Earlier this year, the University of Georgia announced the 2022 40 Under 40 honorees. The winners include 7 graduates with SPIA degrees. 40 Under 40 celebrates young alumni leading the pack in their industries and communities. Learn more about our Honoree Grant Thomas, Director of the Governor’s Office of Health Strategy and Coordination.

What was your favorite SPIA class or favorite SPIA professor?
This is a difficult question to answer since SPIA is so fortunate to have a deep bench of strong faculty members. If I have to pick one, I will say Dr. Charles Bullock. I joke sometimes that I really majored in “Bullock” instead of Political Science due to the fact that I earned 30 credit hours from Dr. Bullock on my transcript after having completed two courses and two internships. Dr. Bullock is a living encyclopedia on Georgia politics, and I always was learning something new every day in his classes. He is also knows a large number of legislators, lobbyists, and staff at the Capitol because he taught many of them when they were students at UGA. His commitment to connecting current students with alumni through internship and mentoring opportunities is invaluable.

What was your favorite study spot as a student?
Miller Learning Center (MLC). Or, the SLC as we called it when I was a student.

What obscure thing are you talented at?
Impersonations. People have told me that I can do very good impersonations of people. Additionally, I have been told I have an innate ability to remember and retain obscure political facts and history.

What is one weird fact or tidbit that you still remember from school?
Upper classmen telling underclassmen at UGA that it was incorrect and improper to call the MLC the MLC. Instead, it was the Student Learning Center (SLC).

What one superpower would you give to everyone in the world? How would the world change?
I am reading the book now, “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” by John Mark Comer. I think the main theme and premise of that book will inspire my response to this question. Even though technology has evolved over time and we can do things and complete tasks faster than ever before, we have less time than we have ever had. Why? Because we have replaced that saved time with other things. We are all busy, and this has led to most people feeling like they have to “hurry” through everything. When we are constantly hurrying, we lose the ability to live in the moment and be present with others around us. Our relationships are in turn adversely impacted. While it may not sound like a superpower, I would give everyone the power to live in the present and moment and resist the urge to hurry. Our relationships with friends, family, colleagues, and those around us would be much more meaningful and fruitful as a result.

Where’s the next place on your travel bucket list and why?
I have a goal of visiting every presidential library and attending a game at every MLB baseball stadium. So far, I have visited seven out of 13 open/existing presidential libraries and 14 out of 30 MLB baseball stadiums. So, the next place would be where one of these stadiums or libraries are located. I have these goals because I am passionate about both politics and sports.

What is one piece of advice you have for current SPIA students?
Relationships. Take the time and be intentional about developing and nurturing meaningful relationships. Success academically is important, but arguably even more important is your relationships with other people. Relationships with your peers and fellow students, relationships with faculty, and relationships with mentors in your future line of work/industry are critical for your success as a student and being successful in your career. You never know where someone may end up so treat everyone with dignity and respect. #1 because it is the right thing to do, and #2 because you never know when you might need to call upon someone for help. In order to do this, it is critical to slow down and minimize the urge to “hurry” through life.