Thomas Walker
Thomas Walker
March 3, 2014

By perhaps the most crucial measure, community colleges have an edge on Harvard University, says Thomas Walker.

"The research supports that there's more growth with students in community colleges than students who go to Harvard," said Walker, vice president of student services for St. Louis Community College.

High school students with perfect 4.0 grade-point averages and sky-high college entrance exam scores are fairly sure bets to perform on campus, Walker said. But young people who have struggled in life and class can climb great heights with the guidance of a community college, he said. What's more, Walker said, the majority of students educated in community college stay in the local area and contribute to economic development.

Walker, one of five final candidates for the Des Moines Area Community College Carroll Campus provost position, visited Carroll last week, meeting with students, faculty, community leaders and a nine-member search committee.

"I am attracted to close-knit communities," Walker said.

Walker, a former Marine who grew up in Lumberton, N.C., said he spent his youth "cropping tobacco." His grandparents were hog farmers, and he learned and loved the ways of rural life.

"I never ate canned or frozen vegetables until I went to college," Walker said, noting that his parents always had gardens.

Walker, who oversees an urban campus, is a country guy at heart, a man with an "affinity for the outdoors," which includes turkey and deer hunting, he said.

"Even tough I wear a suit and tie every day, I still have callouses on my hands," Walker said.

Walker said he would focus on communication and leadership in Carroll.

"Leadership is by example," Walker said. "People listen to what you say, and they measure it against what you do."

Were he hired, Walker said, he'd spend a lot of time on a "listening tour" of the Carroll area, reaching out to business and education leaders as well as churches.

"Most of our work still comes down to relationships and how you get along with people," Walker said.

Walker earned his bachelor's degree in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He served as a tank commander in the U.S. Marines from 1984 to 1987.

Walker went on to earn advanced degrees in education administration and human resources management from the University of Memphis.

He served as an administrator at Georgetown Technical College in Conway, S.C., Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis, Davidson County Community College in Lexington, N.C., Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City, Mo., the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga State Technical Community College and in the KIPP (the Knowledge Is Power Program) schools in St. Louis.

Walker has been with St. Louis Community College since August of 2011 as vice president for students affairs. The college has 8,700 students.

He has been active in the community serving on boards for the United Way, Girl Scouts, Rotary, NAACP, Boys and Girls Club and Toastmasters.

DMACC officials expect to make an announcement on the hiring of a provost within weeks. Longtime Carroll educator Steve Schulz left the position in late 2013 to become president of North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City.

The final five candidates (listed in no specific order) for the DMACC Carroll provost position are:

- Joel Lundstrom, vice president of student services at Manhattan (Kansas) Area Technical College.

- Vern Lindquist, dean of Liberal Arts & Sciences and a professor at State University of New York, Delhi, N.Y.

- Craig Johnson, director of Winona State University's Rochester, Minn.-branch campus.

- Thomas Walker, vice president for student affairs at St. Louis Community College-Forest Park.

- Jeffrey Armstrong, the former campus president for Muscatine Community College and vice chancellor for Eastern Iowa Community College in Davenport who recently worked with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst on community college development in Afghanistan.

The Carroll Provost Search Committee

Members of the committee are: Nancy Loeck, professor of psychology, Carroll campus; Jennifer Wollesen, counselor, Carroll campus; Kristie Whitver-Soyer, professor, Career Work Experience, Carroll campus; Christy Schettler, administrative assistant to the provost, Carroll campus; Tom Lee, provost of the Boone campus; Scott Ocken, dean, Industry and Technology, Ankeny campus; Art Neu, attorney, Neu, Minich, Comito, and Neu Law Firm, Carroll; Nick Badding, president, Badding Construction, Carroll; and Douglas Burns, co-owner and vice president for news of The Carroll Daily Times Herald.