growth These buildings are just the latest additions to St. Thomas since its founding by Archbishop John Ireland in 1885. Looking solely at the past 50 years of physical growth, the campus has undergone a dramatic transformation starting with the construction of the O'Shaughnessy Educational Center in 1970. With 27 new buildings and 38 property acquisitions over half a century, St. Thomas shows no signs of slowing down. The university has passed the halfway point in fundraising toward the construction of a state-of-the-art Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM)

of trustees, campus leaders and industry partners. Once fundraising goals are achieved, St. Thomas anticipates breaking ground on the new complex in spring 2022 with an opening target date of fall 2024. To ensure that a St. Thomas education is relevant for future workplaces, leaders from Target led a virtual co-design session to generate ideas for the complex last summer. “Our goal for this complex is to prepare our students for the jobs of today – and tomorrow – by providing experiences that employers value,” said President Julie Sullivan. “The best way to do that is by

A wide view of the St. Paul campus featuring the Tommie East Residence Hall, Murray-Herrick Campus Center, Murray Residence Hall, O’Shaughnessy Educational Center, O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library, John R. Roach Center for the Liberal Arts and the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex. Photo by Liam James Doyle.

breaking down silos, focusing on collaborative, interdisciplinary education and incorporating diverse viewpoints. In doing this, we’re aiming to attract top-talent students and faculty with a state- of-the-art learning facility and engage in improving diversity by supporting women and people of color in STEAM fields.”

complex planned for south campus. The new complex aims to increase collaboration between students from multiple disciplines across the university – everything from arts and sciences to engineering fields – to focus on human, digital and technical literacy. The university has hired a programming and design team (BWBR and RAMSA), a construction firm (McGough) and established a steering committee

It’s exciting to imagine what the next 50 years will bring. n

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Timeline Since 1970, St. Thomas has added 27 new buildings and acquired 38 properties. Here is a look at 50 years of physical space growth.

1970 O’Shaughnessy Educational Center 1974 Faculty Residence (razed 2019) 1976 Acquired Portland House

1987 Acquired nine buildings and the south campus from the Archdiocese (SPS) 1989 The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity 1989 Herrick Hall 1991 Frey Library Expansion 1992 Terrence Murphy Hall (Minneapolis) 1998 Koch Commons 1997 Owens Science Hall 1997 O’Shaughnessy Science Hall

1978 John Paul II Residence Hall (razed 2019) 1981 Schoenecker Arena / Coughlan Field House (razed 2009) 1981 Gainey Conference Center in Owatonna (sold in 2014) 1982 Saint John Vianney College Seminary

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1998 Morrison Hall 1999 Opus Hall (Minneapolis)

2006 McNeely Hall 2007 Acquired Morrison House 2009 Anderson Parking Facility 2010 Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex

1999 Acquired Bernardi Campus in Rome 2000 Acquired (former) MacPhail building 2003 Law School building (Minneapolis) 2005 Schulze Hall (Minneapolis) 2005 Flynn Hall 2005 Child Development Center (now the Center for Well-Being)

2012 Anderson Student Center 2014 Facilities and Design Center 2020 Tommie North 2020 Tommie East 2020 Iversen Center for Faith

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Story and photos by MARK BROWN

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L ast January, in a pre-pandemic world, a small contingent of St. Thomas faculty, staff and students headed south for an immersive journey into the roots of the civil rights movement on the We March for Justice study tour.

Little did they realize the lessons they would learn on this trip would take on a whole new meaning after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers created a wave of protests across the country. It was a stark reminder that the fight for racial justice is far from over. For years, Cynthia Fraction, director of the Excel! Research Scholars Program, along with College of Arts and Sciences professors DavidWilliard (History) and Todd Lawrence (English), have introduced St. Thomas students to a number of influential standard bearers of the civil rights struggle. Not only do students learn about the history of the movement firsthand on the study trip, they’re also inspired to

The group walks across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where "Bloody Sunday" unfolded in 1965, when police attacked peaceful civil rights demonstrators.

The group traveled to Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, at each stop meeting with civil rights foot soldiers, who shared firsthand accounts of their struggle against racial oppression. Students toured Canton, Mississippi, with Dr. Flonzie Brown Wright as their guide. As a young mother in the 1960s, she helped register thousands of voters even though she received death threats. Wright went on to become a county election commissioner and the first African American woman to win elected office in Mississippi post-Reconstruction Era. At Tougaloo College, Hollis Watkins, one of the original members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, shared freedom songs with the group and recounted his experience being

Dr. Flonzie Brown Wright, middle, gives students a tour of the town square in Canton, Mississippi.

be persistent as they embark on their own journey advocating for change.

Facing page: Student Tiaryn Daniels walks across a bridge at Black Bayou in Glendora, Mississippi, the area where Emmett Till's murder unfolded in 1955.

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arrested while fighting for voting rights. In the Mississippi Delta, the students visited sites associated with the 1955 abduction and brutal murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till. So how can lessons from the civil rights movement be applied to the continuing struggle to overcome racial injustice in the United States? Here’s what some We March for Justice participants had to say. Cynthia Fraction, director of the Excel! Research Scholars Program and co-leader of We March for Justice Back then [during the civil rights movement] so many were fighting for the right to vote, to integrate courtrooms, desegregate schools and simply the human and civil right to live. Today we are fighting for many of the same things but our strategy in the fight must be different. Dr. Flonzie Brown Wright

in America. We must now fight with our minds and our hearts. Underscoring love and critical principle in today’s fight, Dr. Wright challenged us this year with a thought – “Movements move but commitments

16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, the site of a deadly Ku Klux Klan bombing that killed four young girls.

don’t change.” What I took from her challenge is the following: Knowledge is our power. If you are not educated you are not armed with the right ammunition and the struggle will continue. Nasteho Yasin, junior, international studies In many ways racism has changed to be more covert, but the brutal lynchings of Black bodies has never stopped being on public display. Emmett Till’s mangled body had to be shown to the world to see the brutality of white supremacy, but there was room to tell lies and twist the story of an innocent 14-year- old boy. However, you would think that currently with the advancement of technology and full recordings of Black people being lynched, there would be more justice, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The video of George Floyd’s death is powerful evidence of police brutality, however, because of racism, people view it with a different lens and assume that because he’s a Black man, he’s a criminal and a drug

Students and faculty look at the Four Spirits Sculpture in Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham, Alabama.

underscores the importance of getting an education. She tells us that foot soldiers today are passing the torch to young people and knowledge is the weapon that we need to continue to impact change

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