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Thomas looks forward to leading JMU Graduate School


by Eric Gorton

 
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Strong teaching is a hallmark of undergraduate education at James Madison University, and graduate students should expect nothing less, says the incoming dean of The Graduate School. 

Linda Thomas will take the reins of The Graduate School on June 1 after directing JMU’s School of Integrated Sciences since 2018. 

“I think graduate education is the future and I see a lot of potential at JMU because we are a teaching university,” Thomas said. “Faculty cannot succeed here unless they are great teachers. I think we can add the JMU brand to graduate education and also expand our international student base.” 

Not that great teaching is not already happening. She said she will be stepping into a program that is already strong, noting the audiology doctoral program has to turn away applicants and an accomplished physicians’ assistant program. 

With engineering degrees from Georgia Tech (doctorate) and the University of Florida (bachelor’s and master’s), and a law degree from the University of Miami, Thomas says she wants to create a strong graduate community at JMU and also looks to encourage more collaboration between undergraduate students and graduate students. 

“My dream is to have teams of undergraduates and graduate students working together,” she said. “That’s what got me interested in graduate education.” 

As an undergraduate at the University of Florida, Thomas worked on a team with graduate students and, “I saw how they approached problem solving and realized the way I did it was much more like a checklist: Do this, do this, do this. They were holistic thinkers and that intrigued me and that’s why I went on to get my master’s degree. I wanted to learn how to think like that.” 

Thomas came to JMU from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, where she served as interim chair of civil, environmental and ocean engineering, and head of the construction engineering program. She has also taught at Georgia Tech and was in charge of constructing the athlete’s village for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. 

More than 60 people from across the country applied for the position. From that group, a 12-member search committee with representation from all JMU colleges offering graduate programs conducted initial interviews with 10 applicants and a second interview with three finalists before choosing Thomas. 

Provost Heather Coltman said, “Linda has an incredible breadth and depth of leadership experiences that will be invaluable to the continued success and growth of graduate studies at JMU. I’m looking forward to seeing her implement her vision for strengthening our graduate programs.” 

Bob Kolvoord, dean of the College of Integrated Science and Engineering, said Thomas led the School of Integrated Sciences with distinction.  “She brings a unique combination of technical savvy and empathy to her work, helping to support the work of the faculty and students,” he said. “We’re excited for her new opportunity, but we will miss her deeply.” 

Henry Way, the associate director of the School of Integrated Sciences, will serve as interim director through the next academic year while a search is conducted to fill the post. 

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Media contact: Eric Gorton, gortonej@jmu.edu, 540-908-1760.

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Published: Thursday, April 29, 2021

Last Updated: Thursday, April 29, 2021

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