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A Polished Powerhouse Prompts Fellow Graduates to Greatness


Noelle Abbate Files ’23 delivers student speech titled “What does it mean to be BOLD?” at UST’s Commencement at 4 p.m., Saturday, May 13, at Toyota Center, 1510 Polk St., Houston.

Noelle Abbate Files '23With a song of celebration in her heart, University of St. Thomas-Houston Student Commencement Speaker Noelle Abbate Files will stand before her 2023 graduating classmates with a message to be Be Your Bold Self in pursuit of what they want to accomplish in life. For Files, being fearless is second nature, and what she wants in life is her birthright.

God Called Moses to Lead Israel out of Captivity at 80

Files, 46, a non-traditional student, was a teenager when she married and moved to Houston from California. A homemaker, she homeschooled her five boys. When rearing children was not her only focus, she mustered the courage to go back to school at 34 years old. 

“I just went for it!” Files said. “Moses was 80 when God called him to lead Israel out of captivity. Everyone has special gifts, skills and experiences they can share with humanity, and it is all valuable and God can and will use it if you let him.”

Files acknowledges that during her time at college, her gifts, skills and experiences flourished, and gave her the polish, tools and expertise to follow her life’s work – advocating for Native Americans. Native American herself, Files’ family belongs to the Bitterroot Salish Tribe. Her career plan is to advocate for Native American issues and be equipped to spread awareness of how Native American sovereignty and culture is and has been abused.

College on the 10-year plan

First, she attended Lone Star College and earned an Associate’s degree with a concentration in International Relations. She transferred to Columbia University in New York during the pandemic and took online classes for a B.A. in Human Rights, then transitioned to a B.A. in Political Science. Derailed when in-person classes resumed, she marched on undaunted and transferred to UST in 2022 to earn a B.A. in Liberal Arts with concentrations in Classical Languages and Theology.

“Graduating from UST is a privilege,” File says. “All that I studied came together under the banner of a well-rounded classical education. At UST, I feel that my education has been refined and polished.”

Files will take that poise with her when she attends law school with a scholarship in the fall of 2023 at University of Texas at Austin School of Law. Once completed, she will be ready to step into her role.

Engaging in Experiential Experiences for Empowerment

While gathering the necessary education and skills to make a difference, she also delivered a speech on Native American issues at the UN. In addition, she has presented her research project presentations at various undergraduate consortiums and conferences interrogating federal Indian law and policy, treaty breaches, and the Native American plight. A natural leader, Files also volunteers at the American Indian Center in Houston. Last year, she created an education/career fair in partnership with the Center and Lone Star College Systems.

“I carried out primary research with Tribal members on a travel scholarship to the Flathead reservation,” Files said. “I am working on a book project that will be a historiography/biography on the Flathead Indian Reservation and my great grandfather, Max Barnaby, who was Tribal Council President (representing nine tribal nations) for a term before somebody killed him in 1927.”

Files possesses a remarkable resiliency. Now equipped with a complement of goodness, discipline, knowledge and community, Files boldly takes her degree and marches forward with an inspiring sense of self-awareness and direction.