By Matescia V. Thompson Stroud, B.S., MHRM
Thompson Chapel is Celebrating Black Excellence by showcasing many of our modern day heroes, leaders and authors! We would like to extend our thanks to Dr. Aaron Thompson for being the First Speaker in our Series for our Black History Month Celebration, and to all those who attended our First Conversation of the month. Dr. Thompson has a Lee County connection because he is the First Cousin of Samuel Thompson Sr. It is always great to have family honored as one of our role models and leaders of KY.
Dr. Aaron Thompson is a nationally recognized leader in higher education with a focus on policy, student success and organizational leadership and design. He serves as President of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education; he is the first African American and first Kentuckian in this role. He is also a professor of sociology in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Eastern Kentucky University. He recently served as Interim President of Kentucky State University. Thompson holds a Doctorate in Sociology in areas of organizational behavior, and race and gender relations.
In addition, his leadership experience spans 27 years across higher education, business and numerous non-profit boards. Thompson has researched, taught and consulted in areas of diversity, leadership, ethics, multicultural families, race and ethnic relations, student success, first-year students, retention, cultural competence and organizational design throughout his career.
As a highly sought after, national speaker, Thompson has presented more than 800 workshops, seminars and invited lectures in these areas: race and gender diversity; living an unbiased life; overcoming obstacles to gain success; creating a school environment for academic success; cultural competence; workplace interaction; leadership; organizational goal setting; building relationships; the first-year seminar, and a variety of other topics. He continues to serve as a consultant to educational institutions (elementary, secondary and postsecondary), corporations, non-profit organizations, police departments, and other governmental agencies.
Dr. Thompson has published more than 30 publications and numerous research and peer reviewed presentations. He has authored or co-authored the following books: Changing Student Culture from the Ground Up, The Sociological Outlook, Infusing Diversity and Cultural Competence into Teacher Education, Peer to Peer Leadership: Changing Student Culture from the Ground Up. He also co-authored Thriving in College and Beyond: Research-Based Strategies for Academic Success, Thriving in the Community College and Beyond: Research-Based Strategies for Academic Success and Personal Development, Diversity and the College Experience, Focus on Success and Black Men and Divorce.
It was truly a blessing to have Dr. Thompson share his knowledge with us while engaging in dynamic conversation. Dr. Thompson addressed questions from community members that covered a variety of topics to include: how he is helping Kentucky close the education gap; increasing diversity in our classrooms; building partnerships with global companies like the Federal Reserve; being among the first in the country to move our colleges and universities to being test optional by eliminating the requirement of the ACT/SAT as another obstacle to education; and overcoming bias and racism in education.
Dr. Thompson also spoke at length about how to make Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) programs more accessible to minority communities with “weed-in” programs that focus on meeting students where they are and building them up as opposed to weeding out students that have to work a little harder in the areas of math and science.
To end our conversation Dr. Thompson took questions from some of our students. Xavion Thompson, a senior at LCMHS was interested in knowing which route would be best in pursuing a post-secondary education in the field of IT or computer tech, a four-year college or a technical college? Dr. Thompson responded that in preparing for college and next steps, students needed to complete the FAFSA and learn more about the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship (WRKS) program.
The WRKS program helps students that qualify to obtain diplomas, certificates or associate degrees in fields like Cybersecurity, IT, Phlebotomy, Biomedical Equipment Technology, Applied Engineering Technology and many others at various schools across the state. To get more information on WRKS please go to https://www.kheaa.com/website/kheaa/work_ready?main=1 .
Christopher Thompson, a 6th grade student from Lee County Middle School, asked “How can we get more curriculum about African American History in our classrooms? Since February 1, 2021, none of my teachers have mentioned anything about Black History Month, nor taught any lessons on our History? I was really looking forward to studying about the accomplishments of Black Americans.”
Dr. Thompson advised Christopher to ask his teachers if they could prepare a lesson on Black Americans during February, for Black History Month. Also, share with them that The Clark Foundation, offers free curriculum to teachers related to African American History, and encouraged teachers and administrators not to be scared to teach this curriculum and to tell these stories. You can find more information here: https://www.guidestar.org/profile/61-1259085 .
Gabriel Stroud, a freshman at Princeton High School (Cincinnati, OH) asked, “Why don’t schools focus on teaching more practical life skills”?
Dr. Thompson was happy to respond to this question and advised “…we are going to offer education that applies practical and employability skills while in school. One of those goals is to have a work based learning experience… those skills include not only welding and plumbing but also liberal arts by teaching students to be critical thinkers while applying technical skills”.
Also, Destiny Thompson, a freshman at LCMHS, expressed her appreciation of Dr. Thompson being our Guest Speaker, and sharing information with the group, especially encouraging students to continue to achieve and challenge themselves.
We were grateful to have Dr. Thompson as our First Speaker in this Series and we know Kentucky is fortunate to have him at the helm driving the policies on education. To learn more about Dr. Aaron Thompson and the changes being implemented under his leadership, you can go to http://cpe.ky.gov/# or connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you would like to listen to the full conversation with Dr. Aaron Thompson please reach out to Rev. Dr. Avis Thompson of Thompson Chapel for more details. Thompsonchapel1@gmail.com.
Please feel free to join us next week as we continue to Celebrate Black Excellence with our Special Guest, Dr. Lillie B. Prude, author of The Journey: From the First Heaven and the First Earth to the New Heaven and the New Earth.