Jafra Thomas

Jafra Thomas exudes enthusiasm. Whether discussing his research in Kinesiology, 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 pursued, Jafra approaches his work and life with a sense of purpose and excitement.


This positive attitude serves Jafra well, and it impacted his experience at Oregon State University. When he attended OSU, he was awarded a Diversity Advancement Pipeline Fellowship, now the Prestigious Diversity Fellowship. An award 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 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,” said Brad. “He is a person of great substance, and that transcends into his academic work and life.”


Jafra, before even attending OSU and while still living in California, 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,” explained Jafra. This program worked to diversify that base by involving individuals who might not otherwise have considered the sport. It 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.


At the Rowing nonprofit, Jafra saw how leaders can positively change their communities. When Jafra attended OSU, he wanted to hone these skills. In pursuit of that goal, he decided to pursue a Graduate Certificate in College and University Teaching (GCCUT) from the Graduate School at OSU. In addition to learning to teach, the GCCUT program allowed Jafra to ground his research in a teaching philosophy.