Every student’s path to their degree is unique, but each student shares just enough common threads with their fellow students to build new communities —and, in turn, build a better world. This was celebrated at The O'Shaughnessy over three different commencement ceremonies held on May 24 and 25. Student speakers Ka Bao Jennrich, Lindsey Dickinson, Kapono Asuncion, and Maakwe Cumanzala addressed their classmates and guests at the commencement ceremony for their colleges. Their reflections of each journey through their St. Kate’s programs are a testament to the community that can only thrive where the liberal arts and professional education are integrated within the Catholic intellectual tradition.
Ka Bao came to St. Kate’s with a vision for the future: a world where famine, war, and poverty are archaic concepts. As a student parent, Ka Bao shared parenting experiences, speaking in Access and Success’ Mother-to-Mother program with high school student parents about the importance of education. Ka Bao graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management, and will continue her vision by starting law school this fall, dedicating her career to human rights work, focusing on international justice and children.
Excerpt from Ka Bao's speech:
"No matter what has driven us to be here today, I have found that we Katies, although unique in our own way, share some common qualities. We are smart, outspoken, kind, and bold. We Katies are happy to enlarge our circle of care to include many others beyond our family and friends. We understand that when care is extended to the most marginalized people of society, it betters all of society. We have addressed human rights issues and food insecurity; spoken to lawmakers at the state capitol; and much more. Yet, the most important quality we all share is knowing that there is so much more work to do. For myself, I will take my part in the legal field, where I will use these Katie qualities to aid in the fight for human rights. No matter where you go, when we run into each other in our future travels, we Katies will always find common ground and understanding, knowing that we come from the same place.”
Lindsey received a Masters of Business Administration from St. Kate’s. By day, Lindsey is a marketing executive at Medtronic, and came to St. Kate’s originally for a graduate certificate in Integrated Marketing Communications. Lindsey juggled her course load with full-time work and parenting young children—and found many of her fellow students shared that similar challenge to balance competing schedules and priorities. Once the balance was learned, it was an easy decision for Lindsey to add a year of studies to earn the full MBA. While at St. Kate’s, Lindsey was a role model and mentor to fellow MBA students, helping prospective students understand the art of balancing family, work, and graduate school. Lindsey stood out as a leader in every class, producing stellar work no matter the subject matter.
Excerpt from Lindsey's speech:
"We’ve each made this journey, but in our own way. For most of us, it hasn’t been drama-free. Unlike our undergraduate experiences, where we could throw ourselves into our academic work, graduate school was the reverse. We had already thrown ourselves into lives that couldn’t be put on pause. Those lives served us: job changes, relationship changes, babies, illnesses — joys and challenges we couldn’t have predicted when we started. In spite of that — or maybe, because of that? — we made room in our days and nights for this education. The encouragement and partnership from our teachers at St. Kate’s allowed us to chart our course and achieve an important life goal. They gave us permission to live our lives and still be students."
Kapono graduated with a double major in Economics and Women and International Development, and with a minor in Nonprofit Strategies and Operations. Kapono appeared on the dean’s list every semester at St. Kate’s and is also a member of Omicron Delta Epsilon, an international economics honors society. Kapono worked as a tutor with fellow students, helping them enhance their writing skills, and was an Urban Scholars intern with the Metropolitan Council, authoring a framework providing guidance to the council in implementing equity in their work. Kapono went on to present that framework to leadership in the housing and community development units.
Except from Kapono's speech:
"Our education has not taught us to strive for comfort. The vision and mission of our community does not include complacency or adherence to the status quo. We have learned that the need for justice exists everywhere. [...] Whatever work we choose to do, we will be dismantlers and rebuilders. We are change-makers, and I see these capabilities in practice every day. I see this in the students who, in the last academic year, worked to establish the policy ensuring all of our students may observe a religious holiday without academic penalty. I see this in the solidarity St. Kate’s students showed in October as we joined St. Thomas students in direct action to protest racism on college campuses. I see this in the administration member who told me her story of giving shelter to a young trans kid who didn’t have anywhere else to go."
Maakwe graduated with a Bachelor of Science double-major in Mathematics and Economics. Maakwe used her time on campus pursuing opportunities to use every talent and skill to inspire and lead. Maakwe was part of the LEAD Team, a First Step student coordinator, MIPS Peer Mentor, student coordinator for Transfer Orientation, as well as several positions in Senate — most recently as President — and St. Kate’s international student organization. Maakwe received the Sr. Alberta Huber Award, the PLEN Women Seminar Scholarship, Sr. Seraphim Gibbons Mathematics Department Scholarship, the Mary E. McCahill Memorial Award, Helen B. Lemmer Award in Honor of Mother Antonia McHugh, and the Abigail Quigley McCarthy Center for Women Leadership Award. And, last year, Maakwe was a finalist for the Zimbabwe Rhodes Scholarship.
Except from Maakwe's speech:
"We began our St. Kate’s journey with tough discussions in TRW about racism, white privilege, sexism, income inequality, immigration, the environment, disabilities, mental health, homophobia, transphobia, and Islamophobia. We follow the CSJ mantra of loving the dear neighbor so when social injustices happen on our campus, in our local neighborhoods or in our own lives; we know that the people sitting right next to us will support us — they will stand up and speak out in solidarity. That is our home. [...] So, as we graduate and part ways, we must all remember that we can challenge ourselves and others in the new homes that we will seek; to work together to create and sustain a community that is supportive, just, inclusive, and strives for dignity for all. We must continue the work that we have begun here at St. Kate’s.”
Our heartfelt congratulations to every member of the Class of 2019.