In October 2015, the UGA Alumni Association launched the UGA Black Alumni Affinity Group, which is led by the Black Alumni Leadership Council. The council seeks to connect with black alumni and students through shared experiences, and to continue building a welcoming and supporting campus community. Melonie Thomas (BBA ’86) is a member of the Black Alumni Leadership Council, and we recently interviewed her to learn more about her UGA experience and what drives her to stay connected to the university.
When did you graduate from UGA and what did you do after college?
I graduated in 1986 with a degree in marketing, and after a brief stint in retail management, I moved to LA and earned my MBA at Pepperdine University. As of 2000, I’ve been in the business of public health. Today, I live in Dunwoody, Georgia.
How did you get involved with the Alumni Association?
I met Realenn Watters at a faculty and staff organization event and was asked what could be done to encourage more black students to apply to and attend UGA. I asked her what was being done in that area, so she told me to get involved with this other group that had the same ideas, and the group eventually became the Black Alumni Leadership Council.
Which Black Alumni Event are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the Admitted Students Reception because so many people come together to form a really great environment of caring and sincere interest. It serves as a reunion for a lot of the alumni. The students are glad to hear about the different programs that interest them, and the parents are relieved to hear from people that look like them and found a home at UGA.
How has serving on the Black Alumni Leadership Council benefited you?
It’s allowed me to work with many passionate and caring people who have the same goals that I do. It provides a little extra purpose in life – we can do things in this organization that have a meaningful, lasting impact for centuries to come.
What is the most important experience you learned as a student?
You’re not on an island. Ask for help if you need it – there’s help at UGA for just about any kind of challenge, or any kind of change that you want to make. Reach out to other people and ask for help.
What is one piece of advice you would give to UGA students?
Don’t be afraid to step out and try something. Even if you aren’t sure that it will be a great fit for you, you’ll never know until you try. Don’t be afraid to take that step into a different career path. Also, maintain your relationships with your professors and friends beyond what’s expected in the curriculum. Stay in touch with those professors – they have a lot of insight and can help guide you, both in your career and in life. Many of the friends I made at UGA are still my friends today.
UGA is committed to its students and mission as a land and sea grant university. What is your commitment?
I’ll go back to the BALC and our mission to recruit and retain qualified black students and faculty, to engage with students and other alumni, to encourage other alumni to donate to the university, and to encourage alumni to serve, in whatever capacity they can. If I can get corny for one second, I’m a GIRL (imagine the Power G). Giving to support scholarships, involving myself wherever and however I can, returning to the university and leaving a legacy through the work I do.