IAS Intersections

Ayva Thomas

IAS Intersections

On liberating education

Ayva Thomas describes her journey as “going from hating education to falling in love with what it could be.”  

Currently Assistant Director of Racial and Educational Justice for the Northshore School District, where she is working to create the institutional conditions that are necessary for justice in education, Ayva forged her pathway through the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences.  She is a two-time alum of the school, having earned her B.A. in Community Psychology in 2017 and her M.A. in Cultural Studies (MACS) in 2019.

In this interview, she describes how her IAS undergraduate education helped her find her passion, reflect on her experience of public education as a Black girl, and practice co-imagining and co-creating more just and liberating futures.

Critical Consciousness/ A Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Ayva describes the oppressive effects of her schooling that denied the knowledge and experiences of students in general, and Black students specifically. She contrasts that with critical pedagogy that can and should be leveraged for all students.  This type of pedagogy can be liberating for students who are oppressed.

Experiential Learning/ Mentorship Matters

As an undergraduate, Ayva took a Community-Based Learning and Research (CBLR) course that focused on issues of educational access and equity. Here she describes how the course moved her to take action, by founding the North Star College Mentorship Program for middle-school students.  

Discovering your Passion

Ayva describes the process of discovery that unfolded her educational and professional pathway, and the importance of mentorship in that process.

Authentic Mentorship

Ayva describes the way her research took shape from her own experience, and in dialogue with her MA in Cultural Studies (MACS) mentor, Susan Harewood, and the importance of intergenerational mentors who represent the ethnic and racial background of the student.  

Community and Alliance-Building

Ayva describes her current work as Assistant Director for Racial and Educational Justice for Northshore School District, and how she is living
out her vision of mentorship by entering into participatory spaces created by/with/for Black students’ voices and leadership.

Grounding and Bridging/ Locking Arms across Generations

Ayva describes the commitments, visions, and solidarities that animate her and her work.

Using One’s Power/ Freedom Dreaming

Ayva looks forward to what’s next, and the importance of utilizing one’s power and access to create conditions for community and for change.