On a warm fall day, Thomas Range was strolling across Mr. George’s Green, as his wife and daughter were taking in the carnival games and festive foods surrounding them.
Thomas had a big smile on his face, as the celebration of First-Generation Students Day was in full swing.
His two worlds were colliding, and he could not have been happier.
The Director of Student Mentorship and Engagement has since changed titles, and is now the Assistant Dean of Student Engagement and Director of the Evett L. Simmons ’79 Multicultural Center. No matter what his title, Range’s passion for his job has not changed.
The Florida Southern Family
In his role as Director of the Simmons Center, Range works on a daily basis with many underserved groups on campus, from first-generation students, to students of color and international students. Many of the students fit into several more than one group, and are proud of their affiliation with the Simmons Center.
“It is our duty to educate,” Range said. “Everything we do has a learning component. Everything that we do has a purpose.”
Range understands that by building and developing personal relationships with students, he has more of an opportunity to help educate and teach them. Working with more than 20% of the College’s undergraduate population, there certainly is work to do.
“I just jumped right in,” he added. “I’m familiar to our students, and I have been a constant presence. I want to understand the culture, the students.”
His infectious smile is evident as he talks about his students.
His Own Family
Together with his wife, they live locally, and have two children. Range is well aware of the importance of education as a vehicle to social mobility.
Range earned his undergrad and master’s degrees from Florida A&M and is currently working on his doctorate at UCF. Both advanced degrees are in Curriculum and Instruction.
“The EdD is a practitioner’s degree,” Range said. “I take an asset-based approach, where we translate wins into strengths.”
Range’s goal is to continue learning new approaches and pedagogies, to put them into practice and help enrich the lives of the students he works with.
“I am just learning,” Range confided. “How can we affect change at our level? I use qualitative and quantitative research. I read the literature. What will make me the most effective practitioner I can be?”
During the recent celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Simmons Center, Range had the pleasure of introducing the featured Convocation speaker, Mr. Fred D. Gray, Sr. Unbeknownst to Gray prior to coming to Lakeland, Range and Gray are actually distant cousins. It was the first time that the 93-year-old Gray had ever been introduced as a speaker by a family member. Gray, a leading civil rights attorney who Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to as “the chief counsel for the protest movement,” was often held up as an example to Range by his parents. The idea was to teach Range the importance of making a difference in this world.
The Simmons Center Family
As the third Director in the history of the Simmons Center, Range understands how important the work is that he does. Or, as he emphasizes, “that we do.”
He stresses that the campus needs to fully understand and embrace the role of the Simmons Center, as a space for all students to feel comfortable.
“Interdependence is key, where we all rely on each other. We are all stronger together.”