‘Communicate with our students’
People tell Courtland Thomas they see him almost everywhere — including, these days, on YouTube.
You may have seen the student body vice presidential candidate in Bates House, where he has served as a resident mentor since the spring of his freshman year. Or maybe in the student senate chambers, where he’s vice chair of the rules committee and chairman of multicultural affairs. Or maybe at a BGLSA meeting, or in a USC Gospel Choir performance or as a Student Ticketing assistant at an athletic event.
Thomas’ presence on campus is as vivid as it is broad.
The second-year marketing and management student from Irmo has a smile as big as his baritone voice and an outgoing personality to match them both.
That personality and involvement earned him the nickname “Court Connects” early in his collegiate career, and now Thomas says he hopes his penchant for personal connections will earn him a seat in the Student Government executive offices.
“The ability to connect and get along with anybody — I’m able to speak to anybody. Even though I may not have met you, I’m able to build a relationship,” Thomas said. “Everybody knows that I’m involved and I’m excited to be involved. That’s really where ‘Court Connects’ came from.”
Thomas trumpets his nickname and slogan in his offbeat campaign video, a parody of rapper 2 Chainz’s “Birthday Song” that has garnered nearly 1,500 views on YouTube. It also earned him a half-point campaign violation penalty earlier this month for its repeated representations of the university crest.
And yes, that’s Thomas himself rapping throughout the video, with the refrain, “Ask me who am I votin’, I say, ‘Courtland Connects.’”
He said he wanted to “reinvent campaigning” with the video.
“Our students want to see someone who likes to have fun but also is visible on campus,” Thomas said. “It was more or less a way to ... broaden horizons, to reach different aspects of campus, to connect with the video.”
Thomas said he hopes to take the connections he’s already formed with students and, through the office of vice president, connect the student body more with Student Government and university administrators.
“So many students come up to me and say, ‘This is an issue; I wonder what can you do to fix that?’ And I think the vice president’s role more or less can formalize that,” Thomas said. “I think that the role of vice president is one to really connect with the student body, one that has goals and vision but also, on the basic level, kind of can communicate with our students.”
Among Thomas’ lengthy list of platform goals are promoting the inclusion of gender in the university’s discrimination policy, developing a program that would allow students to pay parking fines online and making CarolinaCards more useful off campus by pushing student discounts at local businesses.
Thomas said many of his ideas have come from talking with students about their own concerns.
And although he sees himself as a leader among students, Thomas said he is also a follower who looks to other leaders for inspiration. Among other student and university leaders who have influenced him, Thomas said presidential candidate and current Vice President Chase Mizzell has stood out as a “mentor” to him.
In the past year, Thomas said he has watched Mizzell and others to learn how to carry and present himself as a leader in preparation for the office of vice president, should he be elected.
“There’s something I’m looking to. I don’t come up with these things by myself. I have a support network,” Thomas said. “There’s things that I pick up from people, from our leadership here at the university.”