When you ask students and faculty what is special about UST, they often mention the ‘spark’. They’re talking about that special something that exists between professor and class that you don’t find at other universities. The Basilian Fathers might say it’s one of the hallmarks of a Catholic education; no matter what subject is being taught, the most important thing to communicate to each student is that their professor cares about them. As college classes across the nation were forced to go online because of the pandemic, UST was able to answer a vital question: Will the spark remain? The answer was a resounding ‘yes.’
Faculty, staff and students had a steep mountain to climb, and the digital landscape was relatively unknown to many. In short order, classes reformed through Blackboard and videoconferencing as they did around the world. Although the tools and modality we used were the same as other universities, the differences were immediately apparent. UST’s smaller class sizes and the ability to provide personal attention to each student quickly became our differentiator.
A new team of ‘Success Coaches’ began calling every undergraduate student to find out how they were doing, and what they needed help with. Surveys were deployed as part of a commitment to constant improvement. A program was born for the fall to give every student an Alumni Career Mentor, to help them find success in this challenging new job market. In the face of the confusion and challenges the pandemic presented, faculty and staff were finding new pathways to student success.
As the University of St. Thomas resumes classroom instruction this fall, there is great confidence in knowing that the Spirit of St. Thomas triumphs, no matter what the future holds. Guided by faith and mission, Houston’s Catholic University will remain strong, online or in person.