Thomas-Brown named dean of the College of Education

Closeup of Karen Thomas-Brown.
Karen Thomas-Brown

A leader in organizational development and strategic planning, Karen Thomas-Brown has been named dean of Washington State University’s College of Education.

Thomas-Brown, currently the associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the College of Engineering at the University of Washington, will begin her new role at WSU on Aug. 1. 

Provost Elizabeth Chilton announced the hiring following the completion of an extensive nationwide search.

“Karen Thomas-Brown’s vision, broad experience, and strong record of accomplishments poise her well to lead the next chapter of the College of Education’s evolution,” Chilton said. “Throughout her career and during the interview process, she demonstrated deep knowledge of challenges and opportunities for the college, as well as the ability to work collaboratively with faculty, staff, students, and stakeholders. Her commitment to inclusivity and her growth mindset will help advance the college, and provide opportunities to meet their strategic goals.”

Thomas-Brown said she’s honored to be part of the College of Education’s story.

“The research and discovery in the College of Education spans the entire state of Washington, and I am excited by the opportunity to advance the potential impact,” she said. “WSU’s existing foundation of cross-functional collaborations presents us with the unique chance to increase our partnerships with industry leaders and community organizations to ensure that our educational programs are accessible and impactful for all.”

A passionate advocate for innovation, equity, and inclusion in higher education, Thomas-Brown has dedicated her career to developing and implementing groundbreaking programs that empower individuals and cultivate learning communities and research environments where all can thrive. Thomas-Brown has a proven track record addressing critical challenges and driving positive change.

At the University of Washington, Thomas-Brown established the Office of Inclusive Excellence and led the College of Engineering’s DEI strategy and access programming. Under her leadership, the college launched the Inclusive Excellence Faculty Fellowship program, leading to a 30% increase in DEI knowledge and inclusive pedagogy among fellows. Recognized as a national leader in alternate pipelines for teacher certification, capacity building, and success by the Department of Education, Thomas-Brown has partnered with industry leaders and sponsors for graduate student STEM initiatives, such as Meta Day and Amazon Elevate Fellowship.

Before joining the University of Washington, Thomas-Brown was a professor in the Department of Education at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, where she led the College of Education Health and Human Services program review, which was administered by the Michigan Department of Education. She was also the disciplinary lead (social studies and geography) for the college’s reaccreditation through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and the geography content writer for the C3 Social Studies Framework published by the National Council for Social Studies. Thomas-Brown was a teacher-educator expert with the National Geographic Advisory Board in Michigan and led the University of Michigan’s Fairness and Inclusion and Anti-Racism committees and co-directed the Center for Disparity Solutions and Equity on the University of Michigan-Dearborn campus.

Thomas-Brown was the primary investigator for the Wayne Schools Increasing Teacher Capacity (WSITC) initiative. This five-year project revolutionized teacher training, residence, and internships to meet district-level needs in the Detroit metro area and socially marginalized groups. During the effort, Thomas-Brown built the capacity of 240 teachers in over 45 schools, distributed teaching materials, and extended interventions that included community and religious organizations that served the demographic. WSITC has been recommended by the Michigan Department of Education and other partner institutions as a proven solution to meet teacher shortage needs while simultaneously providing a bridge to college for underserved youth.

Thomas-Brown will replace Dean Michael Trevisan, who has led the college since 2013 and announced his return to faculty last spring

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