Story by Alicia Quiñones–
Thomas Harris is the Senior Student Service Coordinator for the Office of Multicultural Student Services at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse and has been serving on the Council’s Board of Directors since its establishment in 2007. The concept for the Council was the product of a conference workshop geared towards creating better community connections involving the universities, local businesses, and surrounding La Crosse areas. Thomas likens the vision for the Council to that of a tree designed to branch out into the community and provide resources in hopes that their assistance could facilitate more strategic approaches to enhance diversity and equity in and around La Crosse.
Thomas dedicates himself to furthering GLADC ‘s mission by working on the Council’s visibility in the community, aiming to assist member organizations in providing integral spaces for sensitivity training. This involves taking a strong stand on pertinent social issues, helping to organize the Council, as well as gauge what members both current and future might need from the Council as both parties continue to grow.
The Council is becoming a centralized organization for diversity, inclusion, and equity resources in the La Crosse area, and Thomas is extremely grateful that it continues to create connections to education, local businesses, non-profits, faith- based institutions and political entities. Thomas believes the Council has not yet reached its capacity, and has great potential for further outreach in the community. More importantly, a good portion of the La Crosse community still hasn’t joined the Diversity Council.
The Council’s commitment to being action-oriented is one thing Thomas deeply appreciates about the work GLADC does, but he hopes these actions can take the work one step further in reaching more organizations and individuals with whom they would not normally connect. Thomas would love to see the Council promote more interaction between groups who have greater access to resources and those who do not have such an advantage. Thomas feels that with these enhanced connections, the Council could better assess the needs of its members and the Greater La Crosse area with the goal of a more diverse, inclusive, and forward-thinking community.
Thomas’s service and leadership on the Council is especially appreciated because he is also involved in so many other professional and community service initiatives, including serving on the Board of Directors of the Privilege Institute, working on a La Crosse Juvenile Justice task force, and serving as a member of the La Crosse Medical Health Science Cultural Competency Committee, to name a few. Thomas has been a founding member of numerous diversity initiatives and has led many critical conversations in the area. He Thomas is a past recipient of the La Crosse YWCA’s Men on a Mission, the La Crosse Area Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award, UW-La Crosse awards including one for Outstanding Involvement in the Profession of Student Affairs, and another as a Distinguished Alumni.