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2023 Saints Spotlight with Abby Hightchew ’23

Submitted by David Klenk ’22, graduate assistant communications and public relations

In this edition of Saints Spotlight, we sit down with Student Government Association President Abby Hightchew. Abby is a senior at Thomas More studying law, listen along as we discuss the journey from student to student president, and the trials and tribulations along the way.

David Klenk: Hello and welcome to another edition of Saints Spotlight. Today we are joined by Abby Hightchew, a senior here at Thomas More University and SGA president, among many other things. Thank you very much for joining us here today. 

Abby Hightchew: Thank you for having me. I’m excited.

 DK: So starting off, can you share your experience of how you found Thomas More and knew it was the right place for you? 

AH: Yeah, so I knew that I wanted to get somewhere kind of in the local area. I live in Walton, Kentucky, so mainly it was going to be places like Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. I toured a few different places. I originally wanted to go to the University of the Cumberlands, but after I toured Thomas More, I felt like it was going to be the best area for me along with the scholarships that were offered, I thought with it being just 35 minutes from home that it would be nice for me to be able to work where I had been working, and still be able to be close to family. That’s kind of why I chose Thomas More. There are a lot of other reasons now that I’ve chosen Thomas More, but initially, that was my first jump into it.

DK: How has your journey been from student to president of the Student Government Association here at Thomas More?

AH: It’s been great. I’ve absolutely loved my time in SGA. I started off as the vice president of programming with SGA doing things like planning our community outreach programs and overseeing banquets, things like that. I really fell in love with it from that first point. Originally Charles Delp was my mentor; I really loved him and being able to work with him. He was the one that was kind of like “you should run for president,” and I was like, “Interesting thought – NO!” After a little bit of convincing on his part, I decided it would be something that I should do. It’s been great, I’ve absolutely loved it. I love the impact that we’re able to make on students and also the faculty that are here and outside organizations like charities that we’ve networked with and stuff like that. 

DK: What has been your favorite SGA event or initiative?

AH: It’s probably a close tie between Winter Wonderland and we did a Pie Your Professor event for breast cancer awareness. We donated all of the proceeds to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation; that was really awesome. I think that was one of my favorite events so far, but Winter Wonderland is also really awesome because you get to have a bunch of kids from the community come out, and they get to do a bunch of different crafts with the student presidents and the things that we have in clubs that are on campus. It gives really a good opportunity for Thomas More to express the students that we have here and be able to work with the community. Those are probably my top two. 

DK: I certainly remember Winter Wonderland being a hit. I thought it was so much fun, and at the same time crazy, to see mules and donkeys right outside President Chillo’s office like a few years ago. Just to see how much you guys transformed the Saints Center, that is certainly the accomplishment. And speaking of which, what accomplishment are you most proud of as president this year? 

AH: One of the things that I look back on most is the survey that we actually recently launched. It was the largest responded survey that we’ve had so far to Thomas More. We had, I think, about 280 responses all together. Getting students’ feedback, some things that we hadn’t heard had majoritized complaints on and now being able to be an advocate for the students and having their voice in a data form is really great. Being able to present that to the proper committees and people at school is really awesome. I would say just student advocation and being able to promote that and voice their opinions. 

DK: I’m sure over your years you’ve seen a lot of things go both the right way and the wrong way and it’s nice to be able to take that data and grow from it. And speaking of seeing a lot, one thing that we both have in common, among a small but at the same time large handful of people at Thomas More is we are both Cincinnati Christian University (CCU) refugees as I sometimes call it. How was that journey from your time in Price Hill as a student at Cincinnati Christian to the chaos that unfolded afterwards and then running right into COVID three months later? 

AH: It was a lot all at once. I have to say, I really enjoyed my time at CCU and I think that there were certain things about CCU that were so abnormal for colleges, like the community that CCU had. One of my favorite things that they had was “sneak day.” Seeing how people were brought together, like professors and students, I think was an awesome experience. I’ve also done – and it’s so weird because I hate any science classes – a geology class at Thomas More. We did a field trip for our lab and it was a three day field trip to Cumberland Falls (or something like that) and that was one of the most fun camping field trips that I’ve ever done with being able to get really close with those students which was just an awesome experience.

I loved CCU and I was so sad to see it go. I think there are a lot of hard feelings now from people because they lost their accreditation and moving forward through that, I think people see that that was a leadership issue in the school, but I really loved it. I dual-enrolled there, I was really young when I went there and it gave me a very false impression of how close people were going to be in college. Then the transition to COVID, it was just kind of crazy, but I think it’s something that I didn’t know any differently; I didn’t know graduating differently; I didn’t know being a senior differently. It was something that didn’t really seem like too much of like, “Wow, I feel like I’m being ripped apart for not having my graduation.” I feel like all of those experiences made me part of who I am today. So I’m very thankful for them. 

