Loyola University Chicago

Quinlan School of Business

Jenā Thomas found that graduate school develops “grit”

Jenā Thomas found that graduate school develops “grit”

There is no box for the Class of 2020, says Jenā Thomas in her digital send-off for the Class of 2020. It is truly prepared to take on life’s challenges.

Jenā Thomas (MBA ’20, MSHR ’20) has grit, the kind that pushed her to create a busy, fulfilling experience for herself while studying at Quinlan.

Among her activities: serving on the dean’s student advisory board and meeting former U.S. President Barack Obama through her membership in the Obama Foundation’s Community Leadership Corps.

“I am humbled by the experiences and opportunities Loyola has brought me, from volunteering, networking, juggling a world-class education, and countless sleepless nights,” she says. “I was pushed beyond my comfort zone and I’m forever grateful.”

Reflections from the Class of 2020

To celebrate the Class of 2020, Thomas and other Quinlan students created brief digital send-offs discussing Loyola, the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, and their hopes for the future. Watch Thomas’s message:

Watch messages from other graduating Quinlan students → 

From the Westside to the Gold Coast

A Chicago native, Thomas grew up in the Austin neighborhood and experienced the challenges of living through economic marginalization and neighborhood gun violence. She left Chicago to study psychology at Millikan University, and three years after earning her bachelor’s degree, she was in graduate school at Quinlan.

“It felt like I had been out of a classroom for a lifetime. My first year in the Quinlan School of Business was a learning curve,” Thomas says.

“However, it was comforting knowing my classes were filled with students from all parts of the world with an array of professional backgrounds. There were recent graduates, career changers, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, and retirees. Everyone had tenacity and passion to work towards a better future for themselves and the world around them. These people had grit.”

Meeting President Obama

While at Quinlan, Thomas became involved with the Obama Foundation’s Community Leadership Corps, which is based in Chicago. She credits Emily Nordquist, the Baumhart Center’s senior program manager, with connecting her with the corps.

“That relationship transformed into an opportunity that allowed this kid from the Westside to work with the first round of participants in the Obama Foundation’s Community Leadership Corps!”

Thomas and other MBA students formed a team in the Community Leadership Corps Competition and came in first place. “Because we won first place in our pitch competition, I was able to invite one of my oldest nieces to the Obama Foundation Summit where we had a surprise visit from President Obama himself. 

“The little black girl who dodged bullets invited her niece who lost her father to gun violence to meet the 44th President of the United States of America, who also happened to be the first black man to do it!”

Thomas will not be leaving Loyola just yet. Recently, she was accepted into Loyola’s Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Health Program. Thomas will accelerate her skills to prepare for a career in healthcare management.

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