Jayden ThomasMy journey begins in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, a traditionally low-class, predominantly urban area where I grew up with my parents and my two older siblings. While many may have a negative connotation towards this city, I will always be proud and thankful for growing up in this area due to the environment that shaped me to make the most of my circumstances, all the while having a strong and loving support system around me.

I attended Uniontown Area High School, which made me have a strong desire to be at the top of my class and show others that I can succeed just as much as other students who came from affluent families with resources. I was involved in several activities, including track and field, basketball, and being senior class president. My decision to attend IUP would stem from three important aspects of my current undergraduate experience: IUP men’s track and field, the Eberly College of Business Honors program, and the Promising Scholars program. These three aspects of IUP would not only provide me with the academic and financial assistance to pursue my undergraduate career, but they would all help me develop into the man I am today and create connections that would last a lifetime.

My major sources of involvement on campus during my undergrad experience were IUP men’s track and field, Sigma Chi Fraternity, and IUP Ambassadors. Each activity represents a part of my willingness to bond with others, help the local/university community, learn, and develop myself physically and mentally. I took major leadership positions predominantly with track and field and Sigma Chi, being a team captain for the men’s track team, and being chapter president of the Eta Omicron chapter of Sigma Chi for the 2021–22 academic year.

Being Sigma Chi’s president was by far the most challenging yet rewarding experience I’ve ever put myself through due to the opportunity I sought to not only manage every facet of a complex organization, but also create a sense of unity amongst young men. As president, I was responsible for directing the chapter’s vision, guiding an entire executive board, managing recruitment and retention, organizing philanthropy and community service efforts, improving chapter academics, handling all chapter finances, leading chapter and executive meetings, assessing our risk management strategy, and maintaining public relations with university officials, Sigma Chi Eta Omicron’s housing corporation, and Sigma Chi International Fraternity’s headquarters.

As for being a team captain of the men’s track team, I was a leader who brought enthusiasm and encouragement to my teammates, whether it be during a hard workout, or conference championships. Every day I was called upon to lead by example and be vocal to help guide and make first-year athletes and veterans realize that our sport is more than just individualistic performance. Even if my team was in the cold during a track meet or defeated by a long practice, I was there to lift everyone up (physically and mentally), and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Finally, IUP Ambassadors is an organization that made me realize the importance of alumni engagement and being involved after graduation. Our organization connects students with alumni, and volunteers during university-sponsored events, which undoubtedly makes me proud to one day be a supportive alumnus of this university.

The achievement I am most proud of during my time at IUP is being awarded Excellence in Chapter Presidency by the Center for Multicultural Student Leadership and Engagement. This award is a prestigious accolade presented each spring to the most deserving Interfraternity, Panhellenic, and United Greek Council chapter president that demonstrates consistent leadership, academic excellence, university involvement, and good character. When I first joined Sigma Chi, I learned that the chapter has had a record of presidents winning the award year after year, and once I was determined to become a president, I knew I would make Excellence in Chapter Presidency my goal. This award shows my dedication towards the betterment of my fraternity, which is something all Sigma Chi’s strive for.

Community service is an important aspect of my college career that showed the commitment of bettering lives inside and outside of Indiana. Sigma Chi connected me with numerous community service efforts. My time in the fraternity allowed me to volunteer time towards Homecoming cleanups across town, tend to the Indiana Community Garden, collecting Thanksgiving donations for the Salvation Army, along with other efforts. I also volunteered time within the university thanks to IUP Ambassadors. Working closely with the university, the IUP Ambassadors volunteered time towards assisting with alumni tours, open houses, tabling at events such as IUP Day and Winter Warmup, and being hosts for alumni at university events.

My contribution towards IUP’s diversity and inclusion derives from my efforts to become Sigma Chi’s president. Upon being elected president, I became the first African American president of Sigma Chi’s Eta Omicron chapter, a milestone in the chapter’s history that has never occurred since its founding in 1973. Across the country, Greek life has the negative stigma that students of ethnic backgrounds aren’t welcome to join Greek-letter organizations. As a firm believer in character, I made it a mission to not only make history for this chapter but also show this university that anyone of any background can accomplish anything when you show genuine character and a desire to better others around you.

I wanted to change the culture of Greek life at IUP and pave a generation of ethnic leaders at predominantly white institutions. My role as a Black president sparked passion in other chapters to make a difference with diversity and inclusion, and show that Greek life is an inclusive, open-minded community. As a result of my efforts, Greek organizations are displaying a bigger emphasis on diversity and inclusion programming, collaborating more with multicultural organizations, and ensuring that recruitment is targeted to every IUP student.

When I think of my experiences within IUP and the Eberly College of Business, I think about the power and value of connecting with another individual. I am grateful for the connections I have made with all Eberly and university staff and the pieces of advice and insight they have given me over the four years of my undergraduate journey. Not only was I provided with a thorough background in business, but I have met a plethora of mentors that have helped me step by step get to where I am at today as a scholar, young professional, and man.

Upon becoming a part of the IUP alumni community, I would like to stay connected to Eberly and make time for visits, guest presentations for organizations, and contribute to donations and scholarships once financially capable of doing so. I would also like to potentially come back for events such as Business Day and connect with students about career opportunities that relate to my career and place of work, so one day a hopeful student will have the opportunity for future success. I will also be an active alumnus of Sigma Chi, giving back to the chapter and appearing at chapter events and ceremonies, and stay connected to the IUP Ambassadors and returning for their events.