This section sets the context for the approval review. It should clearly state the mission of the institution/agency. It should also describe the characteristics of the unit and identify and describe any branch campuses, off-campus sites, and distance learning programs for professional school personnel.
A.1. Describe the historical context of the institution or agency.
Thomas University is an independent, nonsectarian, regionally-accredited, comprehensive university, serving the post-secondary educational needs of Southwest Georgia and North Florida. For over fifty years, the college has successfully provided capable students the opportunity to pursue a rigorous post-secondary education.
The Primitive Baptist Church founded Thomas University as Birdwood Junior College in 1950 on the winter home property of Cameron Forbes, U.S. Ambassador to Japan. The first classes began in 1954 with seven students. In 1977, the college officials decided to convert the institution to Thomas County Community College. In 1979, the school became completely nonsectarian, private, and independent. In 1984, the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) granted the college accreditation as a two-year, Level I institution. In 1986, the college changed its name to Thomas College, and in 1990, SACS granted the college accreditation as a four-year, Level II college. In 1995, SACS reaffirmed Thomas College’s accreditation for the next ten years. In January 2000, the official name of the college was changed to Thomas University, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools approved Thomas University as a Level III institution to offer university level graduate degrees. The first graduate degree offered during the 1999-2000 academic year was the Master of Business Administration degree. The University now offers five master’s degrees, twenty bachelor degree programs, and two associate degrees.
The University has three satellite campuses offering the RN-BSN program at regional hospitals, and has partnerships with Southwest Georgia Technical College, Darton College, Tallahassee Community College, Bainbridge College, and the Georgia Boards of Education in Thomas, Decatur, and Grady counties.
A.2. Describe the mission of the institution or agency.
Thomas University is the area of choice for students in undergraduate and graduate programs to prepare for successful careers and responsible leadership in a rapidly changing and complex world. The faculty and staff value a student’s individual strengths, capabilities, and will to succeed, provide the means by which he or she will achieve personal and professional transformation.
Thomas University will be a national leader in innovative teaching and interactive technology that engages students in creative problem solving for the Information Age.
Education that Engages…Empowers…TRANSFORMS
Thomas University values...
…dynamic learning environments that engage students in their intellectual and personal
…rigorous intellectual studies that require creativity, discipline, and personal
…diversity and its use as a learning tool to teach that the world is a better place when
respect for the individual is central to our relationship with others;
…community involvement, including cultural and artistic experiences, that enrich the
lives of our students, as well as their fellow citizens;
…individual attention to all students;
…a lifetime connection with our students.
A.3. Describe the characteristics of the institution or agency. [e.g., control (e.g., public or private) and type of institution/agency such as private, land grant, or HBI; location (e.g., urban, rural, or suburban area)]
Thomas University is a private four-year co-educational university that serves the post-secondary educational needs of south Georgia and north Florida. The university is located in Thomasville, Georgia, a relatively small town of over 20,000 people in rural southwest Georgia. The town is 35 miles north of Tallahassee, Florida, 55 miles south of Albany, Georgia, and 45 miles west of Valdosta, Georgia. Thomas University, as an employer and educational provider, is vital to the educational, economic, cultural, and societal strength of the Thomasville community and Georgia’s rural southwestern region. Since its founding in 1950, the university has grown to an enrollment of 1050 undergraduate and graduate students.
Thomas University provides quality education through a dynamic learning environment. Innovative models for reaching learners by our caring faculty and staff change the lives of students in our local, regional, and global communities. Offering associate's, bachelor's, and master's degrees, our highest goal is to provide an educational experience that explores and develops each student's full potential. Most of our students are commuting adults who eventually become employed in the surrounding local area.
Approximately 150 students are enrolled each year in the education programs. Teacher preparation programs are a critical part of Thomas University’s educational mission. Thomas University awards about 25 undergraduate degrees in education, 5 post-baccalaureate certificates, and 8 M.Ed. degrees each year. Thomas University is a primary pipeline for well-prepared teachers committed to service in the communities of Southwest Georgia.
A.4. Describe the institution’s/agency’s service area to include regions/counties served and the demographics of the general population.
The majority of education students at Thomas University commute from communities within the 13-county service area in Southwestern Georgia. Thomas University’s 13 county service area is comprised of many economically distressed and disadvantaged counties; this is reflective of the high number of public schools classified as Title 1 schools (72 of 90).
Thomas University’s student demographics are reflective of the ethnic diversity in elementary and secondary students from the surrounding region. Approximately 35% of education majors are African-American and 1% are Hispanic, mirroring the percentage of the university’s student body as a whole. In 2009-2010, in Thomas County, the average percent of African-American/Black students was 31.4 %, and the range was 2.9% for Hispanic students. The number of Asian students was less than 1%. In the surrounding counties of Thomas University’s service area the percent of Hispanics and Asian students was slightly higher.
In the 2009-2010 school year, Thomas University’s Education division graduated 43 students, rising above previous numbers. Of those students, 9 are African-American/Black, reflecting approximately the same percentage as the surrounding demographics.