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2021 Recipients of UST MAX Innovator Awards

Four honorees have been chosen to receive the 2021 University of St. Thomas MAX Innovator Awards. The recognition named for St. Maximilian Kolbe, the patron saint of innovation, goes to Dr. Tera Torres; Darnell Miller ’10, MLA ’15; Bridget Richardson MAFC ’17; and Conroe Mayor Jody Czajkoski.

Each has significantly impacted the University’s mission by coming up with and developing innovative ideas.

Presenting each honoree with their award was UST President Richard Ludwick.

Dr. Tera Torres—

Dr. Tera Torres, Exceptionality/Educational Diagnostician Program Director with the School of Education and Human Services, used “her creativity, energy and drive to lead to the development of UST’s new Associate of Applied Science in Pragmatic Studies degree program.” The program offers an academic lifeline to students with learning differences which have created stumbling blocks in traditional college settings. Learn about this remarkable program that encourages success in life and a career here.

Darnell Miller & Bridget Richardson—

Darnell Miller is UST’s Catholic outreach manager, and Bridget Richardson is a producer at MAX Studios. Both are part of the University’s Marketing and University Relations team. Miller and Richardson have used their imaginative and creative energy to do pivotal work toward developing and growing the UST MAX Studios. You can see some of their excellent work at https://ustmaxstudios.com/.

Jody Czajkoski—

Czajkoski is the mayor of the City of Conroe and the founder of MHW Real Estate. The mayor is awarded for his impactful “bold vision for educational opportunities in Conroe and support of the USTMAX micro-campus” in his city. His passion for helping people to succeed is a match with the USTMAX Center mission.

Also present to receive awards were last year's honorees, Dean of Libraries and Professor Jim Piccininni and Director of UST's Veteran Services Trisha Ruiz. 

Jim Piccininni (2020 recipient)—

Known as a future-forward thinker, Piccininni was the first to propose the University's Associate Degree program. He also is using his "non-obvious thinking" to drive innovative changes to the library space. Piccininni presents ideas in new and meaningful ways.

Trisha Ruiz (2020 recipient)—

Ruiz conceived and carried out multiple first and best in class initiatives within UST's Veteran Services programs. 

The UST MAX Innovator Awards are given annually, and this is the second year. Honorees are selected with three factors in mind: a focus on learner-centered services, creative thinking and impactful results.

Congratulations to all of the recipients!