Professor Elizabeth Thomas Presented 2021 Jameson M. Jones Award for Outstanding Faculty Service

two college faculty at the podium during an awards presentation
(l-r) Dr. Elizabeth Thomas and Dr. Katherine Bassard

Dr. Elizabeth Thomas, professor of psychology and Plough Chair of Urban Studies at Rhodes College, was presented the 2021 Jameson M. Jones Award for Outstanding Faculty Service at the college’s Opening Convocation held Oct. 21 in Fisher Memorial Garden. Opening Convocation was postponed until after fall recess to allow the campus community to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. This annual ceremony marks a new academic session and welcomes the new Rhodes class.

“It is a Rhodes tradition that each year during convocation that we announce the recipient of the Jameson M. Jones Award for Outstanding Faculty Service,” said Dr. Katherine Bassard, provost and vice president for academic affairs, who made the presentation. “The award is named for Dr. Jameson Jones, a member of the Rhodes Class of 1936. Dr. Jones joined the faculty at Rhodes in 1955 and served as the college’s chief academic officer for more than 15 years. In his honor, the award is intended to recognize a member of the faculty who has established an outstanding record of service to the college.”

Thomas joined the Rhodes College faculty in 2011. Since then, she has worked to develop a thriving Urban Studies Program, served as the director of the First-Year Seminar, and led initiatives that have strengthened the college’s academic program as well as relationships with the greater Memphis community. She is exceptionally devoted to Rhodes faculty and students, whose input she values and whose work she supports, and the letters of nomination that the award committee received about Thomas speak eloquently about her commitment to the college and beyond.

One of her nominators noted that Thomas’ advocacy “for undergraduate participatory action research focused on community-based learning and civic engagement” should serve as a model for other institutions of higher learning. Another nominator, who served with her on the Urban Studies Program committee, commended her for building “the single-most diverse, inclusive, and participatory” program committee at the college.
Thomas also has contributed to other college-wide committees and initiatives, including the Fellowships Committee and the Diversity and Equity Committee, and currently serves as chair of the Faculty Governance Committee. One nominator remarked that her leadership of a three-year innovation grant funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation “helped to build a community of faculty committed to community-engaged pedagogies.”
Another nominator recalled that during conversations about revamping the First-Year Seminar, Thomas brought faculty and staff together, some of whom “fundamentally disagreed about what should be included in a first-year program. But by the time she brought a plan to the floor of the faculty, she had achieved virtual consensus on a way to move forward.”
In the greater Memphis community, Thomas has served on a Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare advisory board and is a research consultant with BRIDGES.

As the recipient of the 2021 Jameson M. Jones Award, Thomas joins a distinguished group of faculty who have demonstrated through their outstanding records of service that they embody the kind of intellectual leadership and commitment to service that were so important to Jones.