Dr. Alydia Thomas

Dr. Alydia Thomas is living proof of the power of transformative mentorship. Her passion for empowering students, cultivating a sense of student belonging and promoting equity and opportunity has captured the attention of her community, earning Thomas the well-deserved recognition as one of Pittsburgh Magazine's 40 Under 40 honorees for 2021.

Following a rigorous review and selection process, this annual list celebrates creative, innovative and committed individuals who are driving positive change in Pittsburgh through their professional and community contributions.

Mentorship is a powerful way to give young people the assurance that there is someone in their corner who wants to help them succeed. It's also the reason Thomas, associate director for student development and programming in the Office of Residence Life, chose to pursue a career in higher education.

"Building connections with students is so important. When I train our resident assistants (RAs), I tell them, 'The community will build with or without you. So, be present and create a place where students can thrive,'" Thomas said. "We need to be there for them."

Thomas encourages students to realize their full potential, and she also is intentional about setting goals for herself that align with her commitment to supporting young people and helping them overcome challenges. In August of 2020, she created the Black RA Coalition, a campus organization that gives Duquesne RAs the opportunity to meet with black professionals at the University and share their experiences. It also offers peer support and insight on how they can work together to navigate challenges.

During the past year, Thomas has continued her pursuit of equity and social justice by training more than 200 students and 150 faculty and staff members on topics of diversity and inclusion (D&I). Among the efforts Thomas has made in fueling D&I initiatives is her aptitude for building meaningful relationships with students.

"It's important for our students to understand that we are committed to their success," Thomas said. "If they don't already have a mentor, I want to be that person for them. I want them to know that as long as they love themselves and love others, they will be successful.

"From chipping in her own money to buy winter coats for students to serving on local nonprofit advisory boards and hosting events that engage the entire community in discussions about equity and racial justice, Thomas walks alongside students as a mentor, guide and cheerleader.

"My goal is to meet each student where they are," Thomas explained. "That's how we can best determine their struggles and their strengths. It's how we celebrate and empower them."

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January 14, 2022