Our Course Instructors don’t just teach; they also act as drivers for change here at WGU. One such trailblazer is Thomas Hall, an accounting professor in WGU’s College of Business, who, with an unwavering commitment to nurturing students and advocating for inclusivity, is shaping a more equitable future for all. As we celebrate Pride Month, we want to honor and acknowledge those who contribute to the ongoing fight for diversity and inclusion, especially within the educational landscape. Today, we’ll delve into Thomas’s journey as an inspiring instructor here at WGU.
Thomas has been a certified public accountant (CPA) since 1993 and spent 12 years as an adjunct professor. Now they find fulfillment in guiding WGU students toward their careers. "I love working with students to help them with their coursework. In many cases, it’s one of the student's last courses before graduation. It’s nice to be with them as they complete their path to degree plan completion," they explained.
Thomas’s path to WGU was inspired by the competency-based learning model. Having been deeply involved in workforce development and having owned a CPA practice, they were drawn to the idea that students can earn their marks purely through assessments. At WGU, Thomas saw a unique opportunity to make a direct difference in students' lives.
The higher education system in the U.S. is often not accommodating or accessible for the entire spectrum of learners, in turn barring many from reaching their full potential academically, personally, and professionally. Thomas shared that WGU’s nontraditional approach opens new doors to students that might otherwise not succeed in the classroom. For example, one of their students who dropped out of high school due to a video game addiction found a path to success at WGU. “This student was bright but lacked the necessary credentials [to pursue his career],” Thomas said. "WGU is a perfect fit for him and others like him to get a second chance to complete a degree." Thomas appreciates WGU's commitment to providing flexible, inclusive educational options for students from diverse backgrounds and life circumstances.
Another one of Thomas’s students, who was struggling with the coursework, was very reluctant to meet with her instructors in person. Through collaboration with a WGU Program Mentor, Thomas was able to convince the student to make one appointment to discuss her progress. “After meeting with her and teaching her the material, she realized the value of meeting with instructors not just for my course but for future courses,” said Thomas.
Thomas immensely enjoys supporting students of all kinds in their pursuit of learning. They also love the future-forward environment at WGU. "WGU continues to make changes to be inclusive for all students and employees. I have seen changes that have made the experience better for students, some as simple as adding pronouns to our emails that show the students how accepting WGU and its employees are." From Thomas’s perspective, WGU has made notable strides in weaving inclusion into its fabric. “There is one Town Hall meeting that I will never forget. The WGU president made such a positive statement about using students’ pronouns. Since then, we have added pronoun training sessions along with multiple events with the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DE&I) Team over the past few years,” they continued.
Thomas also pointed to the significant impact of the Pride Owls Employee Resource Group (ERG), which has provided them with a safe and accepting community during their time at WGU. “Coming out is a continual process and one never knows the reaction one will receive. In Pride Owls, I am part of an accepting and supportive community,” they explained.
As we celebrate Pride Month, heed Thomas’s insightful words: "Pride Month is a time to remember that people are people and deserve to be treated with respect. We have a diverse group of students, and staff who can all have a good relationship with one another. Equity is increasing as those from the LGBTQIA+ community are given the same opportunities as those outside that community here at WGU. I think more of us are feeling more included as part of WGU. It is not what label someone may place on us, but it is what we can do for the students and each other.”
This Pride Month, remember that diversity, equity, and inclusion are not just buzzwords, but essential values that should be honored year-round and infused into academic spaces. Those like Thomas stand as a reminder that every individual, no matter how they identify or how they learn, deserves respect and representation in higher education communities. Thomas, alongside all of WGU’s instructors, strives to create a culture where people are valued for their abilities and contributions, transcending labels and fostering an inclusive environment for all.