Commencement speakers call graduates to strive for meaningful change

St. Catherine University celebrated winter Commencement on December 19, 2019. Graduating students from the College for Women, the College for Adults, and the Graduate College processed together during the ceremonies in The O’Shaughnessy, honoring each Katie’s education journey. Especially moving was the testimony of the evening’s three speakers, which included Carmeann Foster ’08, MSW’12, JD and two graduating students.

Carmeann Foster ’08, MSW’12, JD, Commencement Speaker

Carmeann Foster is a Katie who works tirelessly to bring social justice to the juvenile justice system. She holds both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in Social Work from St. Kate’s. Foster obtained her law degree from the University of St. Thomas and is currently pursuing her PhD in public administration. Driven to make a difference in the lives of young African-American men in the juvenile system, Foster served as the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative coordinator for Dakota County before founding the nonprofit Rebound, Inc. Rebound works to address the overrepresentation of black youth in the juvenile justice system. This, and her work establishing two group residential facilities in North Minneapolis, earned Foster a prestigious 2016 Bush Fellowship and the 2017 Rising Star Alumni Award at St. Catherine University. She continues to push for progress in the juvenile justice system, searching for innovative ways to effect systemic change and combat the deep disparities for black youth in the educational and judicial systems.

Carmeann Foster

Excerpts from Foster's speech:

“Class of 2019, you graduate into a world riddled with injustice and inequity. [...] While I know the burden that you’ve carried to get to this point, and I know that you’re both tired and ready to celebrate, I ask you to continue on and to ask yourself, ‘What do I have in my hands that I can use to make a difference?’ […] If you are a journalism major, think about the untold stories that need to be told about your community as you decide what to report. If you are moving into the medical field, consider who is foreclosed from accessing the care they need. If you are a business major, explore ways to do business that are responsible and sustainable. If you are an education major challenge yourself to approach all young people as possessors of boundless potential.

And I know that I can ask this of you, because I have graduated from this institution. I know the type of people who choose to embark on the St. Catherine University journey. And I know that that journey has prepared you to think critically, evaluate effectively, and operate compassionately. That’s why, despite the enormous challenges we face, I remain optimistic — radically optimistic — because I know that your energy and intelligence, your creativity and drive, your purpose and passion, will help push every organization you work for closer to justice.”

Danielle Prasch ’19, College for Adults

Danielle Prasch graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health. She began studying biochemistry at St. Kate’s after earning an associate degree from Saint Paul College. While studying, she also became certified as an Emergency Medical Technician. She worked in the emergency department at Region’s Hospital, and she became passionate about the health access disparities contributing to her patients’ illnesses. This led her to change majors to focus on public health. Prasch will continue her education at the University of Minnesota, where she will pursue a Master of Public Health degree with a focus on public health administration and policy.

Danielle Prasch

Excerpts from Prasch’s speech:

“As students at St. Kate’s... [we’ve] claimed a rich and careful social justice education, highlighting the structural inequities that are pervasive in this country and around the world. But it’s also opened our eyes to the lack of self-understanding often caused by a privileged dominant group establishing what is — and what is not — normative. [...] We need better ideas. We need to see and acknowledge the suffering so many people unjustly endure. And we need to take action. I’ll speak for my fellow graduates here. Though our backgrounds and experiences are different, humanity’s desire for dignity is the same. As we remember our sameness, let us also remember the honor and the responsibility of endeavoring towards a more just and fair society, where opportunities are equal and no one needs to feel less-than for struggling.”

Rachael McGraw, MS’19, Graduate College

Rachael McGraw graduated this semester with a Master of Science in Nursing from the nursing educator program. She has been drawn back to St. Kate’s throughout different stages of her life — first as a high-school student, then a single mother, a business owner, night shift nurse, and now as a St. Kate’s faculty member. McGraw found her home in nursing as a second career, and she will continue her passion for maternal and child health and caring ethics in the nursing department’s entry-level master’s program.

Rachael McGraw

Excerpts from McGraw’s speech:

“I had my very first day of teaching at a hospital on a bright fall day and I was deeply moved by how much students wanted to succeed, and I was surprised by how much I loved being with them. And I knew right then that I wanted to be a part of the amazing journey that takes all kinds of people and helps them become great nurses. And I knew St. Kate’s was the place for me do it. [...] I hope that in your educational journeys, you have found something you can connect with just as deeply, and something meaningful you can give back to the world. [...] When we follow what feels meaningful to us we have the chance to not only do work that makes a difference but to do it with deep and lasting joy.”


A full album of commencement photos will be available to graduates in mid-January. An email will be sent to graduates who RSVPed to attend commencement with a link and password to access the photos.

Our heartfelt congratulations to the graduating class of 2019!