Tommie Award Nominees: Spring 2018

Students, faculty and staff nominated 21 seniors for the 2018 Tommie Award.

Online voting to determine the Tommie Award finalists began Dec. 5 and runs through Dec. 7.

The Tommie Award is presented each spring to a student who best represents the ideals of St. Thomas Aquinas through scholarship, leadership and campus involvement. Candidates must be seniors earning a degree no later than December 2018, have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.75 and be in good academic and non-academic standing. Online voting to determine the Tommie Award recipient takes place Feb. 6 through Feb. 8.

This year’s nominees are:

Erin Abbe
Abbe is double majoring in marketing management and legal studies in business. She is president of the Residence Hall Association and served on the Executive Board of Residence Hall Association for two years. Abbe volunteered with BrightSide Produce and as a peer mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters. She was a Tommie Ambassador for two years and is a member of the Delta Epsilon Sigma honor society.

Colleen Utecht, Tommie Shop manager, said her employee Abbe is the definition of Tommie Pride and Tommie Spirit.

“When I think of the St. Thomas community, Erin comes to mind because she wants to foster education and women in leadership.”

Sarah Beck
Beck is majoring in biochemistry and minoring in psychology. She worked as a research assistant in the chemistry department and received a Young Scholars Research Grant in 2016. A member of the Aquinas Honors Program, she made the Dean’s List for five consecutive semesters. She worked as a resident adviser, apartment coordinator and operations manager in Dowling and Flynn Halls. She is a member of Pre-Dental Club.

Bryce Gloppen, Flynn Hall area director, said Beck demonstrates care and compassion for the students around her.

“What she has contributed to her teammates and the broader community in Flynn Hall is hard to quantify, but obvious in watching the interactions she has with others,” Gloppen said.

Alejandra Chavez Rivas
Chavez Rivas is majoring in general business administration and Catholic Studies. She balances her time as a full-time student, a beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act, a single mother and Catholic Studies Department part-time employee.

Nancy Sannerud, program director for two institutes associated with the Catholic Studies Department, said her employee Chavez Rivas is a combination of “grit, gratitude and compassion.”

“Her leadership is not only a fruit of her gratitude but also of her own desire to constantly improve herself and love others,” Sannerud said.

Chavez Rivas is involved with the Latino Leadership Program. She works in the Catholic Studies, helping plan events for Catholic Studies students and the university student body.

Elizabeth Coulter
Coulter is majoring in philosophy and Spanish linguistics and applied language with a minor in psychology. She is an executive board member of the Active Minds club and a philosophy tutor. Coulter made the Dean’s Honor List every semester during her time at the university. She is a member of the Delta Epsilon Sigma honor society and a member of KUST Campus Radio.

Lydia Yahnke, dean of students graduate assistant said Coulter makes the St. Thomas community more unified and stands in solidarity with those that are in need of a voice.

“She lives life with intentionality and passion, guided by her education, her faith and her convictions,” Yahnke said.

Ryan Foster
Ryan Foster is majoring in human resource management.

He serves as student body president for the university’s Undergraduate Student Government and secretary/treasurer in the Society for Human Resource Management club. Foster was freshman and sophomore class presidents during the time he served with USG. He also held the position of Vice President of Administrative Affairs.

Professor Stephanie Grimm said Foster has worked as a human resources intern for University Hospital Services in addition to his academic schedule and campus involvement.

“Ryan has clearly served the St. Thomas community as a strong student leader,” Grimm said.

Nykeesha Greer
Nykeesha Greer is majoring in operations and supply chain management. She works as an resident adviser and operations manager for Grace Hall. Greer is a Dease Scholarship recipient and an Excel! Research scholar. She serves as a Linkages mentor, belongs to the Supply Chain and Operations Management Club and is vice president of the Women’s Ultimate Frisbee club team. She assists elementary school children in the Reading Partners program.

President Emeritus Dennis Dease said Greer is energetic and outgoing, but also demonstrates such empathy and care for others.

“She has solidly rooted values and embodies St. Thomas’ mission of advancing the common good,” Dease said.

Jake Hartmann
Jake Hartmann is majoring in legal studies in business.

Hartmann is involved in Beta Gamma Sigma and Delta Epsilon Sigma honors societies. He serves as the president of the Volunteer Programming Board and represented the university as an admissions tour guide, a STAR intern and the Vice President of Finance for the Business Law Club. He made the Dean’s List every semester.

