Joseph Thomas' tone is urgent, his words unwavering. The 2008 graduate is talking about his UVM experience, and he wants everyone to know how far he came in four short years.
Thomas, a native Puerto Rican who graduated from high school in the Bronx, arrived at the university as a shy teenager with an interest in government. Today he's working alongside senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), and other members of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee as a newly hired staff assistant for the majority.
Thomas' journey began almost the moment he arrived on campus. As a member of the Spirit and Leadership floor in the Harris-Millis residence hall, Thomas developed a passion for public service, becoming president of Alianza Latina, a multicultural advocacy and support group, and a student coordinator for UVM's orientation program.
Thomas' academic career caught fire in the second semester of freshman year when he discovered political science professor Tony Gierzynski, who taught him that government could be a career, as well as an interest. Thomas majored in poli sci, taking five courses with the charismatic professor.
When it was time to find a job that exploited his newfound skills, UVM came through again. Class of '86 alum J.P. Dowd, legislative director for Senator Leahy, was so impressed with Thomas after hearing him make an admissions presentation in Washington, he offered him an internship on the spot. Later, Dowd helped recruit Thomas to the Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs.
UVM "helped me come out of my shell" as a student leader, "gave me a solid foundation" in political science and, through the "connection of an alum we have in Washington," helped him land a dream job, says Thomas.
Who wouldn't want to spread a story like that?