Danielle Wong speaks: Passion, brilliance and what we talk about when we talk about young people of color

Every year, ThreeSixty Journalism, a nonprofit program at University of St. Thomas for young, journalists, designates an exceptional participant as that year’s ThreeSixty Scholar. That person receives a full-tuition, four-year scholarship to study journalism and communication at St. Thomas. This year, that honor goes to Danielle Wong, a 17-year-old high school graduate from Lakeville.

People do occasionally ask her – and her parents – how she does it.

“Definitely not by myself,” she said.

Wong insists that she’s met countless people who have taken their time to help her. But the motivation, the drive, the passion – that’s all her.

“My parents have never been the ones to push me to do something I don’t want to do – except learn Chinese,” she said.

Most people who know or have worked with Wong will talk about how young she is. She recently turned 17, but she’s already planning for her freshman year at St. Thomas, excelling at a summer internship with ThreeSixty and writing for Tommiemedia, St. Thomas’ campus news source. Most students studying journalism at St. Thomas will have to wait for their junior or senior year for the same honor. She also blogs and occasionally acts for Mu Performing Arts, a theater company that produces performances from the Asian American experience. Continue Reading

Succeeding at college: St. Thomas’ REAL program

In the banquet hall at the University of St. Thomas in August, Courtney Brewster stood among tables set for dinner and directed 16 incoming freshmen as they set up slideshows, practiced dance routines and played the piano piece they would perform at their closing celebration that evening.Brewster, the director of the Reaching Excellence in Academics and Leadership (REAL) Program at St. Thomas, joked with them as they prepared. The REAL program, a five-week orientation program targeted at minority and immigrant students, aims to help new freshmen succeed in college by coming early to learn, bond and connect.During July and August, the 16 students honed their math and writing skills in classes, learned about campus resources and connected with each other. Many colleges have similar programs to bolster incoming freshmen who face special challenges, such as being immigrants, first-generation college students and students of color coming into predominantly white institutions.Tyanna Dickerson, a graduate of South High School in Minneapolis and the first in her family to attend college, wanted to attend St. Continue Reading

Tutu’s “moral equivalencies”

Many of those who heard or saw Archbishop Desmond Tutu in the last few days may have recalled that in the October 5, 2007 letter to his students, faculty and staff, University of St. Thomas President Dennis Dease said in part:
The Free Speech Zone offers a space for contributions from readers, without editing by the TC Daily Planet. This is an open forum for articles that otherwise might not find a place for publication, including news articles, opinion columns, announcements and even a few press releases.Last spring, a representative of our Justice and Peace Studies program advised my office of an opportunity to invite Archbishop Desmond Tutu to speak at St. Thomas during the PeaceJam conference. I discussed the matter with my staff and decided not to take advantage of this opportunity. Continue Reading

St. Thomas reverses its decision to disallow Tutu

University of St. Thomas president the Rev. Dennis Dease said the decision to bar Archbishop Desmond Tutu to speak at its campus was wrong, and that he will take measures to invite him. [Editor’s note: Read Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s controversial speech here.]
“I have wrestled with what is the right thing to do in this situation, and I have concluded that I made the wrong decision earlier this year not to invite the archbishop. Although well-intentioned, I did not have all of the facts and points of view, but now I do,” Dease wrote in a letter to faculty, staff and students. St. Continue Reading

An open letter to Father Dease

Fr. Dease-
I am an undergraduate student at the University of St. Thomas. I read with interest both the recent press coverage and your response in the UST Bulletin regarding your decision not to allow UST facilities to be used to host Desmond Tutu. Let me begin by saying I’m more than a little disappointed. Continue Reading

The Tutu episode — whither academic freedom?

To avoid offending some in Minnesota’s Jewish community, the University of St. Thomas scrubbed a plan to invite Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, to speak at its campus next year. But along the way the Catholic university offended many others and rekindled a debate about a larger question: Is there an effort to stifle a critical discussion about the Israel-Palestinian conflict in this country? Some say that the Tutu episode is emblematic of a successful campaign to reduce anyone who criticizes the state of Israel as anti-Semitic. “Objectively speaking, you could say that there’s no serious debate about our foreign policy toward Israel,” said Cris Toffolo, an associate professor at St. Continue Reading

Free Speech Makes for Strange Bedfellows

Today’s Pioneer Press (Thursday, October 04, 2007) on pages 1B and 6B took me quite aback.

I read there that Marv Davidov had taken a stance with which I fully agreed. This had never happened before. From my youth I have never had much truck with peace at any cost advocates, which is the camp in which I place Marv for his consistent, dedicated, anti-war, pro-peace advocacy.

Continue Reading