Eric Thomas, Jr. champions diversity, inclusion and self-acceptance

Eric Thomas Jr., a junior from Riverdale, Ga. and who identifies with they/them/their pronouns, initially chose GGC because of the affordability and because of their major – human development and aging services with a minor in gender studies.

“I love learning about human development and the psychosocial issues that an individual has across a lifespan,” Thomas said. “I always read health blogs and self-help books in high school and looked for new ways to be holistically better, and I believe that is what started my foundational love for human growth.”

Once on campus, Thomas felt compelled to get involved and connect with fellow students. They had their first “aha” moment when they attended a Faces of Gender (FOG) meeting where they felt empowered to express themself and comfort others.

“I was able to hear people’s stories and help them work through their anxieties and fears,” Thomas recalled. “It was in that moment I realized I wanted to continue to create inclusive spaces on and off campus.”

Thomas went on to become president of FOG, in addition to becoming a student ambassador, student orientation leader, a Four Pillar Society member, and also engaged in gender research with Dr. Marni Brown, associate professor of sociology.

Thomas cites Brown as a huge influence on their career choice.

“It all started in her social inequality class, where I learned about the four power systems of oppression,” Thomas said. “She opened my eyes to the vast possibilities of my major and taught me to embrace myself unapologetically and wholeheartedly.”

“In general, my professors’ passion for their field has been inspiring,” Thomas continued. “When I go to class and witness the love that my professors have for their craft, I can’t help but want to put in my best work.”

Thomas credits their professors with challenging them to think critically, question everything they hear from media platforms and feels their professors have molded them into a true academic.

“Eric is a hard-working student who believes in gender equality and inclusion for all genders and sexualities,” Brown said. “They are extraordinarily empathetic and thoughtful, and I feel so honored to be a part of their journey of success, determination and social justice.”

Throughout Thomas’s college career, they've been recognized as an influential freshman senator for the School of Liberal Arts, won awards such as “Senator of the Month” and “Rising Leader Award” while serving on the Student Government Association. They also received certificates of achievement for participation in the Safe Space Allies Training and for the 2018-2019 Diversity Education program. Thomas is currently a part of the Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) committee on campus that consists of GGC students and staff, and outside community partners.

After graduation, Thomas plans continue on to graduate school to learn more about gender, sexual and racial identities and the issues that develop from the interconnection of these identities.

“I am motivated to create communities where people help one another,” Thomas said. “And I think once we start understanding one another and see how we have more similarities than differences, we can heal from our painful past and move forward to a more inclusive future.”

“Georgia Gwinnett has instilled in me the love of lifelong learning and ambition to strive for excellence in whatever form I choose – along with the ability to embrace difference, to put theory into practice, and to create spaces of love and recognition.”