WMU News

WMU research chief heads for NSF post

June 28, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- The National Science Foundation has tapped a longtime Western Michigan University administrator for a two-year stint as head of an NSF division aimed at developing young scientists.

Dr. Donald E. Thompson, vice president for research and dean of the Graduate College, has been named director of NSF's Division of Human Resource Development. He will begin his duties in Washington, D. C., Aug. 12.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for Dr. Thompson to apply his skills and expertise at the national level," says WMU President Elson S. Floyd. "This recognition is emblematic of the growing stature of this University in the national research community and the commitment Dr. Thompson has made, not only to Western Michigan University, but also to the goal of expanding this nation's research capabilities."

In Washington, Thompson will oversee programs aimed at the NSF's agency-wide commitment to enhancing the quality of scientific research by broadening the research participation of underrepresented groups. As division director, Thompson will be responsible for the work of personnel in a variety of NSF programs aimed at increasing opportunities in the sciences, engineering and technology for minorities, women and people with disabilities. Among the major programs in Thompson's division are the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program, the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program and the Program for Gender Equity in Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology.

Thompson says a major focus of his work at the NSF will be extending the work of his division to all of the agency's other divisions in a way that will influence other parts of the agency "to create a broad hard science human resource base." That interaction within the agency is a major benefit of the position, he says.

"I expect to return to WMU in two years with a broadened knowledge of research at the national level and a substantial knowledge of who's doing what in the different science disciplines," Thompson says. "I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to grow and use my talents in a way that is going to make me a valuable resource for the University."

Thompson's appointment to the NSF is an Inter Personnel Agreement, through which WMU will receive an NSF grant in exchange for Thompson's services for the two-year duration of the appointment. During the term of his appointment, he will continue to return to the University four to six times per year and will work on special projects for the president.

"I'm indebted to Dr. Floyd for being so supportive of this move," Thompson says. "He really sees the larger picture and the importance of my being at the NSF and then bringing that experience back to the University."

During Thompson's two-year absence from the campus, his WMU duties will be handled by Dr. William Wiener, currently associate dean of the Graduate College, and Dr. Jack Luderer, associate vice president for research. Wiener will serve as dean of the Graduate College and Luderer will take over the reins of the University's research efforts. Wiener and Luderer have been appointed to two-year terms in their new roles.

Thompson first came to the University in 1985 as associate dean of the Graduate College and director of research and sponsored programs. In 1986, he became the chief research officer. He assumed the role of vice president for research in 1989 and in 1995-96, he served as interim dean of the College of Education as well. In 1999, the Graduate College deanship was added to his responsibilities.

Under his tenure, the University's external research funding has soared from $4.2 million in the 1985-86 fiscal year to more than $50 million last year.

The Kalamazoo native began his career as a teacher and administrator in the Kalamazoo Public Schools and then spent 13 years in a joint appointment at the Ann Arbor and Flint campuses of the University of Michigan, working and teaching in the areas of education and urban studies. He also served as director of bilingual education programs for U of M and was director of the Project for Urban and Regional Affairs at the U of M, Flint, before making the move to WMU.

Thompson holds three degrees from WMU, including a bachelor's degree in English and master's and doctoral degrees in educational leadership.

Media contact: Matt Kurz, 269 387-8400, matt.kurz@wmich.edu

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