St. Thomas senior Pascale Kunda, an international student from Rwanda and mechanical engineering major, is the 2021 Tommie Award recipient according to Student Affairs on Feb. 12.
By Andrés Tejeda
St. Thomas students, faculty and staff vote on the award to choose a senior « who best represents the ideals of St. Thomas Aquinas through scholarship, leadership, and campus involvement,» according to Student Affairs.
« I screamed and jumped. I’m just so honored and grateful, » Kunda said. « Margaret (Cahill, director of campus life) texted me to call her in the morning about the results and I had a class. I told myself I needed to know the results before class otherwise I don’t think I was going to be able to focus. (Cahill) was like, ‘Pascale you got the Tommie Award ! »
Kunda found out about St. Thomas from a university counselor in high school.
« One other student from my high school attended here and liked it, also they had the mechanical engineering program that I like, so (the university counselor) recommended St. Thomas to me, » Kunda said.
This is the first time that the Tommie Award has been won by international students in consecutive years. Keanu Daley, from Jamaica, won last year’s Tommie Award.
Junior Maggie O’Connell, a family studies and catholic studies major, nominated Kunda for the Tommie Award. O’Connell met Kunda as a first-year while living together during the spring semester.
« Pascale is one of the strongest, yet most humble student leaders that I have had the privilege of knowing as a student at the University of St. Thomas, » O’Connell said. « She lights up every room with her energy and passion. She lives a life that is set on fire for the truth. Above all else, Pascale has a heart for every individual that she encounters. »
Kunda says that her faith life at St. Thomas was part of what made the school a home away from home. Kunda is a lector at Sunday Mass in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas, a member of St. Paul Outreach, participates in Tommie Catholic events and is a peer minister in Campus Ministry.
« I love Tommie Catholic. It provides a community for Catholic students on campus and other people of faith as well. The people there are just so joyful and full of great memories, » Kunda said.
O’Connell has seen Kunda participate in her faith on campus.
« You can find Pascale putting on Tommie Catholic events, leading women’s small groups and Bible studies and organizing women’s nights for Saint Paul Outreach. Pascale always responds to others with a listening ear and is always thinking about the best way she can help them, » O’Connell said.
Kunda said that she has learned a lot about herself and her life while at St. Thomas and believes that whatever she is called to do, God will lead her.
« I don’t know just yet about plans after college, » Kunda said. « I just hope that whatever I end up doing, engineering or evangelization, it makes an impact on my community. »
Kunda shared some advice for her fellow Tommies in hopes that it will bring more purpose to their college experience.
« Be involved, surround yourself with people that challenge you and search for the truth, » Kunda said. « Lastly, live your life in a way that will benefit yourself and others around you. »