Even after graduation, alumna Samantha Thomas, AS’10, continues to embrace Drake’s mission. With the start of her nonprofit, Global Arts Therapy, she’s combining a meaningful personal life with professional accomplishments and responsible global citizenship.
The travel bug has always been in Thomas. Before she transferred to Drake, she studied abroad in London. While across the pond, she stumbled upon Globalization and Social Change, a social science book by Dianne Perrons. She read the book cover to cover, scribbling notes and lots of questions in the margins.
After London, Thomas studied abroad in Prague, and it was there that a professor challenged her to write about underground culture and art.
“I wrote a paper outlining a sustainable development center committed to assisting the Roma to gain access to job training and education,” she explains.
After graduation Thomas went to South Korea. Seoul, she discovered, was a thriving capital city, but just across the nearby border, North Korea appeared barren. She began asking South Korean friends about development issues with the North.
“I felt ashamed and angry that I could not go to the North and help the communities,” says Thomas.
While in Nepal, Thomas saw communities that, despite suffering from poverty, appeared happy. When she was in Kathmandu (the capital of Nepal), she wrote the blueprint for Global Arts Therapy, determined to spread the feelings of hope and happiness she experienced among community members in Nepal.
Both of these experiences were motivators for Thomas, informing her decision to explore art therapy to address these issues.
“I knew I could begin empowering communities through art if I used social development as a vehicle for Global Arts Therapy,” explains Thomas.
The Drake experience, says Thomas, was instrumental in her planning stage; the University taught Thomas focus, diligence, and determination.
“The international relations program at Drake is one of the finest in the country,” says Thomas. “The program promotes strong global understanding and social development, which were key in developing Global Arts Therapy.”
Thomas’ nonprofit aims to utilize recycled and repurposed materials to create artwork that further enhances and develops the economic stability of communities, including urban areas in Iowa.
“I’m thankful for my Drake experience and the guidance I received, and continue to receive, from Drake professors,” says Thomas. “It isn’t easy going against the grain and starting a non-profit, but I knew that creating this program would allow me to utilize my degree to the fullest.”