Grounded in the Catholic tradition, St. Thomas’ mission is to educate students "to be morally responsible leaders who think critically, act wisely, and work skillfully to advance the common good." In keeping with this charge, the Habiger Institute for Catholic Leadership Catholic offers a leadership development program called the Leadership Intern Program, which aims to help students understand and cultivate leadership through a Catholic prism.
The Leadership Intern Program seeks to equip and train future Catholic leaders, through seminars, hands-on leadership experience, interaction with civic and Church leaders, and intensive formation. A unique aspect of the program is that it brings together seminarians from the largest college seminary in the United States and lay students into one formative program, allowing for the development of a common vision and a spirit of collaboration between those who will be influential in the Church and in the professional world.
The year-long program, involving some thirty to forty seniors and juniors annually, recruits promising students from many different fields of study, whether education, liberal arts, business, pre-med and pre-law, psychology, journalism, and others, who demonstrate capacity for leadership. Many are already involved in leadership on campus, in student government, residence life, campus publications, clubs, programs and sports teams, and Campus Ministry. In addition to forming a cooperative understanding of leadership across groups and personalities, we give our Interns vision and training in a Catholic understanding of leadership that will serve them both in their immediate responsibilities and in the tasks and roles they take up after graduation. An essential component of our training is vocational discernment. A number of our Interns are pursuing priesthood or religious life or are involved in lay ministry; others have gone on to further professional study; still others have entered careers in business, education, or social and public service.
Program activities include an initial Vision Retreat, a semester-long Leadership Seminar, regular formation meetings, service opportunities, dialogue and interaction with invited speakers, coordination of various student life programs, and an off-site Spring Institute.
The Leadership Interns host a monthly community night, Catholic Edge, which is organized by the senior Interns. At these evenings, students across the university are invited to attend Mass, listen to a brief talk, and enjoy a meal together. Distinguished visitors often speak at these evenings. Interns also coordinate an action team for building unity and community on campus, coordinating liturgies, hosting social events and sponsoring campus-wide speakers.
Our leadership philosophy is based upon what we call the Five Building Blocks of Catholic Leadership. They are, in order of importance, (1) faith; (2) character; (3) vocation; (4) gifting; and (5) skills. Current leadership models usually begin with questions of skill; some include gifting; some fewer attempt a limited engagement with character. We teach a different model, namely that a leader is someone a person is, rather than simply something a person does. This means that faith and character are the foundation upon which gifting and skills find their right place.
The ten-day Spring Institute is the capstone of the program, during which the Interns intensively examine the concrete implications of a chosen aspect of leadership in Church and society. The Institute both secures the year’s work among the Interns and exposes them to people and situations that prove formative for the future leadership. At the end of each year the Interns travel to Chicago (IL) or Denver (Co); in Chicago they meet with Catholic church and business leaders to better understand the relationship between faith and business, and in Denver they work with Christ In the City where they experence the demands of Catholic charity work.