By Anita Thomas, President
Since becoming North Central College’s 11th president in July, it has been a delight to explore our beautiful campus and make my way over to Naperville’s vibrant downtown. I already have a few favorite spots on both sides of Washington Street.
In many ways, arriving in Naperville has been a homecoming. The Chicago area is where I pursued my undergraduate education and earned both my master’s and doctorate degrees. It’s also where I began what has been a very traditional higher education career trajectory — first as a faculty member, then academic dean, and most recently as a provost and chief academic officer.
I grew up in Louisville, Ky., with parents who were both educators. I was raised to appreciate how important education is, both as a process and an outcome. I saw firsthand how helping young people discover and grow into themselves had a positive impact on their families, in their neighborhoods, and within society at large.
From the moment I read North Central’s mission statement, it resonated with me: “We are a diverse community of learners dedicated to preparing students to be curious, engaged, ethical, and purposeful citizens and leaders in local, national and global contexts.”
I have already seen how North Central’s tradition of academic excellence attracts students who are motivated by scholarly achievement. They come here for a personalized educational experience, and because this is a place of belonging for young people from a wide range of backgrounds. They can choose from 70 undergraduate majors, minors and programs, and maximize their college experience by taking advantage of countless engaged learning opportunities — including study abroad, conducting research, and completing an internship. At the graduate level, our offerings include a growing suite of health sciences programs that are preparing skilled and compassionate providers to serve healthcare facilities and organizations right here in Naperville.
In many ways, I am like a new North Central student myself this year — experiencing many “firsts.” I look forward to my first football game and following our student-athletes in all 27 of the NCAA Division III intercollegiate sports we offer. I can’t wait to attend my first Fine and Performing Arts Performance Series show. I’m already seeing hints of my first fall on campus, with more than 100 tree species turning brilliant colors.
Another new experience is having an empty nest. I recently sent my twins, a son and a daughter, off to start their own college journeys. As both a parent and a college president, it is a joy to watch our young people soar. Thank you, Naperville, for making me feel at home already.