Welcome to my first blog post! It is my intent to use this forum as a way to communicate all of the great things we have happening at Western Illinois University.
First, let me take a moment to introduce myself. I am Jack Thomas, the 11th president of Western Illinois University. I have served at the helm of the University since July 1, 2011. Previously, I had the privilege of serving as provost and academic vice president at WIU for three years. My wife, Linda, and I are the parents of two college-age sons, Patrick and Darius.
My academic background consists of English, which means this blog may be a bit more formal than others you may have read! As a former track athlete and collegiate-level track coach, I manage to incorporate running into my daily fitness routine (you can usually find me at WIU’s Donald S. Spencer Student Recreation Center very early in the morning).
Since assuming the presidency a few years ago, I set several goals and initiatives for Western Illinois University. As I recently shared in my 2014 State of the University address, as the leader of Western Illinois University, I refuse to allow this university to be viewed as anything less than a first-rate institution of the highest quality. We must be certain that our institution has the ability to remain relevant in this ever-changing world.
We have a great story to tell. Did you know that Western has moved from 53rd to 39th place out of 109 public and private schools on the top tier list of “Best Regional Universities” in the U.S. News and World Report? Or how about that Western is one of 159 regional universities, and one of three Illinois public institutions, named to the “Best in the Midwest” list by The Princeton Review? Our retention rate continues to rise. The rate rose from 63.3% in Fall 2013 to 72.2% in Fall 2014. We also continue to be recognized by G.I. Jobs and Military Times Edge magazine as a military friendly institution. These and many of our other accomplishments continue to raise the profile of Western Illinois University.
As president of WIU, I support initiatives that build on the University’s existing strengths, and I will continue to utilize the Strategic Plan as a base to make decisions for the University. My vision is for WIU to become a leading Midwestern public university serving a diverse student population. Under my leadership, Western continues to be favorably recognized by the Carnegie Foundation, and The Chronicle of Higher Education recently named Western a Top Producer of Fulbright Scholars for master’s-level institutions.
I have focused my efforts on developing and strengthening initiatives in five primary areas at Western, which include: academic programs, facilities, overall outreach and resources, professional development for faculty and staff, and shared governance through campus-wide committees. Also, I have placed a special emphasis on enrollment management in an effort to increase the number of undergraduate and graduate students, both native and international, at WIU. These recognitions and many of our institutional accomplishments tie in—and reinforce—my presidential initiatives.
We should all be working together to continue to move this University forward. If you have questions, concerns, or ideas to share, please email me at J-Thomas2@wiu.edu. You can also follow me on Twitter @StudentPres and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WIUPresident.