DK: Yes, it certainly allowed us to at least grow from what we went through in that time period. For better or worse, I’m happy that it happened because it was allowing to send people like you out into the community, like here to Thomas More. People were, not displaced, but were forced to go out and spread their talent and their knowledge in other places than just in Cincinnati. Even some professors at Thomas More, like I know Professor Julian Young in the psychology department. I still see her from time-to-time in the hallway and I’m always so happy because she was my first college class in freshman year (at CCU) and I get to see her from time-to-time still teaching classes here and there’s a small handful of overlap. I think even your brother noticed me the other day sitting with a CCU sticker on my laptop. It’s a nice little club that we all have been forced into, but very much are able to have those similarities.

Speaking of inspiration, who or what do you draw inspiration from?

 AH: I always think that this is an interesting question. I feel like a lot of people answer this so differently than I do. I think my inspiration comes from each quality that I have and each motivating factor that I have gotten from different people. I would say my perseverance comes firstly from my grandmother. The example that she set for me was fantastic. She ended up passing away because of pancreatic cancer, but she was such a role model in my life and so important to me. I think my courageousness and the fact that I’m such an overachiever is due to my father. I think the fact that I’m a very argumentative person, anytime I go into a conversation and somebody says something that I disagree with, I’m very open about like, “Wait, why would you say that?” I get into a debate automatically and that’s because of my mom. I used to fight her a lot and she used to go through quite a lot because I was such a debating child but I think that that served me very well in the long run and not being able to just accept something that somebody says that I disagree with. Those are really three big people that have inspired me to be who I am and then just the fact that, as far as the legal career, I really don’t have an inspiration. I think that’s something that I took on as my own because of my personality. I really like watching female lawyers that get out there because there’s a lot of underrepresentation of female lawyers. Seeing Camille Vasquez, I’m sure you saw her everywhere, it was very awesome to see a female lawyer get out there on a worldwide stage. People like that are also a big inspiration for me. 

DK: It definitely sounds like you have cultivated a good repertoire of the best attributes from those around you and you make it into your own. You need that as a lawyer and you need that as a strong person. It’s good that you’ve been able to grow into that. What are your plans and goals for after graduation from Thomas More? 

AH: I will probably be taking a gap year just to work and save up for law school but in 2024 I do plan to go to law school. I specifically like medical malpractice law. Working on the plaintiff side of that is something that I’ve really enjoyed researching and doing stuff like that. Obviously, I haven’t practiced any cases or anything like that, but it’s so weird because when people ask me that question, there are so many different fields of law that I’m interested in, and so many different areas that I hope to someday dabble in.

I think that going to law school is a great step for me to figure out what’s going to be best. I’ve done a numerous amount of legal internships and every single one, I found something that I’m like, “Oh, this is what I want to do. This is what I want to do,” because law is just such a big field. That’s definitely my plan. After I graduate law school, I’d love to work for a firm and get started in that corporate realm and maybe one day I would love to be a judge. I love that side of things, too. Interning for a judge has also opened me up to that. That’s what my plans are so far.

DK: I’m sure they will be as grand as you hope them to be. Lastly, what advice do you have for Thomas More students? 

AH: My biggest piece of advice, especially for people that are my age, or a little bit older, a little bit younger, is just to be outgoing. It’s one of the things that I think is really hard for people now, in the age that we’ve grown up in, where you’ve been able to just text somebody or DM somebody when you have a question. I think being outgoing is very different from just seeing somebody in person and talking to them. It’s talking to people and reaching out to people and being the first aspect of communication with people that you haven’t met before, whether it be somebody that you really admire, and you’re like, “I would love to learn from you, I would love to meet you and go to coffee.”

When I lived in Washington, D.C., that’s something that I did quite often, even if I didn’t think that they were going to respond in any aspect. When I was there, I looked up 10 of the top lawyers in Washington, D.C., and I emailed multiple of them just to see who would respond, if anybody would want to go to coffee. I actually got responses from at least four of them. These are people that are millionaires and are worldly; recognized, and that actually respond to people because there are not many people that reach out and take that first step. That would be my biggest piece of advice is even when you think somebody may not respond or it might be weird, be willing to be that weird person that reaches out or goes up to somebody at the end of a speech or conference and says, “Hey, I want to talk, give me your card.” Have your own business card too, that’s really important. That’s always super impactful to people.

DK: That it is, although one might look at it as weird, another may look at it as a factor for success and that first step is what sets you apart from those in the back of the line. So thank you very much for sharing your advice and your story here today.

AH: Thank you for having me!

DK: Thank you all back home for watching another edition of Saints Spotlight. Be sure to stay tuned for our next edition and have a good one.