After serving more than 27 years in law enforcement at the Story County, Iowa, Sheriff’s Office, second-year Ph.D. student Barry Thomas may have finally found his true calling—teaching.
Thomas, who is seeking a doctorate in sociology with a criminal justice focus, received a spring 2020 Graduate College Teaching Excellence Award, which recognizes and encourages outstanding teaching achievement by graduate students.
“I feel so honored to have been selected for this award,” Thomas said. “Teaching is so important to me, and to be recognized for excellence in doing something that I love so much is truly a blessing.”
Matthew DeLisi, Distinguished Professor and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Professor, is Thomas’ major professor. DeLisi said Thomas’ law enforcement experience, coupled with a stellar teaching aptitude, offer students a unique learning opportunity.
“Barry is an expert on virtually every area of law enforcement. Also, he is an extremely kind, empathic person and has greater interpersonal skills,” DeLisi said. “Barry cares deeply about making a positive difference in people’s lives, and that pertains especially to his students.”
Thomas has taught both Police and Society (CJ ST 351) and Youth and Crime (Soc 241). Connecting with students emotionally as well as academically is his top priority.
“Going the extra mile to bond with students takes time and energy, but I have consistently found that it is worth the investment,” Thomas said. “I take the knowledge that I have acquired as a 27-plus year law enforcement practitioner and infuse it into an educational setting to provide students with the pragmatic information necessary to enhance their understanding of how society and the criminal justice system interact.”
Thomas has a few semesters left at Iowa State before he earns his Ph.D., but he already knows teaching will be part of his future.
“My desire would be to continue to teach in higher education. Additionally, I hope to combine my experience in academia with my practitioner background to help bring law enforcement and higher education closer together,” Thomas said. “In my opinion, the more collective work that can be done between the two groups, the stronger the law enforcement profession will be, which ultimately should contribute to safer communities and a healthier law enforcement workforce.”