Graduate students in the STEM certificate program performing an experiment outdoors
Graduate STEM certificate students learn how to create a soil profile, a hands-on science activity they will incorporate into their own teaching.

Key Initiatives

Three strong disciplines at St. Catherine University joined together in 2009 to become the School of Professional Studies: education, library and information science, and social work. The principles of social justice, human rights and cultural competence are fundamental to all of the School’s fields of study.

Graduates of the School interact with systems of all sizes — individuals, families, groups and communities. At the individual level our students provide services directly to students, clients and families. At the group level we work with schools, school districts, community agencies and libraries building programs. From a global perspective we educate leaders who will shape policies and systems to support communities.

Key initiatives for the the School of Professional Studies include:

Community engagement

Community-based learning is central to the School’s mission. Curricula combine information, skills, theory, reflection, and assessment methods across the disciplines, with students serving in the community, learning from professionals in the field and from one another. Students respond to real community needs while deepening their understanding of academic material.

In our social work programs alone, students provide approximately 121,000 hours of service annually. These hours have a contributed value to the community of more than $1.8 million — equivalent to 60 full-time employees working for one year. Education students spend up to 40 hours gaining hands-on classroom experience each semester, beginning with their first class, Teachers as Leaders for a Changing Society.

Library and information science students work in community libraries collecting, organizing, preserving and disseminating information so that all people – regardless of age, gender, race, color, creed, ethnicity, socio-economic status, political persuasion or sexual orientation – have equal access to the information they seek.

Teaching to mission

Schools of social work at faith-based colleges and universities throughout the country are looking to the joint St. Catherine-St. Thomas program as a model for helping faculty examine their faith tradition. Our program focuses on how faculty teach to mission, both institutional mission and their own identities, and how they draw on those resources to engage students.

Our social work program is now bringing this same emphasis on teaching to mission to the broader School of Professional Studies at St. Catherine University.

“Social Work for Social Justice: Strengthening Social Work Practice through the Integration of Catholic Social Teaching” started as a curriculum project in 2006. It quickly drew national attention from Catholic institutions of higher education and evolved into a national conference of the same title, hosted in 2007 by the joint School of Social Work.

This ground-breaking conference, with 64 Catholic social work programs participating, began a national conversation about the role of Catholic Social Teaching and social justice work in education and practice. The work continues through extensive faculty development, comprehensive curriculum review and revision, and engagement with Catholic and other faith-based institutions as they explore teaching to mission.

Related Topics: Article: The Common Good

STEM: science, technology, engineering and mathematics

St. Catherine, through its National Center for STEM Elementary Education, is turning STEM research into actionable programs that engage teacher education candidates in becoming confident, competent and comfortable teaching STEM subjects to elementary school students.

Studies report that a large number of girls and boys lose interest in science and math by the fourth grade. Combine that with the statistic that 84 percent of elementary school teachers today are women and you see the gap in strong STEM education at the elementary school level. St. Kate’s is aggressively addressing this gap and has gained recognition from the federal government for its models for STEM education.

Program offerings include STEM coursework required of all elementary education candidates, an interdisciplinary STEM minor, taught uniquely from a women’s learning perspective, and summer professional development workshops for teachers. Science Saturdays take a dual approach, engaging school-aged girls in activities that kindle interest in math and science and provide opportunities for St. Kate’s students to practice their STEM teaching skills.

Related topics: National Center for STEM Elementary Education; STEM minor
Articles: The Science of Education; Full STEM Ahead

Across the disciplines

A case-study learning environment fosters a cross-disciplinary approach to addressing the social, emotional and educational needs of the various audiences our graduates will serve. Through video simulations, students observe possible real-world scenarios. Our education and social work students team up with physical therapy, occupational therapy and nursing students from the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health to interact with all aspects of a case. They gain familiarity with the roles, expertise and thought processes of the many specialists who inform work with constituents, whether that’s a young student, a parent or a social-work client.


Technology is having a profound effect on libraries and schools today. Our students must continually stay abreast of the technological trends influencing their future professions and be able to use those technologies to their fullest advantage. Course work and workshops give students hands-on experience with:

  • Information distribution methods – Wikis, blogs, RSS feeds, podcasting, electronic whiteboards, clickers
  • Content development – Websites, learning modules, online courses, multimedia, usability testing, accessibility
  • Backend systems – Library databases, learning management systems, search engines
  • Hardware – Storage devices, flash drives, tablet computers, handheld devices, wireless networks

Through service learning experiences, students put technology skills into practice building websites for non-profit organizations, instructing senior citizens in Internet use, and teaching children and community college students information literacy knowledge and skills.