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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    Bourgeois appointed new dean of students

    Dean of Students Thomas Bourgeois was selected to take office after Mike White’s retirement at the end of July.
    Though he only has a month of experience under his belt in this particular position, Bourgeois is a veteran administrator and student servant. Prior to being chosen to fill the position of student dean, he served as associate dean of students from 1999 until his move up at the beginning of August.
    During that time Bourgeois oversaw the development of a Crisis Action Team, a group that consists of representatives from different departments and areas of Mississippi State which is responsible for preparing the university for any type of crisis.
    Maridith Geuder, director of University Relations, said Bourgeois has been the main constructor of the CAT.
    “There are many pieces that have come together to make this much more affective and stronger in terms of responding, and Thomas has been a player in that since the beginning,” she said. “He is our point person, and he decides who is most needed to assess and decide what we need to do.”
    Bourgeois will also continue to be responsible for judicial hearings and investigations of student misconduct. He understands most students are only aware of the Dean of Students Office if they are involved in a discipline problem.
    “We do handle university discipline but that’s only about 30 percent of our job. The other 70 percent is helping students- being an advocate, being an ombudsman,” he said. “We’re a big university, and we’re going to make people mad. Students need a place to come and be able to yell a little bit – to shut the door and share some words about things that are going on; a free place to open and vent.”
    Though Bourgeois is a believer in equipping students with the tools and information needed to fight their own battles. He said he hopes students will recognize the Dean of Students Office as a place to go to for help.
    “A student will suffer three weeks when they could just simply come and sit down and hear us say, ‘Hey, you need to talk to this specific person in this office to get your problem resolved.’ And sometimes they need an advocate,” he said.
    The Dean of Students Office contains parent services which provides information to parents about anything from admissions to parking. Bourgeois finds working with parents very rewarding.
    “Parents’ natural tendency is to protect their sons and daughters, which is what we want them to do,” he said. “At the same time, we need to teach students to be individuals and to talk through issues they may have not only with their professors but their roommates.”
    Because the Dean of Students Office handles so many different areas of student life-from discipline to parking ticket appeals, advocate for student rights to parent services-the role of the office is not always clear.
    “Our role is not to help students out of situations, but to help them through situations. We’re not going to rush in and save the day, but we’ll empower and give you all the tools you need,” he said.
    Bourgeois said accountability between friends is an effective way to prevent and address issues in students’ lives.
    “If we can get students to take care of each other, that solves half of our problems,” he said.
    He said he hopes students can learn how to engage and communicate with others and how to fight their own battles while they are at Mississippi State.
    “You need to be able to do those things to be successful not just at Mississippi State, but to be successful in the real world,” Bourgeois said.
    These were lessons Bourgeois learned in his time as a student at Louisiana State University and as a student at MSU. Starting out at MSU, he became involved as an orientation leader and in student recruitment. He transferred to LSU where he graduated with a degree in biology. After teaching 10th grade biology, he realized that was not the career he wanted forever.
    “Me and three of my friends went backpacking out west for about three months, and I know it sounds sort of cheesy, but I found myself,” Bourgeois said. “I kept thinking back to my time spent as an orientation leader and serving students, and I came back to Mississippi State.”
    While pursuing his master’s in counselor education, he got a job working for the MSU housing department. That engrained in him a love for working with college-aged students. After finishing his master’s, he got a job at Loyola University in New Orleans.
    “Part of that job was housing, but part of that job was discipline and working with the Dean of Students Office there,” he said. “That gave me the experience I needed when I moved back up here in ’99 to the Dean of Students Office.”
    While working as the associate dean of students, Bourgeois acquired his doctorate in educational leadership in 2007.
    “It just proves that he is a disciplined, hard-working man to get a doctorate while working in the dean of students office and raising a family,” Geuder said. “He is so devoted to his family.”
    He and his wife, Angi Bourgeois of the Art Department, have two young sons. Though he grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Bourgeois has roots in Louisiana.
    Showing the same dedication to the students he works with, Bourgeois is always eager to begin the new school year. He said he is thrilled about the enthusiasm new and old students have shown about this semester.
    “They’re so alive and so excited to be here – and it’s not just the freshmen. It’s just a great age to work with. The fact that they’ve made the move to Mississippi State already shows that they can be tremendously successful,” he said. “And of course the Dean of Students Office is here for the bumps in the road that students might hit.”
    Bourgeois realizes college is a time to decide what one loves and is passionate about. He said he hopes he and his office can help guide students to become the best at whatever they choose to pursue. In college, he often chose aiding with student recruitment over his fraternity events.
    “Orientation and student recruitment was very important to me. It set me thinking that helping students and working with parents is just very rewarding,” Bourgeois said.
    He said the graduate program at MSU provided him with the opportunity to get involved with the housing department and filling internships with various offices from admissions to the health center.
    “The masters program and working with student affairs at Mississippi State is just wonderful. It gives a very well-rounded, well-based feel for what I wanted to do,” he said.
    He said he encourages students to take part in the co-op program and internships available.
    “Of course you think you know what you want to do, but most students change their majors many times,” Bourgeois said. “Even in graduate school you think you really should know what you want to do, but you’re still just figuring out how to apply the theories to real practice.”
    Student Association President Blake Jeter said he recognizes the important role the dean of students plays in daily student life. He said he is pleased Bourgeois was selected for the position.
    “I think that the way the university continues to change, but there also needs to be some constants,” Jeter said. “He’s worked with the Dean of Students Office so long, and he knows the ropes. He is very aware of the students’ concerns, so I think that it was important that he was chosen. He really has the students’ best interests at heart. He’s our advocate, and that’s so significant.”
    The Dean of Students office is located in 112 Lee Hall. Bourgeois encourages students to utilize the services of the office.
    “Come by and see us! I drink coffee everyday between one and three o’clock. We can solve the problems of the world over coffee,” he said.

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    Bourgeois appointed new dean of students