University of Iowa

Volker Thomas

Volker Thomas, black and white photograph
​Volker Thomas is retiring after seven years of leadership in the College of Education. Thomas first joined the college in 1990 as an assistant professor in Counselor Education with the hopes of creating a doctoral family and couple therapy program.

After leaving the college to teach at another university, Thomas returned to in 2011 and fulfilled his dream of developing the Couple and Family Therapy program.

“I got a phone call from the head of the search committee in the department asking me to revive the family couple therapy program, and if I knew any former students who would be a good match,” Thomas says. “I thought about it for a while, and called her back and asked, ‘Well, what if I applied?’”

Thomas was hired and began building his doctoral program with great success in a short, three-year time span — with the average program taking at least five years to be developed.

“I came back, and got a chance to complete what I didn’t get to complete in the 1990s, and it’s going to be finished by next year,” says Thomas.

A cornerstone of the Couple and Family Therapy program that Thomas created is social justice.

“It’s very easy to talk about social justice, but doing it is much more difficult,” Thomas says. “The vision I created was a program that was dedicated to social justice in terms of teaching, research, and clinical supervisions and to attract students and faculty that share that vision.”

Behind all of Thomas’ success is his commitment to use his privileges to help those who are oppressed or disadvantaged.

“His effects are wide reaching — he is someone who is compassionate toward people and passionate about what he does,” says former colleague, associate professor Jacob Priest.

Priest came to the College of Education specifically to work with Thomas.

“When you’re with Volker, you learn more about how you can and should behave in the world because he’s not only a person who talks about wanting to do good things, but he convinces himself to actually do them” Priest says. “What sets him apart is his kindness, his integrity, and his commitment to social justice.”

As Thomas retires, he hopes the program will become one of the country’s best and as one that is centered on social justice.