Influential women at St. Thomas

Women including those who have made their mark at St. Thomas were highlighted in March as part of Women’s History Month.

Dowling Hall Director Keniese Evans is one of many St. Thomas women who work to inspire others through mentorship. Evans, along with English professor Emily James, Sociology and Criminal Justice professor Buffy Smith and Campus Ministry Retreat Coordinator Vanessa Walsh, work to empower women in the St. Thomas community.

“I invest a lot of my personal time into my RAs and into the building, so that way, it kind of trickles down into the residents,” Evans said. “I really invest the time into my staff and make sure that they are well equipped and prepared to do for their students what I do for them.”

James said she finds that mentoring women is a positive experience.

“I just really enjoy mentoring young women, and I’ve been very lucky to get to work with some very talented hardworking female students,” she said. “That’s been really gratifying and fulfilling seeing them working toward and fulfilling their goals.”

Many St. Thomas women have been inspired by mentorship they received. James said she guides students because of the effect mentors have had on her.

“Without a doubt, my inspiration is the mentorship I received,” James said. “Throughout my education, I was really fortunate to have mentors and educators who supported me, helped me reach my own goals and reached out to me when I needed it.”

Smith said she realizes the importance of continuous guidance through a faculty mentorship program she directs.

“Ultimately, we are all here for students, to make sure our students develop the skill sets they need not only to thrive at St. Thomas but also to thrive in their future careers,” she said. “One way to make sure we are doing our best for our students in the classroom and out of the classroom is to make sure that the faculty are taken care of as well so that they’re not struggling.”

Sister Pat Kowalski and senior leadership award-winner Melissa Seymour said encourages other women to take advantage of the strong community around the university.

“Seek out mentors, because there are so many incredible professors here,” Seymour said. “We are so privileged with the professors and staff—they are incredible.”

James also encouraged women to ask for help and utilize the resources in the community.

“I would say when in doubt, ask for help and try to take advantage of the resources around you because I think we do have a number or resources at our disposal,” James said.

Morgan Neu can be reached at