Director of Residential Communities Isaiah Thomas Leaves Swarthmore

Director of Residential Communities Isaiah Thomas has taken a position as the Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residential Education, Housing Services, and Conduct at Occidental College in Los Angeles after spending nearly six years at Swarthmore. On Monday, Jan. 13, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Engagement Rachel Head informed the community of Thomas’ departure through email. 

“It is with mixed emotions that I share that Isaiah Thomas, Director of Residential Communities, has accepted the position of Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residential Education, Housing Services and Conduct at Occidental College,” Head wrote. 

Thomas’ last day was Monday, Jan. 27.

According to Thomas, his new position at Occidental College will allow him to continue to support students while also affording him greater opportunities for mentorship and collaboration with faculty and staff. 

“This role is a great next step in my career as it provides me with new opportunities to not only continue to support students, but to mentor and support entry-level and mid-career student life professionals. As a dean at Oxy, I will also have more of an opportunity to collaborate with faculty and president’s cabinet staff to better support the experience of students across the institution,” Thomas wrote in an email to The Phoenix. 

Since his arrival at Swarthmore in the summer of 2014, Thomas was promoted from Assistant Director to Director of Residential Communities. During his time at the college, he collaborated with RAs and other students to create significant advancements for students’ residential experience. 

“Some of the best enhancements over my tenure were the creation of substance-free housing, expansion of secure storage for low-income and international students, increased meal options during Fall and Spring break, offering an eight-hour mental health first aid certification program for student staff, and the development and launch of online room selection,” he wrote. 

Head detailed more of Thomas’ accomplishments and contributions to the college in her email notifying students of his departure, highlighting his involvement in the community and his commitment to addressing the needs of students. 

“Whether it was chairing the Housing Advisory Committee, supervising the Resident Assistant program, creating first-year roommate pairs, or serving as a Deputy Title IX coordinator, Isaiah always put the needs and concerns of students first,” Head wrote.

Gabi Rubinstein ‘20, an RA in Willets, expressed her gratitude for having been able to work under him for the Fall semester. She characterized Thomas as someone who is understanding and easily approachable. 

“He’s really nice. I feel comfortable talking to him, and I’m sad that he’s leaving,” Rubinstein said. “I’m glad that I got to work under him for the time that I did.” 

Rubinstein described Thomas leaving as surprising and disappointing for the RAs, but she believes that him leaving won’t affect the duties of the RAs this semester. 

“Most of us are probably surprised and a little bummed out but I don’t think that we’re seeing the most stressful aspects of [him leaving]. I think it’s going to be harder on the RCCs [Residential Communities Coordinators] because they will have to take more on, but I don’t think it’ll be harder for us students,” she said. 

Head confirmed that the OSE has a plan in place to prevent Thomas’ departure from affecting student life and future affairs related to housing. 

“We’ve worked hard to put a continuity plan in place that will allow the Spring housing calendar to move forward with minimal disruption. During high volume times (such as when applications for summer housing are due, blocking application deadlines, spring move-out, etc.), the OSE is planning to adjust office hours and/or hold additional information sessions to make sure students have the information they need,” she wrote. 

The OSE hosted a farewell gathering for Thomas in Parrish Parlors on Friday, Jan. 24, where students, faculty, and staff were able to thank Thomas and wish him success with his new position. 

Thomas expressed that he is grateful for his fellow OSE staff and the RAs he worked with and that he will miss them. 

“I will truly miss our RAs, as well as the professional staff in the OSE who are some of the best professionals I have had the chance to work with in my career— my deep gratitude and appreciation goes out to Rachel, Ben, Andrew, Sam, Asraa, and Jasmine,” he wrote. 

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