Jafra Thomas exudes enthusiasm. Whether discussing his research in Kinesiology (formerly known as Exercise and Sport Science), talking about his nonprofit experience introducing rowing to disadvantaged youth, or detailing the importance of the Graduate Certificate in College and University Teaching (GCCUT) he is pursuing, Jafra approaches his work and life with a sense of purpose and excitement.
This positive attitude serves Jafra well, and it has impacted his experience at Oregon State University. Last year, for example, he was awarded a Diversity Advancement Pipeline Fellowship aimed at funding students from divergent and/or nontraditional backgrounds who have an expressed interest in a career in university teaching and/or research. Brad Cardinal, the professor who nominated him for this award, knows that Jafra has put this award to good use. “Jafra made the most of his first year here and is contributing to our institution and community in multiple ways,” says Brad. “He is a person of great substance and that transcends into his academic work and life.”
Indeed, Jafra proved his substance before even attending OSU. While still living in California, he worked for a nonprofit organization focused on the sport of rowing. “Rowing is predominantly a middle to upper class sport for white women and men, and mostly men,” says Jafra, but this program worked to diversify that base by involving individuals who might not otherwise have considered the sport. This program gave people an opportunity to experience their communities in new and exciting ways on the water while learning valuable lessons about working together to overcome challenges.
Since Jafra saw the potential that a leader has to positively change his or her community, he decided to pursue a Graduate Certificate in College and University Teaching (GCCUT) from the Graduate School at Oregon State University in order to hone these skills. When discussing his motivations for taking this on, Jafra says, “I like that the program provides a platform where I can begin to think more broadly and inclusively about how my teaching philosophy is related to my role as a health practitioner.” Rather than just teaching him how to teach (which would be significant enough), the GCCUT program allows Jafra to ground his research in a teaching philosophy that encourages him to consider the message he presents, how he presents it, and how it will be perceived by his audience.