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Students Credit Mendenhall Summer Institute for Academic Success

Carlie BejaranoBalancing academics, student organizations and a new social life is challenging for freshmen, but for the past four years, the University of St. Thomas’ Mendenhall Summer Institute has provided students with the tools to succeed academically and become leaders on campus.

Established in 2008 as part of a gift from Trini Mendenhall Sosa, the Mendenhall Summer Institute is a 5-week program allowing a select group of 50 incoming freshmen students to start their college education early and earn a grant for tuition at UST. Students take classes in English and Math and have the opportunity to participate in social activities, receive individualized tutoring and improve their information literacy skills through library and computer instruction.

Eduardo MulanovichUST student Eduardo Mulanovich attended the very first Mendenhall Summer Institute in 2008 and graduates this year with a degree in bioinformatics.

“The mathematics class at Mendenhall is what introduced me to the bioinformatics major,” Mulanovich said. “Before the program I wanted to study psychology or biology.  The English portion of Mendenhall gave me the tools to make all A’s in college English, and I now tutor writing in addition to biology and physics.”

Mulanovich has been very active on campus, co-founding the Health Awareness Club and the Bioinformatics Club.  He completed two research projects in biology and bioinformatics, and has been accepted to medical school in San Antonio.

Dena YanowskiDena Yanowski, a current junior and 2009 participant in the Mendenhall Summer Institute, said for her the best part of Mendenhall was becoming familiar with professors, students and the campus before starting school full time.

“I would not have had the same experience at St. Thomas if I hadn’t done Mendenhall,” Yanowski said. “When I moved into Guinan for the first time, I already knew the people living there.  At orientation, people knew my name and it gave me a great foundation.”

Pete KaragozianPete Karagozian, another 2009 participant from Cedar Park, Texas, said attending Mendenhall helped him transition to living in Houston and manage his time well.

“I have a lot of respect for programs like Mendenhall because they give students the opportunity to acclimate to campus life and their freshman year,” Karagozian said. “I fell in love with the St. Thomas family.  The best part of Mendenhall is that I made friends and I learned to create study groups for my classes.”

Both Yanowski and Karagozian said Mendenhall’s time management skills have allowed them to pursue their passion for service work.

Yanowski, an education major, is a three-year Presidential Ambassador on campus and served as a Sophomore Advisor in Residence Life. She actively volunteers with a local organization to provide donated food to the hungry.

Karagozian volunteers at the Seton Medical Center Williamson as a volunteer patient representative, and for his biology service project he worked at a farm that feeds homeless people.  He said the service project led to an interest in environmental issues, and he is now the vice president of the UST Garden and Environmental Club.  Karagozian was one of four Honors students chosen to attend the National Collegiate Honors Council last year.

Simberly RodriguezSimberly Rodriguez, a communications major and French minor, said she was encouraged by the 2010 Mendenhall program to take on leadership roles on campus.

“One of the main things they told us was to find and join activities you’re interested in,” Rodriguez said. “I joined Best Buddies, the Spanish Mass ministry and the French club.  This past year I have been a Sophomore Advisor with Residence Life and I’m going to be an Resident Assistant next year.”

Elena PetreElena Petre, a 2011 Mendenhall student, has also wasted no time jumping actively into campus life.  She was a freshman senator in the Student Government Association, she joined the Social Entrepreneurship Program and organized a reunion for SEP graduates, and is a member of the French club.  

“Mendenhall has really helped me with time management,” Petre said. “It isn’t easy, but if you work hard it’s completely worth it.”

Applications for the summer 2012 Mendenhall Program will be considered until June 1.  For more information about the program or to apply, visit