IU Northwest alumnus works as a dedicated public servant
One look at Cory Thames' resume, and you’d think he has no free time whatsoever. The IU Northwest alumnus holds numerous positions across Chicagoland, all geared toward making nearby communities—including Gary—a better place.
Since graduating from IU Northwest with his master's degree in public affairs in 2014, Thames has gone on to serve in various leadership capacities with organizations ranging from the Obama Foundation, and the Business Leadership Counci, where he currently serves as chief engagement officer, to the City of Chicago, to name a few. "In every role, you’re impacting lives," he said. “You do anything you can to make sure folks are successful, and that’s something I hold near and dear to my heart."
Thames attributes much of his success to his own experience at IU Northwest, specifically his time as a graduate assistant with the campus's Brother2Brother College Success Program (B2B).
During his time, he worked closely with James Wallace, Ph.D., director of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs and the B2B program. "The purpose of the B2B organization is to serve as academic support and professional development for males of color within education at all levels," Wallace said. "Through numerous community service activities, members have the opportunity to engage with local leaders establishing their reputations and developing a rapport."
Thames thoroughly enjoyed his time with the program, noting that it helped develop his passion for education. "The program shined a light on the fact that first-generation college students, oftentimes, don't know that there is a wealth of resources designed by the university to ensure their success," he said.
Beyond academic resources, Thames also emphasizes that B2B brought him, and others, numerous social opportunities. While matching students with tutoring services is helpful, it certainly isn't the whole picture. "Encouraging them, speaking life into them, and letting them know they have support was really nice—you get to see the bond of brotherhood form," Thames said.
Wallace echoes this sentiment and hopes that B2B inspires black male students to engage socially, politically, and economically in the local community.
Sharing his learnings
Today, Thames is bringing his experience with B2B to the greater Chicagoland community. He said he still goes back to some of the courses he took at IU Northwest and pulls from that base of knowledge. He also strives to be a mentor for others, just as B2B and other faculty members were for him.
"I am really passionate about mentoring," Thames said. "I pride myself on helping align folks so they can open doors for their own careers." He tries to instill in his mentees that they should uplift each other and put more focus on lending a helping hand, whenever possible.
And that emphasis on being a helper is evident in everything Thames does. He is a staunch supporter of higher education. Most recently, Cory was appointed by Governor J.B. Pritzker to the Board of Trustees of Chicago State University. In addition, Cory serves as the Chairman of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors where he is particularly enthusiastic about boosting African American businesses in the region. Thames knows that, much of the time, it just takes a little support to get started on the road to success.
Thames stresses that one of the first steps to success, be it in higher education or the workforce, is self-love. "Reaffirm the thought in your mind that you can actually do this," he said. "Positive self-talk can actually kick off the process."
In addition to speaking kindly to yourself, Thames also recommends taking advantage of all the opportunities the university has to offer and build personal relationships with professors. After all, his participation in B2B was instrumental in giving him deeper insight into public affairs and education.
And the program director has nothing but kind words to say about Thames. "Cory blossomed into a remarkable leader in the short time he was on our campus," Wallace said. "It is no surprise he was able to transition to several high-profile positions and perform well at each stop along the way."
At the end of the day, Thames is here to be the kind of mentor and leader he worked with at IU Northwest. "Knowing that my work is impactful—that grounds me." he said. "Hopefully, the legacy I’m leaving is that I made the region that raised me better."