Every year, the St. Thomas community sifts through a multitude of candidates in hopes of finding just the right person to win the prestigious Tommie Award. While naming a “Tommie of the Year” is one of St. Thomas’ oldest traditions, it seems that this year’s well-connected group of candidates might bring a little more buzz to the process.
“Comparing it to my freshman through junior year, it’s definitely more amped up,” candidate John Busch said.
Although gauging the actual popularity of this year’s race compared to previous years is an inexact science, Busch thinks that one of the biggest indicators of how many people are staying interested can be found on Facebook. A quick search for the words “Tommie of the Year” on the social networking site yields a plethora of groups and events dedicated to winning votes for potential award winners. Busch has upward of 350 members in his group.
“It’s weird seeing a Facebook group made about you, [but] it’s amazing seeing all the support,” Busch said. “I’ve seen five or six groups made up of over 200 members.”
Another reason why this year’s election differs from others is the closeness of the candidates.
Candidate Derek Porter said he admires what the Tommie Award stands for and would be honored to win it, but that didn’t stop him from starting his own campaign to get close friend, Amanda Leaveck, to be part of the competition. Leaveck wrote Porter a letter of recommendation, and in turn, he wrote hers. Porter also added a little something extra — a music video dedicated to Leaveck, urging students to vote for her.
“She was embarrassed but super happy,” Porter said. “She showed her mom that same day.”
Busch, who was also nominated by a fellow candidate, believes that those kinds of gestures show how special the 25 candidates are this year.
Director of Student Engagement Amanda Niskode-Dossett said that while this is her first year coordinating the Tommie Award election, she can already tell that this group is a special one.
“It is wonderful to see the meaningful contributions each nominee has made to the UST and the greater community,” she said. “This group of Tommie Award nominees is truly exceptional.”
Some people think the closeness this year’s crop of candidates has with the community may have something to do with the perceived rise in interest for the Tommie Award. Many of the candidates have become familiar faces around campus. Porter and Leaveck are co-founders of the popular group PULSE, while Busch is one of many resident advisers recognized in this year’s group of nominees.
Porter just hopes that all the things that make each candidate special don’t get overshadowed by the Tommie Award’s “popularity contest” image.
Porter was adamant that the student body needs to elect someone they truly think represents them, not the person with the most friends around campus. His biggest fear is that people might think that popularity is something that drives these candidates, when really they are quite deserving of the award.
“Everyone who gets nominated is qualified,” Porter said, noting that this year’s group has raised the bar when it comes to accomplishments.
With a wealth of worthy candidates, Busch does not envy the job of the Tommie Award selection committee.
“It’s going to be interesting because there are so many great candidates,” he said. “It’s hard to narrow it down to just three.”
Note: To ensure complete objectivity, Tommie Award nominees and TommieMedia members Shane Delaney and Shane Kitzman were not involved in any of the writing or editing of this report.
Ben Katzner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org