Jocelyn Thomas: Administrative Assistant, Beacon for Student-Athletes
Jocelyn Thomas, administrative assistant in the School of Literature, Media, and Communications, has been a Tech employee for 28 years.
Jocelyn Thomas is not afraid of a challenge. As the assistant to the chair of the School of Literature, Media, and Communication (LMC) she often helps students and faculty solve problems — big and small.
“It’s all about customer service. If I don’t know something, I can find out for you,” she said.
Part of her job is keeping the calendar for LMC Chair Richard Utz.
“He’s pretty self-sufficient,” Thomas said. “So, the main thing I do is work with him on promotion and tenure for the department, and the hiring of approximately 16 Brittain Fellows. I also coordinate the catering for school events.”
Thomas has been at Tech 28 years. When her oldest daughter became a toddler she decided it was time to return to the workforce.
“I came in as a temporary employee. I worked in the School of Psychology for two years with (the late) Professor Timothy Salthouse,” she said.
After that temp assignment ended, Thomas worked in what was then the College of Management, now the Ernest Scheller Jr. College of Business. She also worked in the College of Computing, in Institute Partnerships, and GT SMART before joining the staff of LMC where she has been for 15 years.
Thomas has seen the campus grow considerably in the past 28 years. From her office in the Skiles Building she points at the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons and at the open expanse of Tech Green next to it, recalling when that space was occupied by the Hightower Textile Engineering Building and parking spaces.
“A lot of things have changed. Parking was $25 a year for a permit,” she said.
Thomas accepts that change is inevitable, and she actively seeks ways to stay current.
“I take a lot of classes here at Tech, like Fierce Conversations, to help me figure out how to work through difficult situations.”
It’s working. In 2017, she received Institute Diversity’s Diversity Champion Award, and in 2012 and 2019 she received the Ivan Allen College Distinguished Administrative Service Award.
She attributes her success, in part, to her personal motto.
“Just treat people the way you would want to be treated,” she said, adding that if she gets upset with someone, she’s quick to apologize.
“I’ll go to that person and say, ‘I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.’ So, we make amends and move on. That’s what you’re supposed to do. You can’t stay mad. We have to work together,” she said.
The most challenging part of Thomas’ job is meeting the deadlines for hiring.
“If you don’t get the paperwork in on time, there will be a problem,” she said with a smile. “Everything else is pretty even-keeled.”
Away from Work
Thomas and her husband Vincent recently celebrated their 33rd anniversary with a cruise to the Bahamas.
“It was a nice getaway. We danced, went to the beach, and had a good time,” she said.
Back home in Atlanta, Thomas has settled into her normal activities.
“I like to be in my Christian ministry, and I help high school athletes get scholarships in track and field.”
Thomas was a sprinter in track and field, and her husband played basketball. When their three children demonstrated athletic abilities in several areas, they decided to put all three into track and field events to minimize the amount of shuttling back and forth between sports venues. The plan worked; the children excelled in sports and in academics. Thomas and her husband then shepherded the children through the college recruitment process.
Their daughter Chelsey, 29, was a heptathlete at Auburn University and now works in manufacturing at General Mills. Jordan, their 25-year-old son, was a decathlete at Georgia Tech. A 2017 industrial design graduate, he co-designed the shoes Miss Georgia Tech wore in the Miss America pageant. He now works for good2grow and designs the character tops for their juice line. And, their daughter Kelli, 23, was a thrower (hammer and weight) for the University of Connecticut, graduating in 2018. She now works for the University of Kentucky as a CATS academic and support assistant.
Now Thomas and her husband use their experience to help young athletes navigate the recruitment process, always mindful of NCAA recruitment rules. This fall, a student-athlete that they helped mentor, Freddie Allen, will be on Tech’s track and field team.
“Georgia Tech has provided me with the tools to be a successful administrator,” Thomas said. “I can now take the tools learned into phase two of my life. As one of Jehovah's Witnesses I look forward to volunteering my time to help interested ones learn about the future and what it has to hold. I will also enjoy, along with my husband, being a part of young athletes’ journeys as they plan their future.”
Since 2012 Thomas and her husband have helped mentor eight student-athletes to graduation, including Bahamian Olympian Tadashi Pinder. They have four student-athletes graduating in 2020 including world record holder Devin Dixon. And, two more are on track to graduate in 2021.
“I find that there is no greater joy than helping others,” Thomas said.