Professor Shanina Thomas Reflects on her Time in Higher Education

Professor Shanina Thomas Reflects on her Time in Higher Education
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Professor Shanina Thomas Reflects on her Time in Higher Education (Chicago, IL) — Shanina M. Thomas is a distinguished adjunct professor of Social Sciences and African American Studies at City Colleges of Chicago (CCC). Thomas has been in education for over 20 years, with 17 of those years at the instructional level at CCC.

She describes herself as an educator by design. Even as a child playing school with her sister, Thomas would always be the teacher.

This passion continued to adulthood. She enjoys introducing her students to new information and encouraging them to be agents of change.

Memorable Moments

Thomas experienced many success stories from her students. One story involved an adult learner. The student was a mother of five who was returning to school for own benefit.

Thomas and the student were both members of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, the official honor society for students at two-year colleges. Thomas encouraged her student to apply for the New Century Scholar award, a recognition that honors the top 20 scholars internationally for academic excellence.

The student won the award and went on to graduate from Northeastern Illinois University as valedictorian. She recognized Thomas in her commencement speech.

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A Highly Accomplished Professional

Since her youth, Thomas has been passionate about serving in community organizations. She sets the example she wants her student to follow.

“I teach from a holistic point of view. Not just in terms of what it is you learn in the classroom, but how you are going to take the information and apply it to yourself and apply to your community,” said Thomas.

She currently serves as the commissioner for Southeast Chicago Chamber of Commerce Special Service Area #50 and is involved in several organizations including Top Ladies of Distinction Inc. and the League of Black Women to name a few.

She has received many recognitions over her lifetime, such as the Excellence in Education Award, numerous “Who’s Who” recognitions, and most recently, Chicago Defender’s Women of Excellence Award in 2021, to name a few.

Be the Change You Want to See

Recently in the country, several states support laws that suppress voting rights. Thomas believes her students should use their rights when addressing some of these issues.

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“We are, I would say, in a dark time, and it is very critical with our voting rights,” said Thomas. “It is paramount that you vote in every election. How can we bring about change? It starts with voting.”

She also advocates for her students to be the change that they want to see.

“You get involved in organizations, you take African American history classes whether you need them to fulfill requirements or not,” said Thomas.

As an African American Studies professor, Thomas recognizes the importance of teaching history to students, something that critics of Critical Race Theory are against in K-12 education.

“What should be discussed about your ancestors, you’re suppose to receive it in school, but you are not able to,” said Thomas.

The Future of Education

Thomas believes that education leaders should redesign the mission of their institutions. Schools should teach students how to think, shape their character, build self-esteem, and gain knowledge to help them grow.

“It’s not just about taking courses to get a piece of paper to obtain a job. We need to teach these students how to critically think,” she stated.

Through a combination of changing the mission and teaching styles, Thomas envisions a world cured of societal ills, such as the over-incarceration of individuals.

“We have to go back bringing forth what Dr. King said the purpose of education is. The purpose of education is not just intellect alone, it is intellect and character,” she said.

Thomas reminded us that the change we want starts within ourselves and education is the key to that change.

Professor Shanina Thomas Reflects on her Time in Higher Education


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