Kecia M. Thomas named new dean of UAB’s College of Arts and Sciences

Kecia M. Thomas will join UAB as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Written by: Karen Templeton
Media contact: Yvonne Taunton

NewCAS2Kecia Thomas, Ph.D.Kecia M. Thomas, Ph.D., has been named dean of the University of Alabama at Birmingham College of Arts and Sciences following a national search. Thomas will assume her role at UAB on Aug. 1, 2020. 

Thomas joins UAB from the University of Georgia, where she is senior associate dean in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. In that role, Thomas is the division dean for the social and behavioral sciences and also manages the college’s faculty affairs functions, its diversity and its inclusion strategy and is a liaison to the faculty senate. Thomas, who began her 27-year tenure at UGA as a professor of industrial-organizational psychology and African American studies, has supervised 23 doctoral recipients and is the founding director of the Center for Research and Engagement in Diversity, a program of the Franklin College.

“I am honored to be named the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at UAB,” Thomas said. “Colleges of Arts and Sciences are the intellectual foundation of higher education. I am very much looking forward to collaborating with my brilliant colleagues in the arts, humanities, social and behavioral sciences, and the natural sciences in creating new opportunities to serve our students and the Birmingham community through our instruction, research, discovery and creative activities. Likewise, I look forward to joining the impressive community of deans and senior campus leadership in meeting the grand challenge of the university in creating a healthier community locally and globally.” 

The college’s 19 departments in natural sciences and mathematics, social and behavioral sciences, and arts and humanities are home to more than 300 full-time faculty and more than 40 baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degree programs. Its expansive programming makes it the largest academic entity in the UAB academic enterprise. The college houses innovative research centers, community outreach programs and interdisciplinary cooperation programs.

Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pam Benoit, Ph.D., credits the search committee led by Paul Erwin, dean of UAB’s School of Public Health, for identifying Thomas as the next leader of the College of Arts and Sciences.  

Thomas will succeed Robert Palazzo, Ph.D., who has served as dean since 2013.

“Annual expenditures for research activities in the college have grown 43 percent under Dr. Palazzo’s leadership, increasing to nearly $20 million for the 2018-19 academic year,” Benoit said. “Dr. Palazzo has skillfully made research a driving goal of the college, with four areas of focus: human health and the quality of life; social justice and human rights; computation and security in our cyberworld; and creative expression through the arts and humanities.” 

In fall 2019, the College of Arts and Sciences premiered University Hall, a $39.5 million building that houses seven CAS departments and 24 multi-use classrooms, including a 300-seat auditorium. The college has received preliminary approval for the first phase of a new $64.5 million Science and Engineering Complex, to house the STEM departments and the School of Engineering. 

“Dr. Thomas is joining us at an exciting time: CAS has grown exponentially and is poised for dynamic new endeavors, especially with the recent building and program expansions,” Benoit said. “Dr. Thomas’ leadership in collaboration with the diverse, talented faculty body will deliver the skills and knowledge that students need to succeed professionally and become lifelong learners, critical thinkers and productive members of their communities. 

“As the UAB community looks forward to welcoming Dr. Thomas to campus, I want to thank Dr. Benoit for her leadership and the search committee members and chair for their time and dedication,” said UAB President Ray L. Watts. “This is an important effort as we look to build on the positive reputation and momentum that has been hard-earned by the College of Arts and Sciences leadership, faculty, staff and students.

The College of Arts and Sciences centers and initiatives reflect the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of UAB’s academic offerings. These include the Institute for Human RightsCenter for Community Outreach Development, a K-12 STEM education outreach collaborative among the College and the schools of Medicine and Education, and the Undergraduate Neuroscience Program, a collaboration between the college and the School of Medicine.

Thomas earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and Spanish from Bucknell University and her master’s and doctoral degrees in industrial-organizational psychology from Pennsylvania State University. She is a graduate of the HERS Management Institute at Wellesley College and the SEC Academic Leadership Development Program. Thomas is an expert in the psychology of workplace diversity, and her research focuses on the issues of strategic diversity recruitment, supporting diversity in STEM workplaces and understanding the career experiences of high potential women, especially women of color. She is an elected fellow of the American Psychological Association, the Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology, and the Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity and Race.