Friday, October 4, 2013

New vice president of student services at Cuyamaca College

Scott Thayer
Scott Thayer, Cuyamaca College’s new vice president of student services, is as passionate about helping students succeed as he is about sports.

And that’s saying a lot.

A three-sport letterman in high school in Minneapolis, Minn., Thayer was also a standout athlete at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minn., where he was a regional MVP baseball player and football competitor. A baseball scholarship paid his way through Rollins College, a private school in Winter Park, Fla., where he received his bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Thayer grew up dreaming of a career in the NFL, but his mother’s wisdom prevailed and his boyhood dreams were supplanted by a more practical ambition. With a mother who always told him he would be a great school counselor, an uncle who was a longtime counselor at Los Angeles City College, and a brother working as a high school teacher, a career in education was the logical progression.

“Education has always been a focal point for my family,” said Thayer, who earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Southern California. He earned his master’s in counseling and guidance from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. “I always tell people I began my college career at 4 years old. That was when my mother returned to school to complete her bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota. She would take me and my brother to class with her. I remember how supportive her instructors were.”

With both Cuyamaca and Grossmont colleges undergoing accreditation review – a process capped every six years with campus visits by an accreditation team of college administrators from across the state – Thayer’s arrival comes at a crucial time.

“Accreditation is the top priority as the site team will be on campus in mid-October,” Thayer said. “I am really excited to be here at Cuyamaca College.”
Helping students find success
College President Mark Zacovic said Cuyamaca and especially its students will benefit from Thayer’s solid credentials and experience making sure myriad services are provided efficiently and equitably to help students reach their educational goals.

“Scott has spent 17 years working in California community colleges and has had the opportunity to work at both large and small colleges and at single-college districts and multi-college districts,” Zacovic said. “From counseling students and writing grants to managing multimillion-dollar budgets and presenting at national conferences – he’s done it all. We are truly fortunate to have him as a top-tier member of the college leadership.”

As vice president of student services, Thayer is responsible for overseeing the departments of Admissions and Records, Counseling, Student Affairs, Athletics, and Extended Opportunities Programs and Services, and administering a host of student services including assessment, evaluations, financial aid, university transfer, high school and community relations, student discipline and conduct, and veterans affairs.

 Before coming to Cuyamaca College, Thayer worked for seven years as the assistant dean of student affairs at Pasadena City College. Except for a two-year stint starting in 2004 as a dean of special programs at Los Angeles Southwest College, he spent the bulk of his career in higher education at Pasadena City College, where he began as a part-time counselor in 1999. Prior to that, he was the head varsity baseball coach at Blair High School in the Pasadena Unified School District.

Thayer’s move to the West Coast resulted from a national recruitment effort in California during the mid- to late-‘90s. His first teaching job was in a second-grade class at Allendale Elementary School in Pasadena.

Ever since he cut his teeth in higher education advising students in educational assistance programs like federally funded Upward Bound, Thayer has had a keen interest in promoting college opportunities to those most in need, especially black and Latino students. His doctoral dissertation addressed the academic achievement of African-American male students and was published as a book.

He has given presentations on the topic at several conferences nationally and statewide, and is a founding board member of the African-American Male Educational Network & Development and a board member of Aware-Effectiveness, a non-profit that assists organizations in providing services and resources for underrepresented groups.

“I have worked with underrepresented groups in various capacities during my entire career,” he said. “The persistence, transfer and success of underrepresented student groups should be a concern to all of us in education.   It’s important that we can reach equity in the success of all students. Until we are able to do that, we need to continue to identify strategies to close the achievement gaps for our students.”

An important factor in keeping Latino and African-American students, in particular, from dropping out of college is creating a personal connection with students, Thayer said. That means providing counseling that goes beyond the surface, putting in place an early alert system to help students in danger of falling academically behind, and ensuring students understand their responsibilities and what to expect from the college.

Die-hard sports fan

Thayer puts in long hours at his office, but still manages to find the time for what are now his favorite pastimes: running and rooting for his beloved Vikings and Twins. That will assuredly change, he said, once he’s relocated his wife and two young daughters to the area.  ESPN will be replaced by his daughters’ soccer games, and he’ll have to get in his running when he can.

Good thing the World-Famous Mud Run at Camp Pendleton – a brutal 10K obstacle run where Marines do their basic training – is being held in June, giving Thayer plenty of time to prepare for his eighth year in the Oceanside competition.

In sports, as it is with academics, it’s all about doing the homework.