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'Help more students succeed' is Chancellor Gibson's mission

Thomas Gibson discovered the impact of education early.

Growing up in a low-income, single-parent household in New Haven, Conn., education was a viable path, he said. 

"I understood fairly early on if I were to achieve any success, personal or professional, it would be through securing an education. It was something my mother instilled. Education has always been my pathway for personal and professional uplift."

The first in his family to attend college, returning home for breaks to an unsafe neighborhood reminded him this was not the life he wanted. "It was a constant reminder that I needed to stay the course and to study extremely hard if I was to change my current condition and certainly my future." 

Dr. Thomas Gibson became the 15th chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in January. His life journey instilled an ongoing commitment to student success.

"As a first-generation student, I understand the power of education, how it can not only change an individual's life but also changes the lives of families and generations. The plight of first-generation and low-income students who may need to juggle multiple jobs while they pursue their education resonates with me. That certainly was my experience. I understand the grit and resiliency required to complete a college degree with so many competing priorities. It just makes me that much prouder of our students for pursuing an education."

Dr. Gibson has focused on student success and diversity in numerous higher education positions. Most recently, he advocated for the academic and social development of students and helped set record student retention at Bowling Green State University, Ohio, where he was vice president for Student Affairs and vice provost.

He said he "fell" into higher education. He completed a bachelor's degree in communications, with a goal of being a news anchor. While he enjoyed it, Dr. Gibson felt more fulfilled when he was serving others as an undergraduate student.

He returned to higher education. His first full-time job was as a residence hall director at Mitchell College, a small private in New London, Conn. The position was transformative for him, opening opportunities to serve and lead at several dynamic institutions. "It's what I'm here to do: Help more students succeed. That has been my goal throughout my career."

He said he was intrigued to be part of the UW System, one of the top higher education systems in the nation. As he learned more about UW-Stevens Point, he said, "the mission of the institution and values really resonated with my own. This institution understands its role to support student success and help move communities forward."

When visiting Stevens Point last fall, Dr. Gibson met several community members. "They all spoke of how inviting, how supportive this community is and how committed it is to the success of all its residents and the vitality of the city. The respect and admiration they have for the institution said to me I would enjoy support from the institution and the greater Stevens Point area as well as Wausau and Marshfield. They fully understand the importance of having a public higher education institution in their backyard."

He is looking forward to meeting students, community members and alumni and learning how UW-Stevens Point can build on partnerships and serve as a resource to meet community, regional and state needs. 

Dr. Gibson's wife, Brigette, is completing her doctorate in leadership studies at Bowling Green State University, where she works in institutional effectiveness. Their daughter, Kennedy, is 4.

"We're a higher education family. She understands my work commitment, my schedule, all of the nuances. You don't get to progress in your professional without having a partner that fully understands the commitment it takes to serve the institution and students. It's because of her that I've been able to pursue some dynamic opportunities, with this role being the pinnacle," Dr. Gibson said.

"I'm living my purpose."


Chancellor Thomas Gibson is focused on three key goals for UW-Stevens Point:

  • Enhancing academic excellence
  • Expanding diversity, equity and inclusive excellence
  • Increasing enrollment and growth

"These three imperatives will move the institution forward and allow us to reach a sustainable, stable condition," he said.

Dr. Gibson will spend the next few months operationalizing these priorities, learning more about what UW-Stevens Point is doing and building on successes. "I want to better understand what we are already doing to support these initiatives so we can see where opportunities may lie to expand or enhance these imperatives."


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