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Meet a student working to make a positive impact at UofGH

Stefan Thomas

Advocating for 30,000 students is no easy task—but fourth-year University of Guelph-Humber student Stefan Thomas jumped at the opportunity.

Thomas is part of the board of directors of IGNITE, a non-profit student union representing University of Guelph-Humber and Humber College students. IGNITE aims to amplify student voices and improve the student experience. As part of the board, Thomas ensures that IGNITE stays aligned with their mission, values and strategic plan.

Sitting on the board of directors was not something Thomas originally envisioned. But he knew he wanted to make a positive impact on campus. After encouragement from friends who were involved with IGNITE, Thomas decided to run for a position in last year’s election.

“I ran because I have a passion for advocating for students,” Thomas said. “I believe in not just making an impact but being someone who can inspire other students to know they have the ability to make an impact as well.”

One of the accomplishments Thomas is most proud of is finding a way to help students during COVID-19.

“Close to the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of students were in need of relief financially,” Thomas explained. “As a board, we tried to figure out how to support them.”

To assist UofGH and Humber College students, IGNITE established the Emergency Financial Relief Fund. In total, 2,300 students received support through the fund, with over $1.2 million distributed to students in need.

A new community

Thomas began his post-secondary journey studying accounting and finance, which he quickly realized was not the right fit. After chatting with mentors and exploring his passions, Thomas transferred to the Family and Community Social Services program at UofGH.

Thomas said a big draw of the program was the opportunity for placements and practical field experience. He also appreciates the close community at UofGH. Having previously attended a larger university, Thomas found the difference particularly noticeable.

“I don't think people actually realize how much of a close-knit community you get when you come to the University of Guelph-Humber,” Thomas said. “I feel like I'm a person and not just a number. I actually have the opportunity to make relationships, not just with my peers, but with my professors and the faculty and staff. I think that has to be my favourite part about this university.”

Since transferring, Thomas has become an active leader in the UofGH community. Aside from IGNITE, he is a Senior Student Transition and Resource Team (START) Leader who supports and mentors other student ambassadors. Thomas is also a symposium coordinator overseeing promotions for the FCSS See Change Symposium, a one-day event that aims to engage and inspire students to create change in the community and their field.

It was his openness to trying new opportunities that led Thomas to getting involved at UofGH.

“I think it’s just I decided to take that first step,” he said, “and that's what really opened up the door over time to be more involved.”

Lessons in leadership

Last January, Thomas was selected to attend a leadership retreat through the Humber College Student Leadership Academy. The retreat, which included leadership workshops and activities, is one of Thomas’s fondest memories from his time at UofGH.

“We got to do so many cool things, like snowshoeing and skiing, but I think the fun part was getting to learn about how to be a more effective leader and getting to learn from the other student leaders who were there,” Thomas said.

Thomas hopes to encourage other students to get involved in their community. That involvement, Thomas emphasized, can take on any form.

“By stepping out and being involved, it doesn't mean you have to have three positions like me,” he said. “It can be as simple as joining a society and being involved in that if that's what making an impact looks like.”

Before Thomas graduates from UofGH this spring, he hopes he can motivate his peers to make a difference around campus and in their community.

“I want to do my best to create whatever impact I can and really inspire students who will still be here after I leave to stand up, be bold, step out and do whatever they want to do.”