As UA Little Rock’s newest student success coach, Dominque “D.J.” Thomas is helping inspire the next generation of Trojans through his work with the Student Affairs Diversity Initiatives (SADI).
“I’ve always had a passion for working with college students,” Thomas said. “When I was an undergrad, I was part of a mentorship program known as the African American Male Initiative. I served as a mentee, and then I became a mentor while I was older. I love sharing my story to inspire and motivate and encourage those who come after me.”
Thomas mentors students in SADI, a student success and retention mentoring program that includes the African American Male Initiative, African American Female Initiative, and the Hispanic/Latinx Initiative.
“I help students with time management, organization skills, and any challenges that may arise and could hurt them academically or personally,” Thomas said. “We figure out a plan of action that can keep them on pace, so they can complete and have a successful semester.”
As a coach and mentor, Thomas believes it’s important to be an active listener to better understand how he can help students.
“There have been cases when students come to me just to talk. It also gives me the opportunity to work on my active listening skills,” Thomas said. “I try to be that safe space and place for people to come to my office to talk, get homework done, or have a coaching meeting. I show them ways they can succeed. Not by trying to conform them to a student I want them to be, but by making some minor adjustments that can help them be a better version of themselves.”
Additionally, Thomas teaches one of the First Year Experience courses at UA Little Rock, where students learn about the university and student resources, study strategies, and career prep.
“The First Year Experience course is a class for incoming freshmen where we equip them with knowledge, tools, and insight that can help them have not just a good semester but overall a good undergrad experience,” Thomas said. “We hope that the knowledge and skills that we teach them help them graduate, and we hope that they are transferable to their personal and social lives as well.”
While an undergrad, Thomas encountered many obstacles before successfully completing his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. According to Thomas, his experiences have only made him a stronger person and better mentor for minority college students.
“I do understand the needs of African American students in higher education,” Thomas said. “I definitely feel the need to be here so that the minority students can have someone they can identify with and who can understand the things they go through on a day-to-day basis outside of college. Having a support group of officials and peers is what strengthened me to persevere through all of the challenges I faced as an undergraduate student.”
After completing his undergraduate degree, Thomas has pursued many more opportunities to advance his education. He earned a master’s degree in higher education at UA Little Rock while working as a graduate assistant for the Chancellor’s office and the Green Dot Program.
Next, Thomas moved to Memphis to earn his Ed.D in higher and adult education from the University of Memphis, where he worked in the university’s Disability Resource Center. Now, he is currently pursuing a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, which he plans to complete by 2023.
“I am also an active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Pi Lambda Chapter, and I serve as the on-campus advisor,” Thomas added. “I’m also a proud member of St. Mark Baptist Church.”