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Mary Thomas

Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching, 2021

Mary E. Thomas, associate professor of women's, gender and sexuality studies, has received the Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching, which annually recognizes up to 10 faculty members for their teaching excellence. Awardees are nominated by students, faculty and alumni and are chosen by a committee of students, previous recipients and alumni.

Thomas demonstrates a remarkable commitment to social justice in and outside of the classroom. She has a unique teaching style and is always eager to support her students.

“The courses I took with Dr. Thomas on settler colonialism and mass incarceration were two of the most impactful courses I took at Ohio State as an undergraduate,” a former student of Thomas’ wrote. “Dr. Thomas taught difficult subject matter in a way that engaged every student, challenged us, and encouraged us to think critically about systemic oppression that we were often complacent in." 

Trained as a feminist geographer, her work examines how youth in the U.S. come to understand themselves and their identities in and through institutional spaces like schools and detention facilities. Her areas of expertise include the North Dakota Bakken oil field and its settler colonial temporalities, juvenile justice and girls' experiences of detention, psychoanalytic and feminist theories of the subject, and prison education.

“Her sensitivity around hard truths and her unwavering commitment to uplift others, especially incarcerated girls, is so important to model in this moment of unrest and societal change,” the student wrote. “She is a teacher and a role model that plants seeds with her students that continue to grow long after they walk out of her classroom.”

Thomas and other recipients will receive a $5,000 honorarium, as well as an increase of $1,200 to their base salary. Awardees are also inducted into Ohio State’s Academy of Teaching.