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Transfers Find Welcoming Environment At St. Thomas

Steffani RushSteffani Rush doesn’t sleep much. There isn’t enough time with a schedule as tightly packed as hers. Rush understands the value of hard work and utilizing the gifts that God has given her.

But the senior education major from Baytown took a detour before finding the fulfilling – and hectic – life awaiting her at the University of St. Thomas. She first attended the University of Houston.

“I went to the University of Houston my first year and I just really knew in my heart that it was not the place God wanted me to be,” said Rush. “I felt God calling me here [UST] but at UH I just didn’t have it together. I had to go to Lee College to get my GPA in line with what St. Thomas required.”

Answering that call, Rush transferred to UST and immediately jumped into campus life. She joined the Catholic Daughters, a Catholic women’s group, became active with Celts for Life, and became a Presidential Ambassador at the recommendation of her admissions counselor, representing the university at college fairs near her hometown.

“I wanted a college that was going to foster my faith and challenge me academically,” Rush said. “I felt UST married those two together for me perfectly. I could develop to be the best young woman I know God wants me to be.”

And last year, she was selected as UST’s Mardi Gras Queen for exemplifying the school’s commitment to educating leaders of faith and character.

Rush’s experience is not unique. More than 40 percent of UST undergraduates transferred here from another school so the University is keenly aware of the needs and challenges confronting transfer students.

“We work closely with incoming transfer students so they can take the best classes to transfer to UST and will be successful in their major,” said Cathy Ruhnke, UST’s transfer admissions counselor. “Once a student transfers to UST, our welcoming atmosphere makes it easy to become a part of our campus and to get involved.”

Rush will graduate with certification to teach elementary schoolchildren. She began student teaching this semester and would like to teach third grade gifted and talented students, but is open to anything between kindergarten and sixth grade. This is not her first experience teaching – she teaches CCE at her local parish as well as dance classes in her hometown.

Following the Catholic tradition of teaching, Rush understands that her faith plays an important role in the path that she has chosen, feeling that as a teacher she is called not only called to educate her students but also be a model of Christ for them.

 “It is hard in a public school because you have to watch what you are saying, but personally God is number one and all things flow from Him,” said Rush. “Even at a public school you can model virtue; you don’t have to fully say it. Jesus didn’t walk around pointing fingers all the time, sometimes he showed us through his actions, so that is what I hope to mimic.”

Rush is also a youth minister at her home parish of St. John the Evangelist.

“At UH I was in a political science class and as I was sitting there I felt God saying in my heart ‘you need to be with the youth,’” said Rush. “I sent a text to the youth minister and said ‘you have to get me involved.’ It went from just volunteering to actually getting a job there.”

As a youth minister much of her time is spent with the young women of the parish with whom she shares tips and lessons on faith from a girl’s perspective. She is also involved in planning retreats, choreographing dances and helping with the archdiocesan youth conferences among other duties.

Rush says that it is through prayer and the support of her family and friends as well as the support of the faculty on campus that she is able to accomplish all that she has done. She stresses the importance being completely present and focusing on the task at hand whether that be studying at school, with her youth group kids or with the students she is teaching.

“Put prayer as number one on the list because God is going to give you strength and ability,” said Rush. “He is going to get you through all of those things.”