Tommie Award nomination process changes

Thanks to changes in the nomination process for the Tommie Award, nominees will now be responsible for completing the application materials on their own. In the past, St. Thomas faculty and staff have carried most of the weight in the application and nomination processes.

The award, traditionally given to a St. Thomas senior, allows students, faculty and staff to vote on the student they feel embodies scholarship, leadership and campus involvement. Awarded in 1931 to its first recipient Ralph T. Antil, the then “Mr. Tommy Award” shifted its gears by changing its name and allowing women to be eligible to receive it.

Vern Kolbassa, director of student engagement, said that the old form of nominations could be “heartbreaking”.

“You had a student who had a partial nomination completed by a friend or a mentor, and then that person for one reason or another didn’t follow through with the nomination. It’s heartbreaking,” Kolbassa said.

In previous years, a Tommie Award nominator would be responsible for gathering and putting together all the necessary materials for the application to nominate a student. However, the process was changed this year to put more responsibility on the students being nominated. However, with the new form of nomination, the friend or faculty member of the nominee would submit a testimonial on behalf of the student explaining why they think that person deserves the title. They then would ask the Dean to confirm GPA qualifications and conduct qualifications.

After the preliminary nominating process is complete, the student will submit the rest of the materials including a form regarding campus involvement and academic ability. The student is also responsible for finding two others to submit additional testimonials on their behalf.

Klobassa also said that there have been changes made to the application process itself, which has been made completely digital this year. Students can now fill out their forms online and email them in, whereas in previous years, they had to be downloaded from the website. Klobassa said this will be more convenient and less cumbersome for students who are filling out their applications.

The Tommie Award changes are expected to eliminate a lot of the incomplete submissions that have been a problem which Klobassa said was upsetting in the past. This way, he said, the responsibility of completing the application is on the students.

“If the materials aren’t submitted, at least that locus of control (is) with our students,” Klobassa said. “They (have) the ability to follow up with people and do those pieces, where they just didn’t have that ability before…I feel better about that.”

Senior Collin Kearney likes the fact that the nominees can somewhat control their chances at succeeding in the competition.

“I think it’s a great idea because the person who is nominated, now has the ability to put as much time and effort into it as they want, whereas before the nominated person had to rely on someone else to complete the requirements,” Kearney said. “I can imagine that some past nominees felt an uneasiness during the process because of that. Now they can approach it however they want.”

Sophomore Dan Saunders agrees.

“I’d say it’s a good change then. I mean, I think they (students) should be active in it (the process),” Saunders said.

While the new process brings big changes for Tommie Award nominees, Klobassa said he doesn’t think that it will alter the meaning behind receiving the award.

“(Students) are still being nominated by a person,” Klobassa said. “(This) just shifts the responsibility…into the students hands.”

Some students, like sophomore Emily Casey, think the new emphasis on student involvement will overwhelm them.

“I feel like… the Tommie Award is for seniors right? …So at that point in their life when they’re filling out job applications, and maybe even internships during the school year and that sort of thing, finishing up all of their classes that they need, and for a lot of seniors, their senior year can be really rough, so adding that to their pile, I don’t think is the best idea,” Casey said.

Senior Evan Dressle admits that he thinks the process will be more strenuous, but could produce better candidates.

“I suppose it makes it more difficult to get nominated, so in that sense you might get a better group of candidates and more potential for a better Tommie Award winner,” Dressel said.

Klobassa said that by using the new process, all students who are nominated now have the chance to complete their application to win the Tommie Award, which he said is a great adjustment.

“We have such great students here,” Klobassa said. “Their talents and their gifts in our community should really be showcased.”