On May 2, the Chicago Defender presented their 2021 Women of Excellence Awards to 50 African American women. Among the honorees was Shanina M. Thomas, Adjunct Professor of African American Studies, History, and Social Sciences at Olive-Harvey and Harold Washington College.
Professor Thomas was selected from hundreds of nominations and joins other influential women recognized for their contributions to their communities.
“Winning this honor was a dream come true. When I received the email that I won, I was speechless. Since grade school, I’ve been fascinated by African American History and sharing it with my students is my dream,” said Professor Thomas. “Teaching students who have never had the opportunity to learn about African American history is fulfilling and seeing the glimmer in their eyes when they hear it for the first time is heartwarming.”
After graduating from Olive-Harvey with an Associate’s degree in African American Studies she attended Chicago State University. There, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in African American Studies and a Master’s in History, graduating with honors.
“I knew what I have to do next. I made a promise to my professors at Olive-Harvey that I would return and teach. And that’s what I did, first teaching at Harold Washington. Soon after I received a call asking me to come teach at Olive-Harvey, which I did with gusto.”
Today Professor Thomas continues to encourage her students to learn all they can and be passionate about the work, making a long-lasting contribution to their field of study. “I tell my students who want to be educators to go as far as you can in school, keep learning. All professionals were taught by educators so teachers need to make sure they always do their best. This is our responsibility as teachers.”
The Chicago Defender has a 116-year history of giving voice to the Black experience in America, and the annual Women of Excellence Awards have continued that tradition since 2007.