MacKenz‌ie Burke

American Culture & Difference Major

English Minor

‌My American Culture and Difference (AC&D) minor studies inspired me to take part in HECUA’s (Higher Education Consortium in Urban Affairs) Inequality in America program. This is an off campus semester-long study experience rooted in connecting theory and practice, so each of my classmates and I have an internship that brings meaning, context, and relevance to the material we cover in class. In the classroom, we dive deeply into the systems that have hands on economic, social, and political inequality. We analyze the history of the economy, housing systems, policies, urban space, race and class discrimination and marginalization, and critically examine how this history has lead to the current state of social injustice.

My AC&D classroom experience prepared me beautifully for this program. It has challenged me to look deeply into my own truth of experience and critically examine the world around me--who is benefitting, who is not, who has the power to decide, and how I fit into the picture.  AC&D paired with HECUA fostered a transformative educational experience that has strengthened my critical eye and political voice in moments of injustice. Learn more about my experience through my HECUA blog post.


Ashley DeMaio

Psychology Major

This past summer, I conducted research with Dr. Hankerson and Dr. Bremner from the Psychology Department. We looked at using a language shift from first person pronouns to third person pronouns during self-talk to see if that could reduce innate racial biases. Specifically, we looked at reducing racial biases in the context of the criminal justice system.

We designed a mixed methods anonymous online survey that had a mugshot (half of black men, half of white men), followed by the description of the unarmed robbery crime he committed. We had participants write using either the first or third person pronoun on their thoughts, feelings, and reaction to the crime. Then participants were asked to say how long they think the robber's prison sentence should be. We found that, on average, the white man received a slightly longer sentence. The shift from first to third person writing was able to reduce the length of sentence for the white man, which is what we expected. This, however, did not hold true for the black man, where there was almost no change. This research illustrates the present innate racial biases in the context of the criminal justice system today. Using a language shift from first to third person may be one way to combat these biases. Learn more about my project here.


‌Meredith Heneghan

Family Studies Major

One of the most prominent interdisciplinary moments in my academic experience as an American Culture & Difference (AC&D) minor came when I was taking Contemporary Art in the U.S. at St. Catherine University alongside an English class on James Baldwin at St. Thomas. My final paper for the Art History class ended up being an analysis of a piece of art on view at the Walker Art Center entitled Stranger in the Village by Glenn Ligon. Ligon, an American artist, creates text-based paintings, and many of his works involve James Baldwin's words. Because I had just read the essay Stranger in the Village for my English class, analyzing this particular artwork was exciting and engaging. I never wanted that assignment to end! The project invited thoughts and conversations on race, language, and myth that I never would have engaged in if it had not been for the extent to which being an AC&D minor encouraged me to be open to them, and open to the types classes that facilitated them. Check out this link to view Ligon's Stranger in the Village.



Emma Kopp

Women's Studies Major

"Any time we are doing the work of love, we are doing the work of ending domination." -bell hooks, National Women's Studies Association Keynote Speech, 2014
As a student in the American Culture and Difference program at St. Thomas, I am challenged everyday to do the work of love. Through my courses, especially the ACST 200 Foundations course, I’ve learned different ways of viewing, learning, and educating others. Listening is so imperative to personal development and in all of my American Culture and Difference courses I’ve been able to both listen and speak about the importance of differences within our culture. The American Culture and Difference minor is supplying a collective of individuals with the tools to change the world, break barriers, and do the work of love.


Martha McKinley

Justice & Peace Studies Major

Communication & Journalism Minor

I am incredibly interested in the complexities of the U.S. immigration system, a passion that was particularly sparked after taking specific courses that highlight the global plight of immigrants. I read novels focused on refugee and immigrant rights in my Literature in the Age of Human Rights course, did research on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in a Justice and Peace class, and was able to take a VISION trip to the U.S./Mexico border to learn from immigrants at the Intercultural Center for Women in New Mexico.

My passion in regard to this issue led me to pursue related opportunities after graduation. I recently accepted a position through Border Servant Corps to work at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center on the U.S./Mexico border in El Paso, right across the way from Juarez, Mexico. Las Americas provides legal services to low-income immigrants and advocates for human rights. The El Paso port-of-entry sees the second highest number of immigrants crossing into the United States by land, and is an important place for illegal crossings in particular. Las Americas legally represents immigrants, including refugees and battered women, who otherwise would not be able to afford it.

Check out a picture to see a small portion of the border fence, separating land between El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico.


Alexander Tsadwa

Sociology Major

Philosophy Minor

As a first-generation Ethiopian-American, my passion for understanding the significance of culture is born out of life experience and circumstance. I believe that cultural phenomena say more about society than mainstream news or textbooks. This understanding has led me to develop Across The Culture, a news site dedicated to highlighting popular culture's importance to global society. 

With commentary on topics ranging from DJ Khaled's Snapchat practices to the impact of Black Lives Matter beyond the United States, Across The Culture digs into the significance of today's most popular conversations and social happenings. Soon, Across The Culture will grow into a social platform with an accompanying app expected for launch in early 2017.


Tony Vo

Business Administration-Marketing Management Major

I learned the hard way how not to take up precious time presenting so that the audience can eventually jump in. It is tough to discount the thoughtfulness that a Troubling Waters audience can add to the already stimulating ideas that make their way into the event line-up.

Next time there is an opening for Troubling Waters presenters, go sign up! It's a win-win for both you and the attendees who are just as excited to think critically about the topic you choose to present. I don't need to tell you twice to keep things short, so that there is time for the rest of the room to wonder aloud about your captivating choice of topic.

Check out my #AsiansNotWhiteEnough project that I presented at the last Troubling Waters event.


Samantha Yang

Communication and Journalism Major

Being a first year student at St. Thomas, I wanted to join everything and I did. I enjoyed all the multicultural clubs that I was a part of and I enjoyed surrounding myself around those people. As my college career proceeded, I realized that because I was involved in a variety of multicultural clubs I didn't notice how many of my fellow Asian peers on campus didn't have a space to go where there would be people who understand us culturally and racially. To help me and my fellow Asian peers on campus, my friend and I started a multicultural club on campus during Spring of 2016 called Asian Students in America, ASIA. The reason why I wanted to create this club was because of the lack of unity between the different Asian ethnicities on campus. I am aware that there are ethnic related clubs for Asian students but what got to me was that there wasn't one club to unite all of us Asian students together. I want to help us all to connect with one another, get to know one another, and create a safe and brave space for Asian students. In essence, a place where they can find people who can relate to them, people who understand where they're coming from.

Being an American Culture and Difference (AC&D) minor, I am more aware of not just how our society affects my ethnicity and culture, but others as well. I want to pursue a career in journalism and through AC&D I have learned a lot about how the media shapes our lives in the United States. I am looking forward to figuring out how I can use the knowledge I have attained from AC&D with journalism within Asian communities in the U.S., especially the Hmong community. Being an American Culture and Difference minor, I am able to apply many things I have learned in class not just to my future career but my personal life as well.