Dr. Corlisse Thomas: Her Vision for Student Affairs at Baruch College
Dr. Corlisse Thomas joined Baruch as assistant vice president of Student Affairs in 2006. The Office of Communications and Marketing caught up with Dr. Thomas to learn more about what she does for the College and what she’d like to see for Baruch in the near future.
OCM: As the assistant vice president of Student Affairs at Baruch College, what are the main responsibilities of your job?
Dr. Corlisse Thomas: My job is to supervise 10 of the 16 departments in our division; there are 10 student affairs departments and six enrollment management departments. The departments I oversee are athletics, academic advising, disability student services, counseling, The SEEK program, career development, orientation and new student programs, the early learning center, the counseling center and student life. I’m also responsible for overseeing the college’s campus intervention team, which is responsible for crisis intervention with students. Professional development for the division is also on my list of responsibilities and student discipline is under my supervision as well.
OCM : Baruch held an event last month, to teach students how to contribute to relief efforts for victims of the Haiti earthquake. What was your role in the event?
Dr. Thomas: When the earthquake happened, we decided to reach out and see if there were students who were in need. Various students contacted me, saying we are so glad Baruch cares-- and asking if there was anything they could do. I sent them to Student Life because they were really the coordinators and supervisors of the entire relief effort [at Baruch]. As the Student Life supervisor, I spoke at the event.
OCM: Did a lot of students offer donations or other forms of assistance?
Dr. Thomas: Yes, Student Life kept track of what donations were given, how much was given, and what types of events occurred.
OCM: You have a doctorate degree in education from Columbia University and you’ve held positions at St. Johns University, Fitchburg State College, Columbia, etc. What positions did you hold at those universities? And what were some of your main responsibilities?
Dr. Thomas: Immediately before coming to Baruch I was the associate dean of student affairs at Columbia. In that role I was responsible for academic support services, multi-cultural student services, and also student services for our fellowship and scholarship students. So students who applied for the Truman and the Marshall, and all the highly competitive international fellowship competitions were also under my supervision. Additionally, I was an academic advisor to undergraduate arts and sciences students and engineering students.
OCM: What brought you to Baruch?
Dr. Thomas: It seemed like an interesting opportunity. I met Dr. Corpus (vice president for student affairs) and he seemed like a very energetic leader and he really had a vision for what Baruch could be in terms of student affairs. So I was interested in coming here.
OCM: What would you say are some of the most rewarding parts of being assistant vice president of student affairs at Baruch College?
Dr. Thomas: Working with the students. Our students are so ambitious and driven to succeed. And I think that its really exciting to be able to do things that can benefit students, push them forward, help them to achieve their goals and create services and departments that actually work for them and offer them what they need. I think that’s positive and rewarding.
OCM: And what are some of the challenges you have faced?
Dr. Thomas: Well we are a very big place--16,000 students and we rarely have enough of the resources we need to do everything that we would like to do. That’s a challenge certainly. I also think it’s challenging that we are in the middle of Manhattan and that our students have lives where everything competes with school. They have jobs, they have family concerns … it’s a challenge to help them to focus in and recognize that school is very important too.
OCM: What are some of the goals you have for the college as a whole?
Dr. Thomas: This month (March) makes four years that I’ve been at Baruch and in those four years, we’ve done a lot. We’ve rewritten the script on freshman seminar so that it has become a viable and vibrant course for new students at the college. We have re-energized and really done some work around making our transfer students feel welcome here at Baruch. We have created a model leadership development program with Team Baruch, which I think every good college and university in the country needs. I am also looking forward to seeing our health and wellness focus at the College continue to grow.
We have achieved a lot on many of those fronts, in making sure that students are allied with their communities. Because we are such a big place, the more we can break it down into smaller communities, the better it is for students. So if students feel close to their student government community, great. If they feel close to their community of health peers, we have a group of health peers on campus. If they relate to the athletics community, in a team or just among other athletes, great. We have come a long way towards creating those smaller communities; I’d like to see more of that done here across the board. School spirit has also been really important in making sure that students support Baruch and know that Baruch supports them. We always want to do more in that vein. Certainly we have more to do. And hopefully we’ll get there.