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Paideia Institute Introduces Students to UST

University of St. Thomas graduates Tom Mendez and Joseph Morton gave nine high school students an introduction to UST and life as college students July 5-22.

Inspired by their UST honors education, Morton and Mendez started a nonprofit organization called the Paideia Institute to prepare promising high school students for success in college as academic and social leaders. At their debut summer academy, the students attended seminar-style courses that replicated the UST honors program. They took classes in history, philosophy, rhetoric, logic and international studies with an emphasis on relating classic texts to modern issues.

Of the nine students who participated, coming from a variety of different schools and family backgrounds, all of them have plans to attend college and seven of them are now planning to apply to UST.

“My favorite part of the Institute was the capstone project where the students took readings from philosophy, history and current events and synthesized them,” said Morton. “I was surprised at how quickly they picked things up. They worked at the level of college juniors and they get it.”

Several UST professors taught at the summer academy, including Dr. Terry Hall, associate professor of philosophy and director of the UST Honors Program, Dr. Randall Smith, associate professor of theology, Dr. Hans Stockton, associate professor of International Studies and Dr. R. Houser, professor of philosophy.

“Participating in the Paideia Institute seminars has been a deeply rewarding experience. I was pleased at the level of seriousness and intensity the students brought to the discussion of difficult and demanding texts,” said Dr. Terry Hall.

“What a great preparation for college studies. The Paideia Institute is a winner and deserves to be supported for many years to come. I am proud of the University of St. Thomas for helping to make the program possible.”

The students unanimously agreed the summer academy was a success, they had enjoyed the program and they had learned a lot from the experience.

“I think it’s been beneficial because it has improved my study habits,” said Kyle Matlock, one of the students. “I’m going to study more diligently and actually read for class now.”

The UST professors who taught provided the students with an inside look at university-level classes. They read works by Hobbes, Machiavelli, Cicero and many other authors not typically studied in a high school classroom.

“The debates are my favorite part,” said Julia Garcia, another student. “We’re formulating opinions and thinking about things.”

For more information about the Paideia Institute, visit their website at

For more information about the UST Honors Program, contact the director Dr. Terry Hall at or 713-525-3587.

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