Living in a residence hall with more than 600 students would not be the perfect job for everybody. For UT Police Sgt. Meshia Thomas, it’s just right.
She believes several experiences in her life prepared her for this assignment at the newly reopened Laurel Hall, which houses sorority members. She’s been a college athlete, caretaker of her ailing grandmother and onetime resident at the YWCA. She is also now a police officer and rape self-defense instructor.
"It’s an easy fit," Thomas says. "I call it fate. It was meant to be."
Admittedly, her apartment on the first floor probably does not provide the peace and quiet most adults seek after a long day at work.
"One of the first nights I was here, there was a line of girls going out the door, singing their sorority songs," Thomas said.
Thomas’ main duty with UT Police is to lead the Community Relations Unit, or CRU (pronounced "crew"). CRU offers educational programming and victim assistance and acts as a liaison between members of the community and the police department.
Thomas’ residency in Laurel is the ultimate manifestation of "Enforcement Through Cooperation," the motto of UT Police. While living in Laurel, she does routine walk-throughs and will offer several safety programs to residents.
Her main job is to keep people safe, but she also hopes to inspire and encourage both the women living in Laurel and other students across campus.
Thomas is from a small town in Georgia called Screven, about an hour outside of Savannah. She left her hometown to play basketball at Tennessee State University in Nashville. Thomas returned to Georgia for a few years to take care of her grandmother. And when she was ready to take up a career again, Thomas chose to move to Knoxville to be close to friends.
Thomas’ first job with UT Police seven years ago was in dispatch. Since then, she has become an officer and has worked in patrol and investigation before CRU.
She lived at the YWCA when she first arrived at UT and saw firsthand the struggles of women who lost their families or were victims of sexual assault and drug and alcohol abuse. Thomas believes that experience, coupled with others in her life, helps her interact with students, especially the women living in Laurel.
"These women have all the tools in front of them. I have dealt with people who did not," Thomas said. "I want to encourage them to be safe and not be victims."
Thomas received a Chancellor’s Citation for Community Service in 2007. She also is a liaison with the Women’s Athletic Department and traveled with the Lady Vols basketball team during their national championship run in March.