Dustin Killpack, assistant director in the Tommies Together Volunteer Center, said he has seen Hartmann dedicate himself to everything he gets involved in from academics to co-curricular opportunities.

“He is a great example of what it means to be a student leader here at St. Thomas,” Killpack said. “A leader who acts, sets a positive example for others, and goes out of his way to coach and encourage his peers to reach their full potential.”

Morgan Jensen
Morgan Jensen is majoring in communication and journalism with a minor in business administration. She is an admissions intern at the university, where she leads Tommie Ambassadors and tour guides. Jensen pariptates in LEAD club and the Senior Class Gift Committee. She is an active member of the Lambda Pi Eta Communication Honor Society and made the Dean’s List every semester.

Admissions visits and events senior manager Mary Pat Blascziek said Jensen is always able to bring light to a room.

“Her positivity and excitement is infectious,” Blascziek said, “especially when it comes to her Tommie pride!”

Carly Johnson
Carly Johnson is majoring in biology with a minor in legal studies. She is president of Foreign Affairs Club and Pre-Law Society and actively participates in the Mock Trial Team. Johnson volunteers at a local senior living facility and as a high school debate and speech judge. She has repeatedly made the Dean’s List.

Political Science Professor Angela High-Pippert said Johnson always goes above and beyond what is expected of her.

“I honestly believe that the University of St. Thomas is stronger for her presence here, and that Carly Johnson is exactly the type of student who should be nominated for this award,” High-Pippert said.

Tobias Knight
Tobias Knight is majoring in finance. He served as a Linkages Peer Mentor and is president of the Diversity in Business Student Club and vice president of diversity in the Undergraduate Student Government. Knight played on the St. Thomas football team and participated in track and field.

Patricia Conde-Brooks, executive director of campus inclusion and community, said when she met Knight she was impressed with his composure and drive.

“Tobias has a plethora of leadership and campus involvement, he is a distinguished student who has contributed a great deal of creative leadership both in the classroom, the athletic field, and in the UST community at large,” Conde-Brooks said.

Allison Lague
Allison Lague is majoring in mechanical engineering and Spanish linguistics and language. She is the VISION student director and has served on the Society of Women Engineers executive board for four years. Lague spent two years as a STAR intern and worked as a student lead in the Creative Space.

She is a member of the Delta Epsilon Sigma honor society and the senior class gift committee.

Ariene Willkom, assistant director of alumni giving, said Alli is one of those individuals you see everywhere on campus.

“She can always be found with a smile on her face and laughter to share,” Willkom said.

Genda Lee
Genda Lee is majoring in exercise science with a minor in psychology. Lee is an active member of the Hmong United Student Association, serving as events coordinator and secretary, as well as leading committees planning the annual Hmong New Year celebration on campus. She works at McCarthy Gym as a student employee and helped found the Badminton Club on campus. She has served as a summer orientation leader.

Chikeng Lee, a friend of Genda’s, said that Genda has taken on leadership roles to help spread cultural awareness and inclusion in the community.

“Genda is a natural caring leader that goes out of her way to help and challenge herself and others to grow,” Chikeng Lee said.

Anthony Lent
Anthony Lent is majoring in biochemistry. Lent is an Ireland Hall resident adviser and Operations Manager. On campus, Lent is captain of the Men’s Volleyball Club Team and volunteers as an assistant coach for the the Club Women’s Team. He is a member of the the Pre-Dental Club and was a math tutor. Lent volunteers with Open Arms of MN to help feed terminally ill patients. He has made the Dean’s Honor List every semester during his time at the university.

Assistant biochemistry professor Jerry Husak said Lent seeks to use his motivation, enthusiasm, skills, and knowledge to advance the common good.

“We will continue to see wonderful things come from this wonderful student after he leaves St. Thomas,” Husak said.

Madie Ley
Madie Ley is majoring in art history and minoring in history. Ley is co-president of the St. Thomas Art Club and an active member of St. Thomas FemCom. She was awarded the 2017 Good Sister Award from the University Advocates for Women and Equality for her activism on campus to strengthen resources and support for victims of sexual assault. She co-founded the Activist Digest Newsletter to maintain momentum from the worldwide Women’s Marches on Inauguration Day. Ley has contributed to the Minnesota Public Radio’s Local Current blog.

