Opus Foundation® Grant Increases Accessibility & Impact at Dougherty Family College


​Historically, low-income communities in Minnesota have been underserved by the state's four-year educational institutions. In 2017, the University of St. Thomas (UST) set out to change that by opening the Dougherty Family College (DFC) – a college unlike any other in the state.  

DFC is a two-year college within a four-year institution that provides alternate pathways to college for motivated students who want to achieve a four-year degree. They can attend for as little as $1,000 per year with first-rate faculty, support and facilities.

To ensure each student receives individualized support and resources, DFC limits enrollment and provides laptop computers, meals, metro transit passes, tutors and access to DFC's Professional Internship Program – an integral step for securing employment. 

Real World Learning

Many DFC students are first-generation college students, preparing them for the real work world post-college is vital. Launched with the help of a $450,000 multi-year Opus Foundation® grant in 2017, the Professional Internship Program helps students develop professional and life skills, while engaging them in the community through meaningful workplace participation.

Fast forward to 2020 and the Opus Foundation is furthering its support of the program with an additional $50,000 grant. The money will fund the development of online platforms to streamline and improve accessibility to resources for both student interns and internship partner supervisors. Developing these capabilities is especially timely as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. The need to extend remote learning while preparing students for remote work environments is becoming more of a possibility.     

For internship supervisors, DFC will create professional development mini courses in a webinar format. Instruction will focus on themes like management best practices and implicit bias. For students, online professional development courses will extend hard and soft skills learned in the classroom including computer skills, communication, professional expectations and behaviors and personal development. These online courses will be available to internship partner supervisors as well. DFC will also be launching a newsletter to share best practices, tips and profiles. 

Through these new online platforms, students and their supervisors will have access to the information and resources they need, anytime they need it. 

“The generous original 2017 grant from Opus enabled us to launch the program, hire exceptional leadership to design and direct the program and compassionately and adeptly navigate hurdles during our start-up years," said Emily Wingfield, Director of Development at DFC. “The additional $50,000 grant will help us develop self-service support systems, ultimately improving the experience for both DFC student interns and internship partner supervisors in 2020 and beyond."

Paid Internships for Area Nonprofits and at Opus

The 2020 Opus Foundation grant is also helping local community nonprofits. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of DFC's nonprofit partner organizations are experiencing financial strain and lack resources required to employ much-needed staff. Interns typically play an important role filling those positions, so a portion of the grant will underwrite six full-time non-profit DFC student internship positions at nonprofits.

In spring 2020, we hosted a DFC student intern at our office in Minnetonka, Minn. As a Construction Office intern, Hendri Carpio worked closely with our Safety Team. In addition to gaining experience and learning about the importance of safety by visiting jobsites, he created Emergency Action Plans, Safety Data Sheet posters and assisted the Design team with inventory. 

“Opus has a strong, long-standing commitment to supporting nonprofit organizations that are working to enhance our communities – both financially and by lending our time and expertise," said Andrea Cronen, Operations Learning and Content Manager and Henri's supervisor. “Our support of DFC is important because it helps close the opportunity gap for motivated students with high financial need, like Hendri, who otherwise could not attend college."

For DFC students, the on-the-job training gained through the internship program is vital for gaining practical experience and landing that first real job.

“Our ongoing relationship with Opus has made all these things possible," said Kris Donnelly, Director of DFC's Professional Internship Program. “It truly feels like we are partners working together to fulfill our mission. They embrace our program and our students, offer guidance and seek out our advice. Everyone I've met is kind, compassionate and shares our drive to make our community more just and equitable."


The Opus Foundation® is the corporate foundation for Opus, and is building community for a better tomorrow by supporting projects and programs that make our communities better places to live, work and raise families through grants to nonprofit organizations in the areas of early childhood education, youth development, workforce development, community revitalization and pressing/emerging needs. Read more about the Foundation's work. The Opus Foundation is a separate entity from The Opus Group and is led by its own Board of Directors.