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April 26, 2017

Q&A with Dr. Tina Thomas '06

Name:
My name is Martina Thomas, but I go by Tina.

Where do you call home?

I currently live in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.

Where are you from?

I was born in Brooklyn, New York, but I have lived in various places on the east and west coasts. Alabama has been a second home to me.

Tell us about your family.

My husband, Calvin Thomas, is also an alumus of the University. The McNair Program on campus introduced us and was successful (unbeknownst to them) at a love match. He was awarded an MSW from The University of Alabama and is currently the director of social services at a hospice care facility in Huntingdon. My oldest daughter, Katrina, is an eighth grader who excels academically and is currently playing basketball — a sport that she hadn’t tried but one in which she is doing well. During my time at Montevallo, Katrina accompanied me to many events on campus and attended the Child Study Center. Naomi is my younger daughter, and she is kind, smart and artistic. Her goals include becoming a veterinarian, a chef and an artist.

What is your profession?

I am currently the consortium for faculty diversity postdoctoral fellow in anthropology at Juniata College. I teach classes in anthropology and health.

What made you choose this profession?

I chose to become faculty because I really like to teach and like the freedom to do basic scientific research. I also think graduate school best prepared me for this in comparison to other options like working in the industry. It is rewarding to know that although I might not affect change in my classroom immediately, students will contact me later on in life to tell me that what they were taught in anthropology helped them to understand something significant in their lives.

How did Montevallo affect your career path?

How didn’t Montevallo impact my career?! As a first-generation student, I was introduced to the McNair Program as a transfer student to UM. Prior to the introduction to this program, all I wanted to do was get a bachelor’s degree. However, through the McNair Program, I was able to work with Dr. Casey Bassett in biology on Alzheimer’s Disease research. And taking Dr. Jill Wicknick’s ecology class helped me to think through scientific research, as well as the ups and downs associated with collaboration. It was in those early days that I thought that maybe I have what it takes to attend graduate school.

Please tell us about your educational foundation:

Being from a working class background, I would say that although my high school education was important, higher education was not really valued for various reasons. Despite this, I took my first college class (Introduction to Psychology) and I was hooked. So, I think inherently, I knew it was important – at least to me.

What is the best advice you have received?

I would say that one of the best pieces of advice I have been given is to find mentors that can speak to the various facets of your life. You can’t just have one mentor.

What awards/honors have you received?
I have been extremely blessed to receive various awards, but I do not think that any were as near and dear to my heart as my McNair Outstanding Research Award when I attended Montevallo, my National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Award Grant, and most recently, the Outstanding Dissertation Award from the University of Alabama’s College of Arts and Sciences. My McNair award meant a lot because I think I experienced the first glimpse of myself as a scientist and that I could produce research, which would contribute something valuable to this world. My NSF and College of Arts and Sciences awards stand out because they really allowed me to see the value in experiencing hard times during research. I study socio-ecological influences of sexual health risk among minority female youth – a topic that is very difficult to tackle at both academic and community levels. Despite this, individuals at both NSF and UA saw the value of my work and for that I am grateful.

What is your secret for success?
I would say my secret to success is recognizing that I don’t walk my walk alone. First and foremost, I think God is with me along the way, and he puts incredible people in my path to help me succeed. Through my research, I understand the value of social support as integral to success, and I am very fortunate to have such a rich, wonderful social network of loving people, who want me to succeed, and who I myself deem successful in their own right.

What are your hobbies?

When I have time, I like to read young adult fiction. It gives my mind a break.

Favorite motto:

It is not a sprint. It is a marathon. Enjoy the journey. (I try to take this advice.)

What is your favorite Montevallo memory?
I think my favorite memory (among too many to name), is attending College Night for the first time right before I graduated. It was an amazing experience, and I remember thinking, “Why didn’t I come to this sooner?” Purple Victory!