María Colompos-Tohtsonie is a doctoral student studying Educational Leadership and Policy at Texas Tech University. María was raised in a multilingual and public-service-oriented home in Chicago, Illinois. At an early age, she was intrigued by the impact of policies on people and how policies influence the trajectories of opportunities afforded to people. She was organically linked to her community and molded her policy focus from that communal engagement. This engagement ignited María’s intellectual curiosity in the public policy process and humanitarian affairs.
As a Research Scholar in the Undergraduate Research Mentor Program and an ROTC Cadet at Northern Illinois University (NIU), María researched the sociocultural perspectives of undergraduate female scholars of color who are simultaneously training in a university ROTC program. During the summer of 2014, while an ROTC cadet, she expanded her cultural horizons as a Spanish translator and public affairs officer for a humanitarian mission in Guatemala. The humanitarian mission to Guatemala gave her visceral appreciation for the beauty and diversity of the world and its people. That experience, coupled with the success in both the academic and policy arenas reinforced her understanding of the value of integrating multiple perspectives. In 2015, María was awarded the Kevin D. Knight Leadership Award and the James L. Massey Social Justice Award at NIU for her active participation in organizations that promote social equity such as the Remember Project, formerly known as Save Chicago Campaign, Mortar Board, and the Chicago Veteran’s Association.
After earning Bachelor of Arts degrees at Northern Illinois University in History and Sociology and a national military honor--Distinguished Military Graduate, Colompos-Tohtsonie entered the United States Army on active duty and earned the rank of Captain. Currently, she is continuing her military career in the U.S. Army Reserves, specializing in public affairs and military police. As a U.S. Army officer, she gained experience in leadership and strategic policy communications and that she successfully applied as a policy analyst at the Pentagon. She enrolled at Northwestern University and received a Master of Arts in Public Policy and Administration with an emphasis in global policy. María’s research and publications include mentoring students who are culturally and/or linguistically diverse, education policy, historical and contemporary legal procedures, culturally-responsive leadership, and public policy. She has presented her research at national and international conferences. Her recent article, “Exploring the Heartbeat of the Black Family: Observations Through the Lens of Endarkened Epistemology,” provides a new clarity across decades of Black-family analyses by historians, sociologists, and policy makers. Additionally, her book, Borders, Bras, and Battles: A Practical Guide to Mentor Undergraduate Women to Achieve Career Success earned a 2016 Society of Professors of Education Book Award.