The Mizzou Alumni Association announced Monday it was awarding three students — Steven Dickherber, Ben Levin and Zach Toombs — the Geyer Award to recognize their impact on higher education.
“They were chosen for their very effective advocacy in getting out the message to fund higher education,” MAA Advocacy Director M. Dianne Drainer said.
The Geyer Award annually recognizes one public representative and one group of private representatives for their impact on higher education and MU.
Dickherber, Levin and Toombs impacted higher education as directors of the Missouri Students Association’s More for Less campaign, which protested state budget cuts to MU.
These three are the first students to be given the Geyer Award, which typically has been awarded to senators, congressmen and other political figures.
Missouri Sen. David Pearce, R-31, also received this year’s award.
“It means so much that professional staff can put aside our age and recognize our work,” said Dickherber, MSA Chief of Staff and former Maneater staffer.
Their work, involving brainstorming for hours and leading the More for Less campaign, helped successfully lower a 12.5 percent state funding cut for MU, according to a previous Maneater article.
Though it became a major, impactful campaign, it did not begin with that goal — instead, it began as a response to Gov. Jay Nixon’s proposed 2012 budget, which featured large cuts in funding for MU.
The cuts prompted Dickherber and MSA Director of Communications Toombs to create a resolution in protest. After this move, they, along with MSA Academic Affairs Committee Chairman Levin, organized a letter-writing campaign.
“I didn’t anticipate this turning into a large campaign,” said Toombs, a former Maneater staffer. “My goal was to get a couple hundred letters, Steven shot for a thousand. We got 1,700 letters on the first day.”
The end result was even bigger: 6,000 letters went to Gov. Nixon’s office Feb. 14, and 150 students went to Jefferson City on April 26 to protest the funding cuts.
Dickherber, Levin and Toombs' work with the More for Less campaign during Spring 2012 prompted the Nursing Alumni Organization to nominate them for the award.
“You never do these things to be recognized, but the (award) is nice,” said Levin, a Maneater staffer.
For the three students, the award solidifies the impact the More for Less campaign had.
“This is further proof that students can make a tangible difference in local and state politics,” Levin said.
Not only did the campaign make a difference with the budget, it also made a difference with how students are viewed.
“There is a stigma that students are apathetic (in politics),” Toombs said. “I think we did something to erase that stigma.”
Dickherber said he thinks people, especially politicians, are now aware of students’ presence in Columbia because of the impact they made.
“Students were often overlooked by those in power,” he said. “(With More for Less,) we showed what happens when we’re engaged.”
Dickherber, Levin and Toombs, along with Sen. Pearce, will be formally recognized at the Geyer Award Reception in January 2013.
The three said they wanted the award to be a message to students more than recognition for their work.
“There will always be battles about budgets and funding,” Dickherber said. “My hope is that students look at that we did and know that we students can make a difference.”