Normandale Alum Story - Scott Thayer

By Chris Hall & Steven Geller

Scott Thayer is currently the Vice President of Student Services at San Bernardino Valley College, and has over 20 years working in the California Community College system. The positive experience at Normandale was a great first exposure to the quality education community colleges can provide. He has enjoyed bringing those positive experience to many other community college students throughout his career. 

Thayer attended Minneapolis South High School where he played football, basketball, and baseball. While contemplating his options for college, Joe Ross, who was Normandale's Baseball Coach at the time, contacted him. Thayer decided to attend the University of Minnesota and planned to try to make it as a walk-on with the baseball team. 

"Coach Ross explained to me what Normandale had to offer and said there was a spot on the team for me if I changed my mind," said Thayer.

Thayer did not make the University of Minnesota baseball team, but the following semester he took Ross up on his offer and transferred to Normandale.

"I never thought that I would attend a community college, but it's probably the best experience that I have had in higher education," said Thayer. 

During his time at Normandale, Ross continued to be a great influence on Thayer as both a baseball coach and an advocate for his education pursuits. The Normandale baseball program, who had established a reputation for being one of the best two-year programs in the state, won back-to-back state championships during Thayer's playing career. 

Thayer also had the experience of working with Ross to help him mail player profiles to over 2,000 colleges and universities, which is how many of the players obtained scholarships offers from four-year institutions after finishing their time at Normandale. Thayer earned his associate's degree and continued his playing career at Rollins College in Florida. 

"I have fond memories of Normandale," said Thayer. "I think it set a great foundation for moving forward in my career. I appreciated the time and effort that the instructors at Normandale dedicated to help myself and other students. It is a great higher education institution." 

Thayer graduated from Rollins with a degree in psychology and made his way back to Minnesota, where he worked in special education as a crisis intervention counselor. After working in the position for a year-and-a-half, Thayer decided to make a change and move to California. 

In the late 1990s, California ran a national campaign to recruit educators. At the time, Thayer had an uncle and brother who both lived in California, so he took a job as a second-grade teacher. He soon realized the he would be better suited for working with high school or college students. That led him to take a position at Pasadena City College working with their TRIO Upward Bound program. His involvement in student affairs work came after a three-year stint of coaching varsity baseball. 

"After the experience I had at Normandale, I wanted to be able to provide that similar experience to somebody else," said Thayer. "I thought coaching was the route that I would take, but I realized that in doing student affairs I could do a lot more than just the coaching part."

Thayer held his position at Pasadena City College for seven-and-a-half years, spent two years at Los Angeles Southwest College as Dean of Special Programs and TRIO, and then returned to Pasadena for seven more years as the Dean of Student Life.

"I gained a lot more experience in student affairs and student life dealing with student government, athletics, compliance and a broad array of programs," said Thayer. "We were able to do really good work and support students"

He left Pasadena City College and moved to San Diego where he was Vice President of Student Services at Cuyamaca College for three years before moving to his current role as Vice President of Student Services at San Bernardino Valley College. 

Along with his professional work in higher education, Thayer also continued to challenge himself with his own academics. He strived to achieve the highest level in education and obtained his Doctor of Education degree from the University of Southern California. 

"Your education is narrow until you advance," said Thayer. "Each step of the way takes the blinders off, so now I feel I can see a panoramic view of what I need to know and do in order to work in this field. That's what my doctorate has done for me."

Thayer is also involved in two non-profit organizations, A2MEND and Have Faith Be Strong. Have Faith Be Strong is an organization dedicated to helping children diagnosed with cancer and their families who are faced with challenging and difficult times. A2MEND (African American Male Education Network & Development) is an organization that supports underrepresented African-American males in higher education. Thayer is a founding member of A2MEND, an organization that was born from a meeting he attended in 2005.

"There was about seven or eight of us who were African-American males and were new administrators at our respective colleges, and we were at a meeting of several hundred people," said Thayer. "We looked around the room and identified each other easily, so we gravitated toward each other. During that week we started having conversations about how we were able to ascend to these positions, and now it was our responsibility to give back to others.

Thayer has a highly successfully career as a community college administrator, but he is still grateful for the positive experience he had as a community college student at Normandale.