Cassandra Thomas

Cassandra Thomas, The Citadel Graduate College Class of 2014

Citadel Graduate College student Cassandra Thomas: off the grid

Cassandra Thomas graduates from The Citadel Graduate College Saturday, May 10,  earning two master’s degrees—business administration and project management—as well as certificates in both technical project management and leadership.  

During her three years at The Citadel, Thomas has worked as a graduate assistant in the Department of Political Science and held internships with three different organizations—Scrantom Dulles International a litigation and investment firm, as a research and market coordinator; Evan-Ellis Publishing in Washington, D.C., as a website manager who operates two political interest websites remotely; and The Charleston Council for International Visitors where she assisted coordinating programs for foreign guests who visited through the State Department.   In addition, Thomas will be the inaugural recipient of the Graduate Student Award for Academic Excellence and Leadership when she walks the stage.

We sat down with Thomas recently to find out about her and how she managed to juggle so much.

OEA:  Where is home?

Thomas:  Au Gres, Mich., a small town on Lake Huron.  There were 38 people in my graduating class.  We got our first stop light when I was 16 years old.

OEA:  That’s roughly 1,000 miles away.  Why Charleston?  Why The Citadel?

Thomas:  I double majored in political science and legal studies at Lake Superior University in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.  After college I worked as a paralegal for a bio-tech company in Connecticut and then moved to New York to work for a boutique law firm in the World Trade Center. The law firm folded when the market crashed, and I couldn’t find a reliable job.  I moved to Charleston because I had friends here, and Michigan wasn’t really an option because its economy was really suffering, but in Charleston, I had trouble finding a job in my field. 

“MBA preferred, but not required” kept popping up during my job searches, and I realized that to be competitive I needed to think about getting an MBA.  I started looking at The Citadel program because of its reputation and accreditation.      

OEA:  So you started off in the School of Business.  What made you decide to add project management?

Thomas:  Two required courses in the MBA program, were in quantitative methods—the classes were very intense and challenging, but at the same time, useful.  The classes taught me that although finance might be how you make your money grow, project management teaches how to spend your money wisely. Additionally, project management allows me to have a specialty. In my opinion, the two complement each other very well. 

OEA:  What’s been your biggest challenge?

Thomas:  Time management!  Making time to do everything.  I’ve sacrificed family, friends and weekends to study. I’ve been blessed to have employers who are understanding and who have allowed me to switch my focus from work to school during midterm and exam periods.

OEA:  What do you do for fun?

Thomas:  I am pretty active. I surf, hike, run in half-marathons, and try to get out to the beach every once in a while.  Recently a friend of mine and I came in second place in the Hunting Island Adventure Biathlon.  When there’s a break, I love to travel.  I’ve been to more than 20 countries.

OEA:  What’s been your most interesting travel experience?

Thomas:  The Rain Forest in Brazil.  It was off the grid.  A friend and I flew to Colombia and from there we went to Leticia, a city on the Amazon River where you can see three countries all at once—Brazil, Peru, and Colombia.   From Leticia we hired a guide and a boat and took a two-and-a-half hour ride into the Amazon.  A family, who we’d never met, was our host, and we slept in a hut.  We fished, and we ate what we caught—piranhas.  We hiked; saw pink dolphins, which are a type of freshwater dolphins indigenous to the Amazon; and we would go out at night to find caimans (what we call alligators)—you can find them better at night because their eyes glow when you shine your flashlight on them.

OEA:  What are your post-graduation plans?

Thomas:  I would love to work for the State Department or a government contractor.  Eventually, I want to become a foreign officer.  I’m back to job hunting again, but this time, I have the preferred MBA, and on top of that I have a master’s degree in project management and two graduate certificates. 

I’m very optimistic.