by Darline Mabins
UniteNews Contributing Writer
Springfield, MO— When describing Rosalyn Thomas my thoughts would be, that she is like a steady stream. Calm, resourceful, and continuous flow of water that seems uncomplicated on the surface. But when you look closer, you are able to see the impact, and imprint that is left behind from that small body of water. Dr. Rosalyn Thomas is definitely making an impact on the campus of Drury University.
Today, she is a mother of two and married to her husband Eddie Thomas. Her story begins in Oxford, Mississippi where she was born and raised. Rosalyn Thomas was a student at the University of Southern Mississippi when she transferred to Drury University with her husband who was recruited to play basketball. Upon graduation, she began teaching for Springfield public schools. She was one of 10 educators that worked within the learning disabilities program for SPS. She was assigned to three schools and made the trip to them daily to work with her students for about 3 years. She remained in the program for about fifteen to sixteen years and had her tenure at Sherwood Elementary. She continued with SPS until retirement. One accomplishment that she was proud of during her career with SPS, was establishing a scholarship program, to recruit and retain more diverse educators in the SPS classrooms. This program was in partnership with the universities in our city; Drury, Evangel, and then Southwest Missouri State University- now Missouri State University.
She recalls diversity training taking place in the school system in an effort to close the achievement gap by helping teachers to understand the population of students that they were educating. “You can’t teach what you don’t know.” Was a statement she recalls from training. Understanding the students’ life experiences were essential to building rapport and relationships with their students. She believes that it’s also important how you define success because it isn’t the same for every student. “Meeting our children where they are is important in the process of helping them (I didn’t say take them) to get where they need to be in order to be successful.” She questions the thinking that everyone should be treated the same and believes people should be treated equitably, and with respect. Equality and Equity are not the same. In Equality, every child gets a pencil, but if it’s not what one particular child needs, then it isn’t equitable for them. Every child should have access to whatever tool they need. Equity is not a one size fits all.
These days you can find Rosalyn on the campus of Drury University. In the spring semester of 2022, she was appointed as Drury University’s Associate Dean of Diversity & Inclusion. She began her career with Drury in the summer of 2013 and has been working to make the university a place where all students feel they belong.
Some of the accomplishments that she has assisted the university students with is a relaunch of BUIC (Black United Independent Collegiate), a student organization that was originally established on the Drury campus in the 70s. In 2022, BUIC was recognized as the organization of the year by the university. Another accomplishment was the installation of hair products for diverse students being added to the student bookstore. Rosalyn noted that to many it may seem so simple, but for students of color, it gets them excited. She credits the efforts of the on-campus bookstore staff members and students that made the process smooth.
When asked about what her hopes are for the future, she said to help bring about more cultural understanding to the campus and students. To see more interaction between students of diverse backgrounds and international students. To build a support system where they can support one another and build relationships through their collegiate journey.
Her greatest joy? “Watching the students come into the office and relax or come in and share their frustrations which may include some screams or some salty words. Afterward, they go back out and tackle the world.