Rhodes Hires New Director to Increase International Enrollment

Steve Thomas, former director of admissions at Colby College for 16 years, has joined Rhodes College as director of international admission. He has worked in college admission for 27 years including time with the College of the Atlantic and Bates College.

The director of international admission is a new position at Rhodes, and says Thomas, “The college has the ability to become more international. The more different perspectives you have at the table as part of the liberal arts education enriches that experience. In a world that has become so interconnected, this is really important.”

“We are delighted that Steve has joined us. He brings not only a wealth of experience and connections from across the world, but also a real commitment to student success,” says J. Carey Thompson, vice president for enrollment and communications and dean of admission.

Thomas said in recent years, he’s received requests from international parents—whose children are used to a specialized or vocational education— to explain the value of a liberal arts education. “There is a much stronger appetite abroad for an American liberal arts education that’s not available anywhere else,” says Thomas. “This kind of education provides a way of looking at the world though different academic lenses and connecting the dots. It provides a way to approach problem solving. And this is being more recognized around the world.”

Thomas has been to 50 states and 37 foreign countries. He also has read more than 23,000 applications from international students.

“I think the biggest challenge recruiting outside of the U.S. is not having enough international students to attract other students,” says Thomas. “This is about ‘word of mouth’ and getting the ball rolling, and that is what I mainly will be doing—getting out the word about Rhodes. I fortunately have this great network of built in counselors and individuals around the world who I’ve worked with.” 

This fall, Thomas plans to travel to Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, England, Wales, Belgium and France and Switzerland. He says he eventually hopes to use current Rhodes students and faculty who travel as ambassadors as well as connect the college with programs that would benefit international recruitment. “There are all kinds of things that can grow as a result of having an international population. It makes the college experience richer.”

Thomas has a B.A. in speech communications from North Carolina State University and a M.A.L.S. in literature and arts from Wesleyan University. He has attended the Brown University Teaching Institute and the Harvard University Institute on Admissions. In addition, he is a member of the Overseas Association for College Admission Counseling, which is made up of professionals from more than 90 countries worldwide dedicated to serving students as they make choices about pursuing postsecondary education.

Thomas looks forward to working for Rhodes in the area of international recruiting. “I now get to focus on the one thing that has brought me the greatest joy of all my work in admission,” he says.