Alumni Board Scholar Profile: Q&A with 2014 scholar Brandon Kahlil Thomas

14 Dec Alumni Board Scholar Profile: Q&A with 2014 scholar Brandon Kahlil Thomas

Brandon Thomas and his mom, Robin, joined scholarship director Tiffany Anderson as speakers at the 2016 Boettcher Scholar orientation.

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Angelique Diaz.

Name: Brandon Kahlil Thomas
Scholar Year: 2014
Hometown: Aurora
College(s), Degree(s) and Graduation Year(s):
University of Colorado-Boulder, Linguistics (B.A./M.A.), December 2018

What are you currently interested in pursuing after graduating?

The fun thing about being a linguist is that there are very diverse opportunities available. My current plan is to teach English in Korea before coming back to the metro area and doing the same work for Colorado adults who don’t speak English. I’m also interested in doing work with local governments attempting to communicate with and hear the needs of immigrant populations. Colorado is a hotspot for immigration, and language barriers have left thousands of people without a voice. I want to help build a society where every voice can be heard, in whatever language it has access to.

Tell us about what activities, groups and/or organizations you have joined in college and why you joined them.

At CU, I work often with the Black Student Alliance (BSA), Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPoC) and UMAS y MEChA (a Chicano-run Latinx student group). Identity is at the crux of what I study because I think that identity is at the center of how we learn about ourselves and others. I work with these groups on campus because they build people who look and think like me to be advocates and activists, and build communities together. Connecting with other Black, Latinx and Queer people is key to my emotional health, and the communities I’ve built from these groups encourage me to blossom and be better.

Tell us about an important mentor you have had.

To this day, my most trusted mentor is an old high school teacher, David Gates. Mr. Gates is one of those rare men who can find beauty in anyone, significance in anything and comedy in any place. And he is brilliant! I spent many weeks just watching the way he interacted with people around us, in the classroom and outside of it, and he inspired me to be to empathetic and caring person I’m growing to be: he truly is the embodiment of caring and understanding. I hope to visit him and his wife soon in Japan.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Someone once told me, “At the end of the day, the best way to measure success is looking in a mirror.” I don’t remember who said it to me, but it encouraged me to begin a ritual of looking in the mirror every morning and thinking about who I saw there, and how I felt about him. Especially in recent years, that’s something that I’ve had to do at several points to gauge my own success and make sure I am a person I enjoy being.

If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why?

My mother named me after the Lebanese poet and philosopher Kahlil Gibran, and I feel like in many ways, that makes him a part of me. I’ve read most of his works, but I think it’d be pleasant to sit down with him, face to face, and share a nice meal.

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