By Sebastian Juarez
Dr. Thomas Parham was announced California State University Dominguez Hills’ 11th president on March 21.
Unless you were already familiar with his work and accomplishments, his name probably doesn’t mean a great deal. But, his work, accomplishments and connection to the area around the campus show that Parham is a very big deal.
In an interview with The Bulletin, Parham discussed his past and the future that he hopes to create here at CSUDH.
As a product of Los Angeles, Parham spent his childhood in different parts of the city including the Crenshaw District and the Fairfax area where he attended both public and parochial schools.
This familiarity with the city and its culture make the job something of a personal calling, he said.
“[Los Angeles] is really home,” Parham said. “Because I’ve lived in diverse, integrated communities, it’s really given me an appreciation for this kind of multicultural world that we live in.”
Parham has worked on both the academic and student affairs side of things at the collegiate level. For the last 33 years, he has held several different positions at UC Irvine, with his most recent title being vice-chancellor. Before his time at UCI, Parham taught psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.
“I’ve had the chance to view the broad landscape of what it’s like to see students in the classroom,” Parham said. “But, I also had a chance to see what it’s like for students on the ground, given my student affairs background.”
Parham said that his experiences have given him an “acute sensitivity” to the struggles of college students and help him empathize and act in a way that will benefit the everyday Toro.
“You can’t prescribe a remedy unless you understand what the diagnosis is,” Parham said. “One of the things I do as vice-chancellor is listen. I let the students tell me what they need.”
During his tenure as vice-chancellor at UCI, the school became a Hispanic-serving institution and opened up the largest food pantry in the state when he declared that there would be no hungry students on his campus.
Parham hopes to keep a certain level of engagement with students as president here at CSUDH. It is something he was well known for at UCI, and he said that it will continue to characterize his career in his new position.
Parham said that he respects and admires the level of commitment that the student body, faculty and local community display towards CSUDH and its current president Dr. Willie J. Hagan. In some respects, he said, his work will build on the blueprint Hagan laid out and carry on the momentum.
In addition to his impressive background as an employee on college campuses, Parham has an extensive list of academic achievements.
He has penned over 45 scholarly journals and/or book chapters, according to uci.edu. He is distinguished in his field and has received honors including the Distinguished Psychologist by the Association of Black Psychologists, fellow status in the American Counselling Association and more.
He is one of the leaders in the study of nigrescence, which talks about a process of developing a Black identity within the context of social oppression, according to Parham. It explores the concept of racial identity and how it is related to other cultural variables. Parham has been studying nigrescence since graduate school, and the first things he published were centered around it.
While scholarly writing and research has been a big part of his life, Parham said that he is willing to sacrifice it to help better the CSUDH community.
“I’m looking forward to joining the faculty and becoming one of them,” Parham said. “I’m looking forward to engaging the students and becoming one of you.”