Professional Bios

Dr. Norma Thomas

Dr. Thomas received her bachelor’s degree in social work from Penn State University.  She then went on to obtain her master’s degree in social work from Temple University’s School of Social Administration and her doctorate degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Thomas began as the MSW Program Director at California University of Pennsylvania in the fall of 2007 and retired in January 2017. She was promoted to full professor in 2014.  From 1994-2004 she worked for the Widener University Center for Social Work Education where she achieved tenure as an Associate Professor, also holding positions as Assistant Director and Baccalaureate Program Director.  She worked from 1975-1984 for the Delaware County Office on Services for the Aging and from 1984-1992 for the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging.  In addition, she was the co-founder and President of the Center on Ethnic & Minority Aging, Inc., Philadelphia, PA from 1995-2008.  She is currently an online instructor for the Center For Social Work Education, Widener University. She is the recipient of many community service awards including: 2016 Dr. Caryl Sheffield Award for Excellence, California University of Pa. , 2015 Spirit of CARIE Award-Philadelphia, Pa., 2010 Woman of Distinction Award, Southwest Women’s Ministry of the Pa. Baptist State Convention; 2008 Hobart C. Jackson Award for service to ethnic & minority elders in the Philadelphia region; 2007 Second Place Outstanding President Award at the North Atlantic Regional Conference of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.; The 2006 Senior Service Excellence Award presented by the Crozer Keystone Health System, Chester, Pa.; 2005 Social Worker of the Year Award, National Association of Social Workers, Philadelphia, Pa.; 2004 Second Place Good Citizen Award, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., North Atlantic Regional Conference; 2004 Philip E. Coleman Award for Distinguished Service to Project Prepare, Widener University; 2004 Temple University General Alumni Association Certificate of Honor; 2004 Institute of Geriatric Social Work-Boston University, First Career Achievement Award; 2004 National Association of Black Social Workers Widener University Chapter Founder’s Award; 2003 Chester Assembly No. 30 Order of the Golden Circle Community Service Award;   2002 YWCA Chester, Pa. Community Hero Award; 2000 Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers recognition; 2000 Pennsylvania Brandywine Division National Association of Social Workers Social Worker of the Year Award and 2000 Outstanding Scholar Award, Widener University School of Human Service Professions. In 2007, Dr. Thomas was designated as an honorary “Life-Time Advisor” to Senior Community Services, Delaware County, Pa. in recognition of her years of service to that organization. She currently serves as Secretary of the Board for the East End United Community Center, Uniontown, Pa., serves on the Board of Directors for the Southwest Pennsylvania Area Agency on Aging and the Board of Aging Well, Harrisburg, Pa. is a member of the Gamma Chi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Morgantown, West Virginia, the National Association of Social Workers and the National Association of Black Social Workers.  She is a licensed clinical social worker in the State of Pennsylvania (LCSW) and is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW).

Dr. Raina J. León

Dr. Raina J. León, Cave Canem graduate fellow (2006) and member of the Carolina African American Writers Collective, CantoMundo and Macondo, has been published in over 100 publications in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and academic scholarship.  Her first collection of poetry, Canticle of Idols (2008), was a finalist for both the Cave Canem First Book Poetry Prize (2005) and the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize (2006).  Her second book, Boogeyman Dawn (2013), was a finalist for the Naomi Long Madgett Prize (2010).  Her third book, sombra:  dis(locate) was released February 2016, Salmon Poetry.  Her first chapbook, profeta without refuge, was released in September 2016 through Nomadic Press and was named a finalist the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses Firecracker Award 2017. 

She has received fellowships and residencies with Macondo, Cave Canem, CantoMundo, Montana Artists Refuge, the Macdowell Colony, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center, the Tyrone Guthrie Center in Annamaghkerrig, Ireland and Ragdale. 

She is currently an associate professor of education in the Kalmanovitz School of Education at St. Mary’s College of California.  She came to Saint Mary’s from the Department of Defense Education Activity, where for three years she taught military dependents in Bamberg, Germany.   

León received her BA in Journalism from Pennsylvania State University with minors in African American Studies, English, International Studies, and Spanish, graduating with honors in English with a poetry manuscript supervised by Dr. William J. Harris and Dr. Aldon Nielsen; MA in Teaching of English from Teachers College Columbia University; MA in Educational Leadership from Framingham State University; and PhD in Education under the Culture, Curriculum and Change strand at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.  She recently completed her MFA in Poetry at Saint Mary’s College of California. 

Her research interests include high school engagement and the teaching of poetry, critical pedagogy, critical literacy in the high school classroom, and educational technology usage among high school educators.  She also is a founding editor of The Acentos Review, an online quarterly, international journal devoted to the promotion and publication of Latinx arts. 

She was named a West Catholic Preparatory (Philadelphia) Hall of Fame honoree (2013); a recipient of the SMC Provost Research Grant (2015); a SMC Faculty Early Career Awardee (2016); a recipient of the CILSA Engaged Faculty Award (2016), and a recipient of the Saint Mary’s College of California Alumni Association award for faculty service named after Saint John Baptist De La Salle (2017).