Leadership Intern Program

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 offers a leadership development 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 thirty to forty juniors and seniors annually, recruits promising students from many different fields of study, whether education, liberal arts, business, pre-med, pre-law, psychology, journalism, or 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. 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, 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, Tommie Catholic, which is organized by the senior Interns.  Students across the university are invited to attend evenings often featuring distinguished speakers or focusing on prayer, fellowship, and opportunities to grow in faith.

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) gifts; and (5) skills.  Current leadership models usually begin with questions of skill; some include gifts; 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 vocation, gifts and skills find their right place.

The week-long 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 their future leadership. At the end of each year the Interns travel to Chicago (IL) or Denver (CO); in Chicago they meet with Catholic business leaders to better understand the relationship between faith and business, and in Denver they work with Christ in the City where they experience the demands of Catholic charity work.  In past years the Interns have gone to France to study the principles of building a Christian culture, to Washington, D.C. to understand a Catholic’s duties toward civil society, and to Peru to explore the theme of Latino Catholicism.