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Alton Thompson

Alton Thompson, a leading expert on rural sociology and the former chief academic officer at Delaware State University, has been named the interim provost and vice president of academic affairs at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES).

Thompson assumed the position March 7 following the resignation of Patrick R. Liverpool for health reasons at the end of February. He will hold the position while the university conducts a national search for a permanent replacement.

As UMES’ chief academic policymaker, Thompson will oversee all aspects of the HBCU’s operations related to academic planning and budgeting; program evaluation, assessment and accreditation; educational policies and procedures; professional development; promotion and tenure of faculties and related responsibilities.

“Dr. Thompson brings to this assignment a wealth of experience and a broad understanding of the role of provost at an 1890 land-grant university in the 21st century,” said UMES President Juliette B. Bell in a statement. “I am pleased to welcome him as part of my senior leadership team.”

Before accepting the new position at the Princess Anne, Md. Institution, Thompson actually worked at two schools where Liverpool, his successor, also worked—though that may have had no influence on his being given the position.

Thompson had been Delaware State’s provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs since July 2010. (Liverpool once worked there as the dean of the business school). Before that, he spent 25 years at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro as a professor, researcher and administrator, serving as chair of its Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology and as interim provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs from 2008 to 2010. (Prior to his stint at UMES, Liverpool also served as interim dean of the business school at North Carolina A&T).

Thompson has also been a faculty member at North Carolina State University in Raleigh and Norfolk State University.

Bell praised Thompson for his distinguished reputation as a researcher, grant-maker and author.

Backed by about $10 million in grants, Thompson has specialized in studying the interfacing of statistics, research methodology, demography and rural sociology. The focus of his research has been agro-medicine, rural poverty/development, labor economics and the structure of agriculture. His research has been featured in over 25 journal articles, seven book chapters and a book, “Quality of Life among Rural Residents in North Carolina: Community and Life Satisfaction.”

Thompson was inducted into the USDA/National Institute of Food and Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2010 and he has also served in leadership roles on the Board of Agriculture Assembly for the Association of Public and State Universities, the Ford Foundation’s Rural Economic Policy Program, Census of Agriculture Advisory Panel of the National Council on Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics, the Southern Governors’ Southern Growth Policies Board,  the Board of Directors of Carolina Farm Credit and the Rural Advancement Fund International.

He earned his bachelor’s degree at North Carolina Central University and his master’s and doctorate from The Ohio State University.

“I am delighted to be a member of the senior leadership team at UMES as we work collaboratively with a talented faculty to operationalize and execute the vision for the University, centered on a standard of academic excellence.” Thompson said. “As an 1890 land grant university with a rich heritage, I look forward to engaging the faculty and staff in advancing collaborative learning, discovery and engagement in strategic and transformative ways.”