Shawnna L. Thomas-EL is a PhD student enrolled in Drexel's program in Educational Leadership Development and Learning Technologies. A native of West Philadelphia, Shawnna grew up under the umbrella of University City where advanced education and the integration of research and practical applications were presented as solutions to the issues and challenges that are faced by communities. Intellectually curious and ambitious, she was educated in the Philadelphia School District and enrolled early from a progressive high-school in the Chestnut Hill section of the city into Drexel University where she completed her Bachelor's degree in International Area Studies and her Master's degree in Arts Administration.
Shawnna's professional career began as a regional admissions counselor and ambassador for Drexel and subsequently, she worked as the Assistant Director of Recruitment at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (now Salus University). She has always been a passionate advocate for creating access to higher education for traditionally underrepresented groups. Her dissertation research will examine the impact of exposing underrepresented students, primarily African-American, to competitive colleges in middle school on their ability to successfully compete for admission, thrive, and graduate from elite institutions. She is active in her community as a parent volunteer at her daughters' schools and dance academy, and has been a long-time member of the Drexel University Gospel Choir, participating both as a student and alumna.