Christine Dent, visual resources curator for the art history department, said Ley’s work to raise awareness to makes the university campus a safer place for all.

“Madie Ley is one of the people who is going to change the world for the better,” Dent said.

Kathleen Melton
Kathleen Melton is majoring in neuroscience. Melton is a Tommie Ambassador and Tour Guide as well as president of National Residence Hall Honorary. For two years, she worked as executive director of St. Jude Up ’til Dawn on campus. Melton was a Woodbury Ambassador while she was a student at St. Thomas, where she supported younger girls in the program. She participates in the Student Interfaith Leaders Scholarship Program, which develops interreligious leadership skills to be utilized on campus and in the community.

“I knew from meeting her that she was someone who gave 100 percent to everything she committed to,” said Zoe Chang, residence life operations and finance manager.

Kaylee Nguyen
Kaylee Nguyen is majoring in operations and supply chain management. She is philanthropy chair of the Student Alumni Council and serves as the diversity and inclusion chair of the Undergraduate Business Council. Nguyen is involved on campus as a Tommie Ambassador and as vice president of both the Business Law and Theater clubs. She participates in Pulse Dance Club.
Student Alumni Council adviser Codi Soeun said he’s seen Kaylee work as a morally responsible leader.

“She is a person with ethics who is honest and trustworthy,” Soeun said, “She is a charismatic leader who is easily approachable. She is always willing to set aside time and have a conversation.”

Amanda Post
Amanda Post is majoring in communication and journalism with a minor in business administration. Post held positions on campus such as peer minister and retreat volunteer, strategic planning committee student adviser and student affairs intern. She participated in VISION, Tommie ambassadors, Pulse and St. Paul’s Outreach. Post completed original research on empathy and presented at the Undergraduate Communication Research Conference in St. Paul. She has been on the Dean’s List every semester.

Ariene Willkom, assistant director of alumni giving, said Post has the gift of supporting those around her.

“She is a confidante, friend, and “personal cheerleader” to many,” Willkom.

Melina Sotro
Melina Sotro is majoring in Catholic studies and philosophy with a business minor. She helped organize collaboration opportunities between the Latino Leadership Program at St. Thomas and St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Minneapolis so that Tommies could lead confirmation and tutoring classes. Sotro was previously an orientation leader at the university. She volunteers as a bilingual counselor at Sagrada Familia Pregnancy Center serving women who are in vulnerable and difficult situations.

Josh Hengemuhle, assistant dean for orientation and retention, said the academic interactions he’s had with Sotro have been focused on helping others thrive rather than presenting her own success.

“Through all of her contributions to the community, her leadership has had exponential transformative effects, influencing others within our campus and beyond who then go forth and influence others,” Hengemuhle said.

Annie Vitale
Annie Vitale is majoring in art history with minors in Italian and graphic design. She is captain of the nationally-ranked University of St. Thomas Dance Team and performs at football and basketball games. Vitale is a member of the Art History and Italian clubs. She works as a digital asset assistant in the Art History Department, where she researches and cataloges art historical items. Vitale has made the Dean’s List every semester.

Dance team coach Julia Randall said it is Vitale’s hard-working, determined personality, heart of gold and love for the university that has made her an ideal candidate for the 2018 Tommie Award.

Peter Watson
Peter Watson is majoring in finance. He has gained experience in the finance field with positions at U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo. Watson is president of the Veterans Association and has coordinated events on and off campus for veterans. In the years before coming to St. Thomas, Watson served as a member of the United States Marine Corps. He presented a plan for a Veterans Resource Center on campus to President Julie Sullivan. The center was created in November.

“Through his leadership, and the support of the veteran student community at St. Thomas, we have gone within a year from having very little for our veteran students to engaging efforts that make us the envy of other institutions,” said Josh Hengemuhle, assistant dean for orientation and retention.

Annie Youngblood
Annie Youngblood is majoring in environmental science and justice and peace studies. She is involved on campus as an orientation leader and served as Sustainability Chair for the Undergraduate Student Government last year. For 2 and a half years, Youngblood conducted research in the Biology department under Simon Emms. She is a founding member and communication liaison for BridgeStThomas.

Professor Amy Finnegan said as a leader Youngblood is a tremendous mix of attentive, energized, and humble.

“Through her inspiring curiosity, thoughtfulness, humility and community-building efforts, she calls all of us to be better,” Finnegan said.

Emily Sweeney can be reached at

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