Prof(ILL)es Series: Thomas Dowling

This is post 1 of 3 in my Prof(ILL)es Series. If you are interested in learning more about why I’m doing this or what this is, check out my introduction piece.

Imagine you’re 15 years old. Imagine that since as long as you can remember, you have always expected that you were going to college. You’re a gifted athlete and student from the South Side of Chicago, attending an elite private high school on scholarship, only two years away from taking the ACT and beginning the long-anticipated application process.

Now imagine that your mom tells you that college is no longer financially feasible, due to your government benefits being taken away.

What would you do?

It’s probably not what Tom Dowling did. If you’re Tom Dowling, you decide to call every representative in government you know and attempt to get to the root of the problem. If you’re Tom Dowling, you solve the problem (an error in the system) within two weeks. And if you’re Tom Dowling, six years later you’re a senior at the University of Illinois, ready to be inducted into the Lincoln Academy as the University of Illinois student laureate.

When thinking about this profiles series, I wanted to showcase a range of students who represent the best of our university. Students who understand what it takes to be successful here, and who have grown tremendously during their time as undergrads. Tom is one of those people who just gets it.

In his own words, “Things won’t be handed to you [at Illinois], but it’s really important to seek out opportunities on campus. Don’t be freaked out by how large it is; realize that because it’s large, whatever you want to do will be here.”

Since arriving at the University of Illinois, Tom has taken his own advice to heart.

Tom looking fresh on the Quad. (Photo Credit to Lisa McGovern)

As a student, Tom has been active in the world of political science both on campus and across the country. He’s already worked on a presidential campaign as a media consultant, been a deputy chief of staff for a state representative, and is currently working on a long-term research project on the state of Illinois pension system’s structural deficits as a Wolff intern for the Institute of Government and Public Affairs.

Of his responsibilities, Tom views his work as deputy chief of staff as most indicative of where he sees himself professionally. Having been personally impacted by the state and local government (he readily admits he would not be at the University of Illinois if it weren’t for the elected officials that helped him at 15), he understands the value of grassroots politics and wants to make a positive impact in a state that, at the current moment, needs one.

When I listened his story, I wondered how Tom could manage it all. A 4.0 student, responsibilities in all corners of campus, and a new, prestigious award seemingly every semester; how does one balance such an intensive workload?

According to Tom, the devil is in the details. Each Sunday, he spends significant time planning his weekly schedule and “sticks to it religiously” (his words, not mine). This includes personal time and time spent with friends, which he places a high value on. For Tom, personal time and meaningful relationships with his friends are incredibly fulfilling, and improve everything else he does on a day to day basis.

From left to right: Matt (our mutual friend), myself, and Tom on a hike over the summer at Starved Rock State Park. (Photo Credit to Matthew Reardon)

Tom wants students to take advantage of the tremendous resources our school has to offer, discover meaningful passions, and develop into stellar young adults and professionals through connecting with fellow students. I couldn’t agree more. Talk soon.

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