Midland College – The First 50 Years: Dr. Steve Thomas, MC President, 2008-PresentDecember 06, 2022

The image to use for this article. Listing image managed through RSS tab. Dr. Steve Thomas (center) with 2017 MC Homecoming King and Queen

Dr. Steve Thomas began serving as Midland College’s fourth and current president on Friday, August 15, 2008.  However, he was no stranger to Midland College when he arrived.  Thomas first served at Midland College as a psychology instructor in 1979 and continued working at the college until 1987.  He then worked as an administrator serving as dean at Lexington Community College in Lexington, KY and at Victoria College in Victoria, TX.  From 2000-2008, Thomas served as president of Vernon College in Vernon, TX.

Thomas has served on numerous state and local advisory committees and organizations, including the Executive Committee of the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC), Community College Formula Advisory Committee for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the TACC Advisory Committee for the Commission on Community College Finance.  In 2004, Thomas was presented with the Distinguished Graduate Award from the University of Texas at Austin, College of Education for his national contribution to American community colleges.

During the past 14 years under Thomas’ leadership, Midland College has seen tremendous improvements in instruction, student services and technological infrastructure.  Some of the major accomplishments the college has enjoyed during this time include

  • Implementing Early College High School at Midland College in partnership with Midland ISD and community donors.
  • Securing a Branch Campus Maintenance Tax for the Williams Regional Technical Training Center in Fort Stockton in cooperation with the voters of Pecos County.
  • Establishing the Midland College/Midland ISD College & Careers Academies designed for training and educational programs that benefit the Midland economy by providing a skilled workforce.
  • Implementing a Dual Credit Service Center located at the Midland College Advanced Technology Center that  helped increase dual credit enrollment from 921 students in fall 2019 to 1,456 in fall 2021.
  • Renovating the Al G. Langford Chaparral Center to include the installation of an elevator, larger restrooms, upgrading dressing rooms and refurbishing the retractable bleachers.
  • Expanding the Scharbauer Student Center to include the June and Frank Cowden, Jr. Dining Hall, a beautiful 18,600 square-foot facility that has adequate seating and kitchen facilities for future growth.
  • Joining forces with Midland ISD to establish a pre-kindergarten academy.  This program helps to fulfill two immediate needs for the Midland community—quality early childhood education and hands-on training for students who want to become early childhood teachers.

Instructional Milestones - In addition to the above, Thomas has led Midland College to become a state leader in several instructional programs. 

Midland College was one of nine partner community colleges in a project coordinated through the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas to design a systemic approach to improving student success and completion in developmental math courses.  MC’s cutting-edge curriculum laid the foundation for statewide implementation at other Texas community colleges.  The Mathways Project garnered “Exemplary” awards from the Texas Success Center in 2015 and again in 2016.

In fall 2015, Midland College partnered with Midland Memorial Hospital, the University of North Texas and Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine to establish an accelerated educational partnership entitled Primary Care Pathway Program.  Students in this program are able to enter medical school in three years and will help to fill the need for qualified medical doctors in Midland and rural West Texas.

Adding to its first baccalaureate degree in Organizational Management, Midland College now offers two additional bachelor degrees—one in Health Services Management approved in December 2015 and one in Early Childhood Education beginning in fall 2022.  All of these degrees help to meet community employment needs.

In 2016, Midland College transformed its enrollment management system to include a guided pathways approach to assisting students make informed choices about their college careers.  The college was among 12 community colleges chosen for the Texas Pathways Project, which focuses on student success.  Midland College received the distinction as a “Cadre 1” community college in this endeavor to lead the integrated statewide approach to student success.

In February 2019, Midland College partnered with Concho Resources and Texas A&M University to form the Concho-Texas A&M Engineering Academy at Midland College.  Students interested in pursuing engineering careers are able to enroll simultaneously at both Midland College and Texas A&M for the first year or two of their higher education journeys and take all classes on the Midland College campus before transferring to Texas A&M in College Station.  This opportunity allows students and their families to take advantage of Midland College’s lower tuition rates and numerous donor-directed scholarships.

Thanks to donations from Concho Resources, the Technology Center on the main campus was renovated to house a hands-on engineering lab, and a donation from the Henry Foundation helped to renovate adjacent space into the state-of-the-art Paula and Jim Henry Innovations Center.

Other renovations of instructional space include converting several traditional classrooms in various buildings into “active learning” spaces that implement current technology and enhance teaching and learning.  In addition, under Thomas’ direction, the college transformed the Fasken Learning Resource Center (library) into a student-centered hub for research, study and lecture events.

Keeping the Doors Open – In spring 2020, Thomas led the college in what has perhaps been its most challenging mission—that of maintaining operations and not interrupting instruction during the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic.  Within two weeks of the nationwide shutdown, Midland College transformed all of its courses to online and virtual formats.  The college remained in operation, and in fall 2021, enrollment increased to pre-COVID levels.

A Pleasure and a Privilege – “As I have said, it is a pleasure and a privilege to be the president of Midland College,” Thomas remarked in a 2018 interview with the Midland Reporter Telegram.  “I have the advantage of working with an experienced and professional Board of Trustees who have supported my leadership from day one.

“As a valuable resource for Midland and the region, we can never rest on our laurels.  We can never become self-satisfied with our accomplishments, and we can never stop improving our programs and services for our students and community because our community expects nothing less.  Midland College is fortunate to have a gifted and talented group of faculty and staff who do great work day in and day out, and who challenge me to do my best every day.”

Photo:  Dr. Steve Thomas (center) with 2017 MC Homecoming King and Queen

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