New WT Vice President for Student Affairs Hired, Assumes Role Dec. 1

New+WT+Vice+President+for+Student+Affairs+Hired%2C+Assumes+Role+Dec.+1

Copy by Chip Chandler, 806-651-2124, [email protected]

 

CANYON, Texas — A Texas native with a deep passion for regional universities will be West Texas A&M University’s new vice president for student affairs.

Dr. Christopher Thomas, currently vice president for student affairs at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana, will begin his new duties at WT on Dec. 1.

Thomas joins the WT administration in a new role following the elevation of enrollment management to the vice-presidential level. Mike Knox was named vice president for enrollment management Aug. 1 and assumed that role full time Oct. 3. Amber Black, assistant vice president for student enrollment, engagement and success, is serving as interim vice president for student affairs until Thomas’ arrival.

“Establishing this position confirms our commitment to enrolling and retaining students,” WT President Walter V. Wendler said. “Our top priority is serving the students of the Texas Panhandle, and Dr. Thomas is qualified for this role and understands the vision to serve the region. Coupled with that vision for regional distinctiveness is the concept of going further and working hard to make WT attractive to students for its commitment and values to people from afar—from the Panhandle to the world.”

Thomas will oversee all areas of student affairs, ranging from student support and engagement functions to campus life and leadership programs.

“Dr. Thomas brings to WT an impressive background and record in student affairs,” Knox said. “I look forward to welcoming him to the WT community and collaborating with him to help students achieve their greatest potential.”

A native of Orange, Thomas originally planned to be a school counselor, but while pursuing his master of education in counseling and guidance at Texas State University, Thomas discovered an affinity for working in student affairs.

“Our responsibility to our students is to give them all the resources, tools and opportunities they need to graduate and get the most out of their university experience as possible, balancing their academic pursuits with the invaluable skills that campus involvement can provide,” Thomas said.

Thomas was the top candidate among 45 applicants in a nationwide search. Eight were interviewed, and three visited the WT campus for a final round of interviews.

“All three candidates to reach the finalist status were excellent options,” said Dr. Neil Terry, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. “Dr. Thomas brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the position, combined with a strategic vision to recruit, engage, retain and graduate students that resonates with West Texas A&M University students, staff and administration.”

Thomas said he was drawn to WT because of its status as a well-regarded regional university and on the strength of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

“That is what really spoke to me the most,” Thomas said. “I believe strongly in regional institutions. We’re sometimes overlooked, and I think that’s a shame. Larger state schools certainly have their purpose, too, but we are the ones regularly taking care of parts of the state that wouldn’t be serviced if not for regional institutions.

“Very often, people want to stay in their home areas, and regional institutions make it possible for them to better themselves to take care of themselves and their families,” Thomas said.

Thomas, wife Melissa and daughter Camille will move to Canyon, where Camille will finish her junior year in high school.

Thomas began his career in higher education in 2001 as a program adviser at the University of North Texas. The following year, he began a 16-year career at McNeese, where he worked in several student affairs-related positions, culminating in his current position, which he has held since 2018.

“WT feels like it will be a great fit,” Thomas said. “My commitment to serve students, our campus and the surrounding community never waivers. I believe in the power of higher education to change the world.”

With both Thomas and Knox in place, WT’s number of vice presidents will remain the same as it has been for six years. In order to better serve the needs of students, enrollment and student affairs positions were split, and an additional vice-presidential position was phased out.

The WT 125 plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign. To date, the five-year campaign — which publicly launched in September 2021 — has raised more than $110 million.

 

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