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Katrina Trinko
Katrina Trinko (’09)

On a new episode of The Daily Signal Podcast, Katrina Trinko — editor-in-chief of The Daily Signal and a graduate of the Thomas Aquinas College Class of 2009 — interviews the College’s president-elect, Dr. Paul J. O’Reilly.

“I am a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College. I spent four great years there, learned a lot, talked a lot,” Miss Trinko observes at the podcast’s outset. “So, I’m going to just acknowledge I’m a little biased here!” From there, Miss Trinko asks Dr. O’Reilly about a wide range of subjects, including the College’s unique curriculum and pedagogy, its robust financial aid program, student moral and social life, and the recent expansion to two campuses, one on each coast.

The conversation begins with a discussion of the meaning of liberal education — which, Dr. O’Reilly explains, “helps us understand who we are, what we are, and what are our ethical and political responsibilities” — and how, while not aimed at practical pursuits, it nonetheless prepares graduates well for life after graduation. “Our students, if they give themselves to the program, really have skills that are easily translatable in many different fields,” he adds. “So we have our good share of lawyers and doctors, we have teachers, we have IT specialists. But there’s no field that our students can’t pursue if they have the interest.”

Dr. Paul J. O'Reilly
Dr. Paul J. O’Reilly

In light of recent controversies about education and its treatment of American history, Miss Trinko also asks Dr. O’Reilly about the College’s inclusion of key documents related to the American founding — such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Lincoln-Douglas Debates — in its classical curriculum. “In the Declaration, we read and take seriously the claim that all men are created equal,” he replies. “Now, one of the things we read, as a kind of challenge as how to understand that, is the Dred Scott decision, and that was a Supreme Court decision, which is shameful, in which the Supreme Court argued that that must mean — because of the existence of slavery at the time — that only all white men and males, generally, are equal. But that simply is not what the words mean, and Lincoln helps us walk through, I think, a coherent understanding of the Declaration and the Constitution, so that we have a better understanding of what this country is all about.”

Of course, the discussion also notes that, despite long odds and difficult times, Thomas Aquinas College — now celebrating its 50th anniversary — has expanded to two campuses. “Fifty years suggest a kind of stability, but the fact that we are growing and have a second campus, and that second campus is thriving, is really exciting for those of us who have been at the College for a long time,” says Dr. O’Reilly. “It’s really an exciting thing to witness.”

The podcast is available through the player below: