17:06 PM

UST Graduate Students Spend an ‘Evening with the President’

By Brittani Wright

A hot summer night filled with cocktails, crab cakes and live jazz music brought more than 200 graduate students to University of St. Thomas for an ‘Evening with the President’ before beginning the fall semester. Returning and newly enrolled students were welcomed with a red carpet entrance into Link Lee Mansion to connect and celebrate their journey ahead.

Welcome UST Grad Students

Color-coded name badges connected degree program directors and students to share their experiences in a spirit of camaraderie.

The welcoming reception was brought to life by Vawn Gretta Stearnes, graduate programs engagement coordinator at UST.

“The conversation started with the question of how to get our graduate students to connect with UST,” Stearnes said. “How do we create an inclusive environment that enables them to connect? The name of the game for these students is taking their career to the next level by networking and making connections.”

Students were excited to be welcomed into Link Lee, some claiming they have always wanted to visit the historic mansion and this reception was the perfect invitation.

College Culture and Connection

Dr. Richard Ludwick, university president, welcomed the students commenting on the positive energy in the room, and expressed that he wants Link Lee to feel like home to them. Ludwick’s talk ended with a prayer for the upcoming semester and best wishes for their future achievements.

“I imagined this event to be an orientation that turned into an educational social affair,” Stearnes said. “That was what we aimed for and that was what we achieved. This was an event directly wrapped around the Call Toward Tomorrow, where we engage the students. We want to make their college experience something to remember.”

This event was successful in a number of ways: from new and returning students greeting their classmates and professors to online students connecting with people they normally would not have a chance to meet face-to-face.

A Student-Centric Approach

“When I was included in this event, I was very happy that something was in place,” Alfredo Gomez, director of Graduate Enrollment, said. “Many of our graduate orientations are decentralized and don’t include a special welcome from the University president. I think students like hearing from the president.”

Gomez formerly worked in the Cameron School of Business and just recently took on his new role as director of Graduate Enrollment.

“There is a buzz about UST,” Gomez said. “We are getting more interest and inquiries for admission to our degree programs and that has increased our graduate enrollment numbers. We want to enhance the student experience and paint a picture of a bright future upon graduation.”