PSD Spotlight: Brenda Thomas

March 23, 2022


The PSD March Spotlight is Brenda F. Thomas, secretary in the James Franck Institute (JFI) and assistant to faculty members David P. DeMille, Woowon Kang, David Schuster, Peter Littlewood, William TM Irvine, and Linda Young. She is also the JFI Colloquium & Seminar Coordinator and Computations and Science Seminar Coordinator. She has been with the PSD for 28 years.

We interviewed Brenda about her interests and experiences below.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. I transitioned from a secretarial position in the Cook County Public Defender’s Office to one in the James Franck Institute on March 14, 1994.

What do you enjoy about being a part of the PSD community?

I enjoy being challenged by the many tasks assigned to me by the JFI Director, Margaret Gardel, and the Department Administrator, Mat Wimberly. I really enjoy facilitating the needs of my assigned faculty members and their students. Although the duties can be rather challenging, it gives me a real sense of accomplishment when my assigned tasks are completed successfully. It is exhilarating to see the wealth of knowledge, talent, and technological advances in the PSD.

Tell us a bit about you.

I find that working in the PSD requires persistence and perseverance. These are two characteristics which I try to maintain. In other words, I think it is essential for the smooth operation and function of not only the JFI and the PSD but also for the University overall. I always strive for excellence in my job performance and adhere to expectations at the departmental, divisional, and university levels. As I see this exemplified by all who work here, I know that it is woven into the fabric of this great institution. It is a great place to be employed.

Who inspires you?

In essence, it is those who surround me; my departmental director, supervisor, faculty, co-workers, and the students and postdocs inspire me. Primarily because I can always draw on their energy as they strive to project a positive image of themselves, advance their education, and promote themselves to higher levels in their fields and the world. They are always conversing and learning about different issues in an effort to discover new and innovative ideas.

What is the most interesting thing that you are working on right now?

There are many things I work on to make any event hosted by the JFI flow smoothly and ensure a nice presentation. It is very rewarding to work on the seminars and colloquiums and then see them come out in a positive and influential way.

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?

In my opinion, diversity and inclusion is a strong part of my persona. I have always worked in the public eye and find it interesting and delightful to interact with people of other cultures and persuasions. By working in the JFI and PSD, this happens to me on a regular basis as I interact with so many different people. Being exposed to the personalities and experiences of others enlightens me as they share their culture and traditions on a one-on-one basis.

To me, diversity and inclusion means that we should always count others’ experience, perspectives, and education as being significant and necessary for personal growth. To be exposed to different individuals from other parts of the world and cultures gives one a broader perspective of why certain traditions and ways of life exist. It really broadens your horizons and allows you to learn about how others view the importance of education and relationships.

Who had the most influence on you growing up?

My mother, who passed away when I was 12 years old. Although she was stricken with cancer when I was very young, she didn’t let being ill stop her from emphasizing the importance of education, consistency, and persistence.

What three words best describe you?

The three words that come to mind are that I am and have always been responsible, persistent, and proactive.

If they made a movie about your life, what genre would it be and who would play you?

If they made a movie about my life and the kind of person that I am, it would tell of the many events, challenges, and hardships which led to me being who I am today. I am a very compassionate person and I’m always trying to find ways to help others. I would like for my niece, Yolanda Williams, to play me because she is the one child that I had the pleasure of raising who really seems to understand who I am and what I stand for. She really seems to “get me.”

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