Cory Thames Working Tirelessly to Bring About Positive Change for Students at Chicago State University

Cory Thames Working Tirelessly to Bring About Positive Change for Students at Chicago State University
Bloom Township Senior Luncheon

Cory Thames Working Tirelessly to Bring About Positive Change for Students at Chicago State University (Chicago, IL) – Cory Thames’ passion for education began with his family. From an early age, his parents instilled in him the necessity of college and the value of learning. 

Prairie State College

“I appreciated that because I quickly saw that education is truly the gateway to opportunity. I credit my educational experiences with getting me to the position I am today. I always try to encourage young people whether it is going to your traditional four-year college or university or obtaining a certification, that you need more than just a high school diploma to help ensure your success,” said Thames.

“I hope that the work I am putting in and the services I continue to advocate for helps to change the trajectory of students’ lives.”

Govenor Pritzker Appoints Cory Thames to the Board

In September, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker appointed Thames to the Chicago State University Board of Trustees to fill the vacancy once held by LaTanya M. McDade, former Chief Education Officer for Chicago Public Schools, when she became the superintendent of schools for Prince William County Public School in Virginia. Thames applauded the leadership of his fellow board members and Chicago State President, Zaldwaynaka “Z” Scott, for their steadfast leadership and intentionality in taking the university to new heights. 

“I was honestly truly humbled. Education has been one of the cornerstones of my life. I just want to be part of an institution that was focused on making a change for people that looked like me,” said Thames, 34, who serves as Chief Engagement Officer for the Business Leadership Council, Chicago’s premier association of African American entrepreneurs and senior executives.

Chicago Native

For the last decade, the Chicago native has worked tirelessly to bring about positive change to the city he has called home. With a career heavily rooted in the government and nonprofit spheres, he remains focused on empowering and bridging marginalized communities by using his experiences to create opportunities for those in need.

Two initiatives that he champions on the board are the dual enrollment program and Rise Academy. Dual enrollment is a partnership between college and high school programs that allow high school students to enroll in college courses and earn transferable college credit. Currently, Chicago State partners with seven different high schools. 

Positive Results

“We have seen really positive results from that program including a 97 percent passing rate and 80 percent of students who have earned a B or better,” said Thames. “That opportunity to provide high school students with the chance to earn college credit will be extremely impactful as they begin their college careers already with a leg up and exposed to some of the rigor that comes with being part of a college environment.” 

The Rise Academy prepares students the summer before their collegiate freshman year. Rise Academy students receive full tuition and fee waivers for that first year. 

“When I was in graduate school, I was a graduate assistant for an academic success program and I have seen firsthand how important it is to expose college students, especially those who are first generation, to the university. When you step on a college campus, it is important to know you have a wealth of resources that are designed for you to know that you are supported,” Thames said.  

Business Leadership Council

In his current role for the Business Leadership Council, his goal is to help cultivate opportunities to create generational wealth and grassroots economic development within the African American community. Through strategic partnerships, convenings, advocacy and support for innovative initiatives, he is responsible for implementing programming strategies that carry out the BLC’s mission and vision. 

“I think it is vital because if we are not advocating for ourselves who else will. Being part of an organization that is actively at the table is monumental. We are able to leverage the technical expertise and resources that exist within our membership to hold leaders accountable,” he said.

In addition, during his career he has served as deputy commissioner for the Chicago Department of Aviation where he led the Intergovernmental Affairs and Community Engagement divisions for one of the City of Chicago’s largest departments. Prior to that, he served as deputy director of Community Engagement for the Obama Foundation helping to lead efforts to bring the Obama Presidential Center to the south side of Chicago. 

Start of Construction

“I have been really excited to see the construction start. It is nice to be able to see something you had a hand in coming into fruition. It is in my backyard since I live on the South Shore. Being able to see it as I drive by to go downtown is awesome,” said Thames. 

He has also held multiple roles across the government and nonprofit sectors including deputy chief operating officer for the City Clerk of Chicago, assistant to the Mayor for Government Affairs under Mayor Rahm Emanuel and as associate director with Mentor Illinois. Cory has long been an active advocate in his community. As chairman of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors, he is passionate about ensuring South Shore’s business community not only has the tools and resources necessary to operate, but the ongoing support and network required to thrive. Cory also sits on the board of Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative.

Cory Thames Working Tirelessly to Bring About Positive Change for Students at Chicago State University


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