By: Amanda Coulson
Thomas Black, the Vice Provost for Student Affairs and University Registrar at Stanford University is quite fond of Penn State. Thomas was raised in Nebraska, and moved to Pennsylvania when he was 16 years old, attending Penn State because it was the best financial value at the time. Thomas comes from a family of Penn Staters, his brother and sister attended and his mother was the Assistant Dean in the Student Affairs office for about 15 years. While at Penn State he fell in love with things he never thought he would and embraces them every day.
Thomas went to Penn State Abington, Ogontz as it was called at the time, for a year and then finished earning his bachelor’s degree in history at University Park in 1975, and his Master’s in Education in 1977. Both experiences have molded him to be an ambitious leader at his current position. Thomas said, “I developed my first faculty relationships at Penn State Abington. I gained the confidence that I could do college-level work. I learned to write, and fell in love with history; thank you Claire Hirshfield.” University Park was where Thomas got involved and took advantage of many opportunities. Thomas was a resident assistant for a year, joined a fraternity, worked part time at a gas station, and while juggling all of this he made time for his studies. He said, “I was a geek in learning what I could. For me, it was the perfect place.”
Throughout his career, he has many accomplishments, especially at Stanford, and hopes to achieve more. Thomas has worked in higher education for 39 years in various administrative positions at four major schools, University of Chicago, Duke University, University of North Carolina, and now Stanford University. Thomas has noticed a shift in the way people are thinking about education, especially with the change in technology and the need to adapt. He has been working on some interesting projects at Stanford, and may change the way we document education. The most recent projects he created is perfecting the electronic transcript and being the first school to market electronic certificates. Another aspect he is bringing to education is electronic diplomas, which are the students’ degree online. Thomas hopes to be a leader in documenting learning and making it more feasible with society’s technologically fast pace.
His current position is one that always has him thinking of better ways to positively impact the students’ education. Currently he is responsible for 75 people, and always has to make sure everyone is on board. At Stanford Thomas has a major responsibility of keeping the educational system running. He is accountable for the directory of classes, and also runs the system for registering for classes, grading, and evaluations. The most rewarding gratification Thomas receives within his position is “helping young adults prepare for their futures, hone their identities and establish and develop their cognitive capacities. As an administrator/educator, making sure the environment fosters learning and self-development is what I care about.”
Thomas’ advice for undergraduate students is to learn how to be flexible, creative, collaborative, communicative, and persuasive. He believes students should reflect on their accomplishments throughout the year to see how much they have grown. Thomas states that:
“What I would say to students is to shop widely academically. Try on and wear many intellectual jackets. Find out who or what you are as well as who or what you are not, intellectually, culturally, politically, etc. Develop many curiosities and pursue as many as you can. Be courageous, extend yourself beyond what you have already experienced. Meet different people, and listen to their stories.”
Thomas has had a great Penn State experience and cherishes everything that he has learned and loved from this University. He is proud of his accomplishments and cannot be more thankful for his years at Penn State. He will forever treasure his Penn State family both at home and at the University as a whole. Penn State is ecstatic to have him as an alumnus and cannot wait to see what the future holds for Thomas Black.