In the past year alone, The University of St. Thomas has seen a continual stream of changes such as the “Be Your Bold Self” campaign, the mural outside Crooker, new athletic teams, and the reconstruction of the student government. Affinity groups are this semester’s latest addition: student communities housed together on campus that revolve around shared non-religious interests rather than faith-based households.
UST has two affinity groups so far: Aquinas Knights, a computer and video gaming group that was formerly a household, and ArtHaus, which opens its doors to all student artists, including painters, writers, and photographers.
Junior marketing major Elena Karaytcheva, who is ArtHaus’ founder and leader, said all the recent changes on campus encouraged her to pursue her vision of ArtHaus.
“Affinity groups are right on time for this school,” she said. “There is a shift happening on campus…I thought it was appropriate for me to ride that wave of change I was sensing.”
Both households and affinity groups have meetings on campus open to anyone (see list at the end of this article.) Commuters are welcomed as members and pay a reduced membership fee.
In a change from last year, households now operate under both Residence Life and Campus Ministry, while affinity groups answer to Residence Life only. Residence Life is now in charge of approving group founding requests, rather than the Student Housing Association.
According to Director of Residence Life Ana Alicia Lopez, the dissolvement of SHA in Spring 2019 allowed Campus Ministry to take a more “active role” in Households, a move that directly aligns with the mission of the households as faith-based groups.
Lopez said household leaders now receive more training under Campus Ministry, including a mandatory day-long retreat and biweekly meetings with Campus Ministry, while all members celebrate Mass together once each semester.
New Campus Minister Max Linnville said he hopes Campus Ministry and the households will help students, regardless of faith, become “a support system” for one another.
UST’s latest household addition is Non Nisi Te, Domine, which brings the number of women’s households to five.
According to Non Nisi Te founder, senior theology major Marisa Giandinoto, the group’s name means “nothing but you, Lord,” which is how her household members plan to live their faith, aiming for deeper devotion to God.
Karaytcheva, meanwhile, said affinity groups can leave an impact that reaches far beyond campus, and said she is working with local businesses to create an internship program for ArtHaus members.
“I hope to bring more expression to campus,” she said. “I want to show that different is good, different is okay, and if you have some sort of vision in mind, no matter how wild it may seem at the time, you can make it happen.”
Meeting Days and Times
- Aquinas Knights-Men’s affinity group: Mondays at 8:45 p.m.
- ArtHaus-Women’s affinity group: Thursdays at 8 p.m.
- Courageous Hearts-Women’s Household: Mondays at 6 p.m.
- Faith and Friends-Women’s household: Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m.
- Non Nisi Te, Domine-Women’s household: Mondays at 6:30 p.m.
- Simply Irresistible Women-Women’s household: Mondays at 7 p.m.
- Talitha Koum-Women’s household: Tuesdays at 7 p.m.
- Viri Dei-Men’s household: Tuesdays at 10 p.m.