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Tom Liesz
More Than I Imagined Seniors reflect on accomplishments and look ahead

Tom Liesz

Graduation year: 2023

High school: St. Patrick High School

Hometown: Chicago

Major: Communication studies

Activities: Varsity wrestling

Post-grad plans: Firefighter/EMT

Why Augustana?

I initially chose Augustana to continue my wrestling career. In high school I never imagined myself being a college athlete and having this opportunity was something I could not pass up. Then I visited the campus, and I absolutely fell in love. There is not another place like it that I have experienced. It did not feel like the other schools I visited; it felt like somewhere I would feel comfortable and a place where I could fit in.

Are you where you thought you'd be when you first came to campus?

Not at all. I almost failed out of Augie my first term and was at the lowest of lows. Ever since then I have had the motivation and drive that I did not know I was capable of having.

My dream when I came to campus was to become a firefighter and now that dream has become a reality for my post-graduate plans. Four years ago I never would have thought that this would be my real life now.

Who helped you get to where you are now?

There are two people who come to mind. The person that 100% helped me the most to get me where I am now is my wrestling coach, Tony Willaert. College comes with challenges and having a man like Tony in your corner really makes it easier. He not only improved my ability as a wrestler, he helped me become the best man I could possibly be in just four short years. I consider him family.

Another person who helped me get to where I am now is my comm professor, Dr. Burgchardt. She is the reason that I love my communications major. Dr. B did not have to invest as much time as she did in me and could have easily just been someone I saw twice a week in the classroom, but that was not the case with her. It was the immediate help if I was to ask and the constant support that set her apart and made her one of my role models. Everyone should strive to be as supportive and kindhearted as Dr. B.

Peak experience?

My peak experience at Augie was my geography field trip in my last term of college. Although I am not a geography major, I was able to go on an amazing trip to northern Iowa and Wisconsin. I got to experience such amazing landscapes and found a passion for exploration and hiking. Even with no geography major, I took this class to fill a perspective and found a new love in it.

What surprised you?

Something that surprised me was the support of my professors. Within every department that I took classes, every professor looked out for their students. I have had meetings with almost every single professor I have had — even if it was not for class-related things but I just needed someone to talk to. The professors are here for us to grow as people, and all of mine helped me do that.

What will you miss the most?

One thing I will miss the most here is the wrestling team. This group of men and women do so much for one another and being a part of it was truly a blessing. Whether it was the bus rides home from tournaments or going to Nashville or watching my teammate Daniel Skold qualify for nationals, there was never a dull moment with my team.

I was never the best wrestler but being a part of a team so special and being around such motivating and inspiring people is the one thing I will truly miss.

Advice for the Class of 2027?

Take advantage of the class size at Augustana. More than likely you will be in a class of 15 or so, and it is the perfect size. Ask questions! Set up meetings with your professors! They are here for you. Make sure you utilize your resources well.

"I have been very impressed with Tom’s intellectual curiosity, and with the care he shows towards other people. In classes, Tom works hard to improve, and he chooses projects that help him see the world in new ways. More importantly, I think, Tom brings good cheer wherever he goes. He always makes sure to lift up the people around him, and he encourages others to be their best. We have been lucky to have him as part of the Augustana community!"

– Dr. Lucy Burgchardt, assistant professor, communication studies