Published on Dec. 7, 2020
As we wrap up 2020 and head into the new year, we wanted to revisit with the newest member of the Center for Academic Success & Excellence, our fierce leader, CASE Director E. Andre Thorn, Ph.D.
Q&A with E. Andre Thorn, Ph.D
Q. This is your second stint at Mizzou, having spent 12 years here as the Assistant Director of CASE, formerly Academic Retention Services (ARS) from 1998-2010. Now serving as the Director of CASE, what has this experience been like for you?
Dr. Thorn: I feel as if my professional career has come full circle. Being at ARS during its infancy and seeing how it has “grown up” in the 25 years of existence and evolved into the Center for Academic Success & Excellence is exciting. One of the most exciting aspects is the spirit of collaboration and partnership that exists on the MU campus that shares responsibility for contributing to the increased levels of retention, persistence and graduation of underrepresented minority (URM) students.
Q. While all MU staff has had to adjust during these unprecedented times what are some challenges you have faced taking over a department in the middle of a pandemic and how have you overcome those challenges?
Dr. Thorn: When I think about it, relocating during a pandemic seems unwise, but I believe it speaks to my really wanting to be back at MU serving students at an institution and in a program that I love! One of the most significant challenges about being here during a pandemic is our program is built on engagement and interaction with students, not virtual interaction, but in-person interaction and engagement. We had to take a hard turn for the health and safety of all of us, but we sorely miss the in-person interaction. This has caused our CASE team to develop safe and responsive strategies for reaching out to students. This includes students being able to access us in person (we still have staff members rotating into the office for students needing in-person engagement). Of course, we must keep in mind required masks, physical distance, hand washing and increased cleaning regime in the Student Success Center and in our spaces. In addition, we have increased the ways in which students can still access our information and team members virtually, including MU Connect, Canvas sites, social media, podcasts, via text, phone calls and zoom meetings.
Q. Since taking over in August, you have hit the ground running when it comes to strengthening support systems for students. What is something that you’ve done that you are most proud of?
Dr. Thorn: True, I have hit the ground running, but I am not as fast as I used to be! I have been spending lots of time getting reacquainted with Mizzou and the departmental, campus, and community resources. I tend to have a sense of urgency that we will make changes and enhancements quickly to enhance student success. Change at MU may not move as fast, so I have had to recalibrate and work more strategic and tactically to move things forward with campus and community stakeholders. I am proud of the fact that behind the scenes, things are moving in the right direction and when we go public with the innovations we are bringing to the campus, watch out! These initiatives will truly be game changers that will benefit students!
Q. What do you believe is important for students to remember as they head into the winter break and the spring semester?
Dr. Thorn: Travel safely (if you are traveling on the highways and flyways over the break).
Practice self-care. This has been a stressful semester and it will be important to recharge and reenergize yourself before you return.
Take a critical assessment. A new year is an opportunity for reflection and renewal. Assess what went well and what went wrong and plan for improving one’s health, wellness, academic success, spirituality or whatever else you want to emphasize.
Stay safe. This disease is rampant. I realize you miss your families, friends and social events. I hope that smart choices are made to keep you and your families safe and will allow you to return to us in 2021 COVID free!