Student life: Finding a community on campus

Published: March 1, 2013

At first, Kisori Thomas had a difficult time acclimating to the campus climate at CU-Boulder.  Initially, other than her coursework, she wasn’t active outside the classroom.

Realizing she wanted a more well-rounded education, experience and personal growth, she took a big step outside her comfort zone and began looking for student leadership and multicultural organizations to join. This also included studying abroad in Chicoutimi, Canada, for a five-week French intensive program.

Now a senior majoring in psychology and French, Thomas has not only become much more involved, but she strives to help foster a sense of community and connectedness for students coming to CU from diverse backgrounds.

“I thought a good way to get involved on campus and break out of my shell,” said Thomas, “would be to participate and interact with a lot of different people and learn leadership skills.”

Thomas, who grew up in Denver, is the first person in her family to attend college.

The first organization Thomas participated in was the CU Gold Core Leadership Program, an introductory leadership development program open to all enrolled CU students. She then ran and was elected as a legislative board member and subsequently as treasurer of the Arts and Sciences Student Government (ASSG). ASSG allocates student fee money to fund arts and sciences student group operations and special events.

"It was difficult for me to run because that was something I had never done before,” she said. “But I grew from that experience. I worked with a lot of people who had different perspectives and opinions—conservative, liberal, and neutral.”

The confidence she gained from the experience led her to try other opportunities at CU-Boulder.

She serves as a peer mentor with the McNeill Academic Program, a multicultural learning community that supports students’ academic and personal development.

“Students in the McNeill program are first generation, nontraditional, and/or students of color,” she said. “As a mentor I want to make sure that freshman coming in will feel welcomed and comfortable at CU. I want them to know about campus resources so they can find their own niche like I did.”

She has been involved with the Black Student Alliance and this semester volunteers with Counseling and Psychological Services. To further expand her culturally diverse experience, Thomas joined Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority Inc. last spring.

“I want to be a counseling psychologist someday,” said Thomas. “Yet, if I don’t have experience getting to know a diverse array of women, how can I counsel underrepresented women?”

To help fund her education, Thomas works two jobs: as an instructional assistant with the Student Academic Success Center for upper division writing courses on multicultural topics and as a security guard at the University Memorial Center.

In recognition of her strong academic work, leadership, and service activities, Thomas received the Provost’s Student Achievement Award in Fall 2012. In addition, Thomas was recently notified that she will be presenting her research on assertiveness perception at this year’s CU-LEAD Symposium. While being involved on campus, Thomas is a research assistant for the ADAPT lab and maintains a 3.0 GPA.

“I am really busy,” she admitted, “but that’s how I know I’m going to be successful in life.”

Her advice for freshman is to be open, explore, find their own niche and opportunities will come.