Staff Spotlight: Andre Thorn

August 21, 2013
I AM UAA: Andre Thorn

I AM UAA: Andre Thorn

Multicultural Center Director
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
Fun Fact: A music scholarship had him playing in the marching band as an undergrad.

When Andre Thorn scored his new gig as the director of the Multicultural Center at UAA, he couldn’t have been more surprised. The former Institutional Research analyst from the University of Missouri decided he’d explore his options while completing coursework for his Ph.D.

“The first place I applied was UAA and I remember thinking ‘I’d never get to go there.’ Then they called and I flew up to visit.”

Andre instantly fell in love with UAA’s rich diversity.

“That was the thing that sold me the most with the job. There is a vast diversity at UAA,” Andre says. “Not just the racial or ethnic diversity, which was surprisingly high, but also in terms of veterans’ status, rural versus urban and the age of UAA students. When I flew up during the summer and witnessed the splendor of an Alaska summer, I wanted to be a part of this rich environment.”

The big leap

After interviewing at UAA and touring the city, Andre went back to Missouri eager to take the leap. There was something he had to do first…break the news to the one person whose opinion could make or break the deal—his wife.

“I remember telling my wife, she looked puzzled and said ‘Alaska?’” he laughs. “It was an interesting conversation.”

Over the next year and a half, Andre paved the way for their life in Alaska. He found a place to live and learned all he could about the 49th state while his wife, Stephanie, an attorney in Missouri, wrapped up her practice in preparation for the trek north to join Andre.

“It was definitely an adjustment for us, but we look at our lives together in Anchorage now as a new adventure,” he says. “We’re excited, though I’m a little nervous I’ll be helping her through her first winter here in the coming months.”

Let them eat free food! (And learn about resources.)

It’s safe to say Andre is the guy UAA students should get in their corner. In his nearly two years with the university, he’s made great progress in the Multicultural Center, helping students realize the success they’ve dreamed of.

He’s passionate about his work and his one goal, he says, is to find resources to help underrepresented students prosper during their time at UAA.

But he goes beyond your average staffer and mentor, providing students with something every campus needs more of—free food.

“You can guarantee, I’m going to offer free food as much as possible,” he laughs. “I think the majority of our budget goes to buying grub for our students. Whatever tools we can use to get them in our office so we can show them the resources we have to help them, that’s what we’ll do.”

“I remember when I was a young student, I went everywhere there was free food. Students are busy, and let’s face it, the majority of them have a little to no budget, so we try to offer them a reason or incentive to come through our doors,” Andre says. “Once we get them there, we will flood them with resources and ways to create ‘success behaviors,’ as I like to call them, that will give them an extra edge at UAA and beyond.”

“Success behaviors” are habits that students can take with them to improve their lives after college.

“It’s our goal to make sure our students stand out amongst competitors when they get out in the real world,” he says. “We want to inform students of their resources, internships and other leadership opportunities that, if they take advantage of, will help boost them to the next level.”

Andre encourages students to make solid connections with professors or staff. “It’s those people who keep students motivated and on track to achieve their goals.”

Developing Seawolf Success

During his first year at UAA, Andre admits he had quite the task on his hands.

“It was my goal to keep my eyes open and mouth shut. I really just wanted to observe and understand campus dynamics and provide an outside view on something UAA might be missing,” he says.

After sitting back and taking notes, Andre came to a solid conclusion: develop a program to assist students who were undeclared or adopted certain risk behaviors, such as being on academic probation, and help foster them to their end goal—earning a degree and landing their dream job.

He submitted his proposal and received funding to create the Seawolf Success Program, designed to help students take charge of their educations.

“We needed proactive programming for those who may struggle at student life, with financial aid or understanding university processes,” he says.

Before the start of the semester, Andre and his staff sit down with each student to develop a career path, an education plan and a financial plan that will get him or her through the university and make them competitive in the job market.

They even offer a lab with quiet hours for students to study when needed. “I think we have one of the best kept secrets on campus. Our study lab is there for students to come in, unpack their bag, spread out and make this space like their own office. We want to do everything we can to make them successful in their journey at UAA.”

Higher education is key

What is it that fuels Andre’s fiery dedication to higher education?

Raised by a single mother, Andre lived with his two siblings in West Las Vegas. He admits, from time to time it was a tough environment to grow up in. It was his mother’s unyielding dedication to keep Andre active growing up that kept him out of trouble.

“There were individuals much more talented than myself who were unable to get out and off the streets and make the best of their life,” he says. “Thankfully for me, the bulk of my childhood was spent in whatever community activities and programs my mom could find.”

As a self-proclaimed “school rat,” Andre remembers if he wasn’t in school he was devoting time at the local Boys and Girls Club.

“Community activities and programs presented me with opportunities to travel and become exposed to new places and opportunities to get outside of my comfort zone and challenge myself in new environments,” he says. “It was crucial in my success today.”

Andre is the first and only member of his family to earn a college degree. To his list of credentials, he’s added bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and is currently working on his doctorate.

“I believe higher education is the key to transforming your life,” he says. “It has been that way for me and I’m dedicated to make a difference with young people to promote student engagement and success for the entire campus community.”

It’s really all about you

“Enough about me,” he says. “Drop in and say hello, let me know how we can help you!” So there it is, a personal invitation to meet your best advocate.

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