Yehosef Thomas knows that diversity matters because people matter, and how individuals, communities, and the world deal with questions of diversity can have profound implications for the future. He sees diversity more as how people relate to one another than as an abstract board room concept that needs to be deal with quickly and effectively.
“Personally, I am invested in diversity-related work because I know we are collectively better when our differences are embraced. Increased diversity makes a difference in personal relationships, classrooms, and administration decisions. Ultimately, that is what I am interested in – diversity that makes a difference.”
Yehosef is an Office of Diversity and Inclusion Morrill Scholar and part of ODI’s Morrill Scholarship Program (MSP). The Ohio State University Morrill Scholarship, awarded to students who show commitment to both academics and diversity by excelling in the classroom and making a positive impact in their communities, gives Yehosef the opportunity to build diversity that makes a difference and to be connected to a community dedicated to social justice.
The scholarship also helped Yehosef continue the work he had been doing in high school: cultivating ties between communities of diverse backgrounds, increasing awareness about the power of hate, and engaging on issues of systemic bias.
Now a sophomore at Ohio State, Yehosef believes that MSP has been critical to his success as a student from his first day on campus, when MSP’s Early Arrival Program gave him the familiarity and connections that he said too many first-year students lack. “On the first day of classes, I felt comfortable and competent.”
MSP has also connected Yehosef with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and its programs such as mentoring, undergraduate research, and tutoring and test banks, which are important resources. The office also provides a support system of people who care about him and are rooting for his success.
Yehosef’s work on diversity at Ohio State has taken him in several directions. He is involved in ODI’s Undergraduate Recruitment Society, which works toward recruiting students from diverse backgrounds, and participates in MSP’s new student leader program as a mentor for first-year MSP students. Serving in Ohio State’s undergraduate student government, Yehosef leads projects and initiatives relating to diversity and inclusion. He also writes for Alger Magazine – the official magazine of the Collegiate Council on World Affairs – trying to “push pertinent social issues to the front of the university’s social discourse.”
Yehosef also participated in Buck-I-SERV, a university initiative that provides students with opportunities to lead and learn through direct service experiences. The program has made his college experience “more valuable” as Yehosef went to Birmingham, Alabama last winter for Habitat for Humanity, and traveled this past spring with other MSP Scholars to assist with disaster relief in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
All this involvement, Yehosef indicates, works toward his goal of making Ohio State a school that all students can see themselves attending and thriving at.
Planning to graduate in 2020, Yehosef is majoring in political science, which allows him to explore his interest in democratic theory and the varied foundations of democracy seen around the world.
As for after graduation, Yehosef is still constructing a post-graduation plan. “I came into Ohio State knowing I wanted to attend law school, and I still do.” But recently, Yehosef has been thinking about the opportunities within PhD programs or even taking a couple years off from school to gain some real-world experiences.
Whatever road he takes, Yehosef hopes to be part of a broader social justice network that advocates and fights for a world free of oppression.