Monique Thomas is no ordinary Washington University graduate student. In addition to pursuing both Master of Public Health and Master of Business Administration degrees at Washington University in St. Louis, Thomas also took a term off to work for the Ferguson Commission in the months following the non-indictment in the Michael Brown case.
The Ferguson Commission is an independent group formed to study the underlying social and economic conditions underscored by the unrest in the wake of the death of Michael Brown in August 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.
Despite her passion for the commission’s mission and her sense of personal obligation, the decision to work for the commission was not easy.
“There were so many risks that I had to manage in my mind in saying yes to doing the Ferguson Commission work,” she said. “I was set up on a track. I had a company that was interested in hiring me full time. I had just gotten married, and I had already added a full year to my graduate studies because I wanted to pursue an MPH. From a professional standpoint, it was a risk. But those risks weren’t enough to stop me because I knew my training in the business school and public health program, as well as my history, uniquely positioned me to understand what the Ferguson Commission needed in starting up. It was one of the moments where I was called.”
Thomas chose to work on the Ferguson Commission and to enroll in the MBA program at Olin Business School for common reasons: strength and courage.
Before deciding on Olin, she set up a meeting with Dean Mahendra Gupta. “After meeting with Dean Gupta, I knew that at Olin I could be strong and courageous and that I would need to be strong and courageous. I wanted to be prepared for bold work.”
“To me health care is a great playground for thinking about innovative solutions. I am looking forward to supporting projects and developing products that address huge problems in the health care system.”
Monique Thomas, MBA ’16, MPH ’16
Thomas traces her interest in health care to her childhood. Growing up in the Bronx, Thomas saw firsthand the difficulty of immigrant life, as well as the impact of drugs in her community.
“The Bronx of my youth was riddled with public health problems,” Thomas said.
“I’ve understood the world from a public health perspective from a young age,” she said. “I didn’t have the language for it at the time, but I knew I was interested in what makes a community work together and the business side of how the health care system works.”
After graduation, Thomas plans to continue working for Centene Corporation, a multinational and multiline company that provides services to government-sponsored health care programs, focusing on under-insured and uninsured people. “The Centene Corporation encouraged me to work with the Ferguson Commission,” she said.
Beyond that, Thomas has no set plans. “I do best when things are undefined. I love taking complex problems and building pathways toward solutions.”