Years of campus involvement have given Thomas tools for success

Published: July 10, 2020
Updated: July 14, 2020
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During the school year, Bailey Thomas never has a moment to spare, and she likes it that way. The rising fifth-year senior is involved in almost every type of organization on campus, ranging from community service groups to Auburn Greek Life organizations to first-year experience programs.

“If I do not stay busy, I will procrastinate, so I really try to keep myself as busy as I can,” Thomas said. “Obviously, school always comes first, so I have to finish academic things before I go all out on the involvement side.”

The Sardis, Alabama-native dedicates most of her free time to serving on campus. During her past four years at Auburn, Thomas has been a project coordinator for The BIG Event, a Successfully Orienting Students leader, a High School Leadership Council advisor, an EAGLES WINGS peer mentor, the local philanthropy chair of Delta Delta Delta sorority and a College Advisory Panelist for Tridelta Nationals.

“During my time at Auburn and through my involvement on Auburn’s campus, I have learned how to interview, how to think on my feet, how to be flexible and adaptable, how to communicate with different types of people, how to work through conflicts and disagreements, how to lead meetings, et cetera,” Thomas said.

Thomas has benefited the most from her work with the Best Buddies program, an organization that promotes the inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Auburn by pairing them with college students. The organization has given the rehabilitation and disabilities studies major valuable experience that she will put to use in the future as an occupational therapist.

Thomas, who serves as the president of Best Buddies, says the nonprofit organization meets once a month for themed parties where the pairs enjoy each other’s company over music, dancing, crafts and food. The college students frequently meet with their buddies outside the parties for dinner, a sweet treat or a walk around campus.

As president, Thomas has many responsibilities.

“I am in charge of facilitating everything and anything to do with Best Buddies, from the paperwork to being the main contact for parents, group homes and the community,” she said. “Whatever needs to be done, I will do.”

Thomas joined Best Buddies three years ago after spending a summer as a unit leader at Camp Summit, a nonprofit, barrier-free summer camp for people of all ages with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

“At camp, my campers taught me what unconditional love and childlike joy were,” Thomas said. “I learned more from them than they could ever learn from me. Coming back from camp, I knew I had to get involved with something along the same lines at Auburn, and that’s when I found out about Best Buddies and knew I had to be a part of it.”

Thomas’ passion for working with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities also led her to switch her major, even though that meant graduating a year behind schedule.

When Thomas is not busy planning fun events and activities for the buddies, she is making sure that Greek Life on Auburn’s campus is running smoothly.

Thomas serves as the administrative vice president for the Auburn Panhellenic Council, an organization committed to bringing Auburn women with diverse backgrounds and interests together to celebrate sisterhood through sorority membership.

As the administrative vice president, Thomas has a wide range of responsibilities.

“I oversee all of Panhellenic’s programming, from scholarship interviews to Greek Sing to new member education trainings,” Thomas said. “I’m also the head of the Panhellenic Cabinet and help all of my wonderful cabinet gals plan whatever events or projects they are working on throughout the year.”

However, as a member of the recruitment executive board, the group responsible for overseeing fall 2020 sorority recruitment, Thomas is facing some unexpected challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Panhellenic Council and Thomas have been hard at work making revised recruitment schedules, setting up virtual recruitment parties and making safety decisions in compliance with local laws regarding social distancing and large gatherings leading up to the start of recruitment in August.

The Auburn Panhellenic Council recently was recognized as one of the “Best Practices for Communicating About Fall 2020 Recruitment” by the National Panhellenic Conference.

Through her several years of campus involvement, Thomas has developed the skills and tools needed to be successful in her future career. The spring 2021 graduate will be well-prepared for whatever challenges she might face in graduate school, the next chapter of her life.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.