Dr. Debra Thatcher to Serve as College's Next Provost, VP for Academic Affairs

January 10, 2011

SUNY Cobleskill President Dr. Donald P. Zingale has recommended to the chancellor the appointment of Dr. Debra Thatcher as the next provost and vice president for academic affairs at the College, effective Jan. 19. Thatcher replaces Dr. Anne Myers, who returns to the faculty after eight years as vice president, including two years as SUNY Cobleskill’s officer in charge prior to the arrival of Zingale in 2008.


From 2006 through 2010, Thatcher served as provost and dean of faculty at Lees-McRae College, a private four-year institution in Banner Elk, N.C. In that role she was the chief academic officer with oversight of academic programs and extended campus degree programs; the college’s information technology, institutional research, and accreditation offices; the student development department; and multiple centers and special projects.


A passionate educator whose higher education experience spans two decades and includes time at two comprehensive state universities, Thatcher joins SUNY Cobleskill at one of the most important junctures in the College’s history. SUNY Cobleskill’s 2011 charter centennial year includes completion of the Middle States re-accreditation self study and launching of a new strategic plan The Second Century Enterprise.


“I am honored to have been selected to join the SUNY Cobleskill community,” says Thatcher. “Attracted by the College’s unwavering focus on experiential learning, I am eager to be part of the collective effort to provide exceptional curricular and co-curricular opportunities for SUNY Cobleskill’s students. The next steps in the College’s strategic actions promise to be innovative and adventurous.”


Thatcher worked collaboratively with the entire Lees-McRae community to reposition the college and strengthen its curricular and co-curricular offerings while striving to meet the institution’s strategic objectives. Among those goals were the addition of new academic programs, improved facilities, increases in staffing and programming in community outreach, global initiatives, and outdoor programs.


In addition, as co-chair of Lees-McRae’s Engagement and Retention Committee, Thatcher led a core group of faculty and staff in the investigation and implementation of best practices to support success and persistence. The collective efforts resulted in significant improvements, including freshman to sophomore retention from 49 percent to 72 percent, overall retention from 73 percent to 83 percent, and in May 2010 the largest graduating class in the college’s history.


Prior to her tenure at Lees-McRae, Thatcher spent five years at Northern Michigan University, where she was associate dean of the College of Professional Studies and director of the School of Education, with additional duties as supervisor/director of a science and mathematics center and department head of communication disorders.


“Dr. Thatcher brings to SUNY Cobleskill a wide breadth and depth of experience that form an essential skill set for the multi-tasking administrators so often found on a small campus,” Zingale. “The mix of rural public and private college posts that have built on her national recognition in the child development arena should help her be a quick study in coming up to speed during the fast pace of our centennial year.”


Thatcher received her B.A. degree in elementary education from the University of Wyoming and earned a M.Ed. and Ph.D. in early childhood and elementary education at the University of South Carolina, where she also served as a graduate assistant and instructor (1990-1993). From 1993-2001, she was first an assistant professor and then associate professor at Salisbury State University in Maryland. She received full professor status at Northern Michigan University. Thatcher began her career as a prekindergarten through grade three teacher, Head Start Education Coordinator and Infant Learning Specialist in Alaska, Wyoming, South Carolina, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.


Thatcher’s scholarly pursuits have centered on the use of inquiry in teaching and learning, the improvement of science and mathematics pedagogy, and the authentic use of children’s literature in the classroom. She is the author of several publications; has made numerous international, national, and state presentations at professional conferences; and has written and directed multiple grants.


A winner of the 1988 Alaska Conservation Teacher of the Year award, Thatcher is a member of several professional organizations, including the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the Council on Undergraduate Research, the Association for Experiential Education, and the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. From 2003-2009, she served as a member of the Board of Examiners for the National Association for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, and from 2000-2009 she was a member of the NAEYC Professional Development Panel.