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Leader in lifelong learning appointed dean for DePaul’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies

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For more than 15 years, Dr. Tatum Thomas has committed herself to preparing adult and nontraditional learners for the next stage in their careers. Effective July 1, she will serve as dean for DePaul's School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

Thomas currently serves as senior associate dean of student affairs at Columbia University's School of Professional Studies in New York City. Prior to her current role, she served as the director of academic services at New York University's School of Professional Studies.

“Leading and designing emerging schools of professional studies is an area of expertise for Dr. Thomas," says Interim Provost Salma Ghanem. “Her deep understanding of nontraditional, urban education will strengthen DePaul's longstanding commitment to serve diverse learners. As a collaborative and innovative leader, Dr. Thomas will continue to advance SCPS, further supporting the success of our adult and nontraditional students."

Tatum Thomas
Tatum Thomas will serve as dean for the School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

In her current role at Columbia University, Thomas oversees strategic initiatives to increase quality, retention and student outcomes in the School of Professional Studies. A leader in diversity and inclusion, she managed a first-of-its kind Columbia University HBCU Fellowship program. This successful program invites high-achieving undergraduate seniors to pursue master's degrees, enhancing student readiness with a robust mix of support services and career development opportunities.

“Nontraditional education has been a natural part of my being," Thomas says. “I was an inner-city, first-generation student and the product of multiple institutions that cater to non-traditional learners. I completed my bachelor's degree at night, while holding full-time and part-time positions and raising a small child. I know first-hand that affordability, flexibility, practicality and immediate returns on the investment are essential to adult learners."

During her tenure at Columbia University, Thomas launched multiple student service units. She opened the School of Professional Studies' first lifelong learning career center to provide resources for degree and non-degree students, in addition to alumni. The success of the pilot launch led to the opening of a second center in San Francisco. Relationships she has fostered with civic and corporate partners include Morgan Stanley, Turner Construction, the Mellon Foundation, Firelight Media and the Harlem YMCA of Greater New York.

“Dr. Thomas embodies the mission, values and professional impact represented by innovative schools of continuing education," says Dr. Jason Wingard, Dean and Professor of Columbia University's School of Professional Studies. “She has served as an invaluable partner to me at Columbia—contributing to the preparation of global students for the future of work."

At NYU's School of Professional Studies, she led key initiatives and programs.  Her teams administered graduate degree programs, undergraduate degree programs, continuing education programs and interacted with accrediting bodies for curriculum administration. As part of this work, she collaborated with department chairs and faculty to manage academic portfolios and launch new programs.  Thomas also established a one-stop holistic counseling unit, as well as a judiciary committee to oversee academic integrity at the Division of Programs in Business.

Thomas holds a bachelor's in psychology from Marymount Manhattan College and a master's in higher education administration from Baruch College, City University of New York. She has a doctorate in organizational leadership from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She also earned a certificate of management excellence from the Harvard Business School.  She plans to relocate to Chicago in June.

“DePaul's SCPS fulfills the mission of higher education," Thomas says. “We create a place of opportunity and deliver an excellent education without disrupting lives. I appreciate the caliber of DePaul's faculty and their highly visible commitment to lifelong learning and scholarship. I'm privileged to serve in this community."

Don Opitz, an alumnus and adult education scholar, has served as interim dean for DePaul's SCPS since July 2018.

“Don has led SCPS through a critical time of transition," Ghanem says. “Professional education is a strategic priority for DePaul, and thanks to his expertise, the school will continue on its positive trajectory. I am very grateful for all Don has done for the faculty, staff and students of SCPS."

DePaul officially launched SCPS in 2019. The school builds upon the work of its predecessors, the School for New Learning and the Office of Continuing and Professional Education. Aligned with the university's strategic plan, SCPS offers nontraditional students a range of lifelong learning opportunities, including credit-hour based, market-responsive professional studies degrees and credentials.