Thomas Norman: 2014 Outstanding Professor

Thomas NormanAn example of Thomas Norman’s dedication to California State University, Dominguez Hills and its students is where he chose to live—across the street from the campus.

Little did Norman know in 2007 that this university would have such an impact on him. All but dissertation (ABD) in his doctoral program in human resources from the University of Minnesota, he had interviewed for a position in the College of Business Administration and Public Policy (CBAPP) on a whim after receiving a call in his hotel room from then-department chair, Roger Berry, at the Academy of Management Conference. His post-Ph.D. plan had been to stay in Minnesota or move back to Silicon Valley, where he had worked for several years. But the opportunity at CSU Dominguez Hills connected with him.

“The summer before I joined CSUDH a Google recruiter offered me a position in HR. When I decline, she informed me that in her experience I was the only candidate who turned down Google to teach at the CSU,” Norman said.””It’s always made me hold my head high that I’m at Dominguez Hills. It felt like a calling to come here and work with students who are very serious about their education; that dedication I feel is like clay to work with.”

And mold it he has. His proudest accomplishments have been in creating opportunities that give his graduates an edge over others in the job market. He established a CBAPP HR advisory board in his first year and became active in the nonprofit Professionals in Human Resources Administration (PHRA), to which he brings students to network with professionals. He also partnered with the Southern California Regional Occupational Center (So Cal ROC) to provide his students with practice as job interviewers, and with the South Bay Entrepreneur Center (SBEC), where many students intern and learn how a business incubator works.

“That’s how I’ve been successful in helping dozens of folks land jobs, because most undergraduates don’t get that level of exposure to industry,” he said, beaming with pride as he tells of a recent graduate who was selected for an entry-level HR job at SpaceEx over a UCLA graduate. “She did it with what I think is the Dominguez Hills secret: hard work.”

Coming from Harvard as an undergraduate, Norman knows what elite schools require of their students and he sets the bar high for his students so they know where they stand in the global marketplace. In class, he’s known for pre-tests, weekly quizzes and hard finals, but also for having a sense of humor and being approachable. He gives them real-world assignments that will expand on what they’ve learned, telling them to go evaluate the recruiters at the campus job fair or attend the job talks of campus administrative searches.

“I don’t just want to engage people during the time we have in the class, but I ask how do I engage your mind for these 15 weeks we have, together to get you doing things so you become better in the area you came to me for the expertise in,” he insists.

Norman sets the bar equally high for himself, which explains why he moved close to campus and is here Monday through Friday.

“To do education well is labor intensive,” he said. “To me, this career is such a privilege.”

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