Dear UMBC Community,
It is with mixed emotions that I share with you that Valerie Thomas has announced her intention to retire effective June 30, 2022. Since joining UMBC in 2002, Valerie has led UMBC’s Human Resources organization with integrity, empathy, and excellence. She has helped build and integrate campus-wide systems and policies, established an open and honest dialogue with shared governance units, and negotiated on behalf of the University and its people with patience, an open mind, and a consensus-building mind-set. Valerie is particularly appreciated for building a strong human resources team that partners with the campus community and celebrates the excellence of our faculty and staff with energy, enthusiasm, and creativity.
Valerie is completing more than 40 years of service with University System of Maryland (USM) institutions. She started her higher education career in 1979 as a temporary employee working for Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski, then Dean of Arts and Sciences at Coppin State College. Valerie went on to other opportunities at Coppin State, including as Assistant to the Dean of the Lower Division and Assistant to the Vice President for Academic Affairs, and 10 years as head of Human Resources. With her 20 years at UMBC, Valerie is the longest-serving head of HR in the University's history.
President Hrabowski, her original supervisor and mentor notes, “Valerie has always emphasized the ‘human’ in human resources. Her ability to navigate the complex relationships of a campus community has earned her a stellar reputation as a fair, caring, understanding, and reliable colleague. Most of all, she has focused on establishing and nurturing relationships, inspiring those who interact with her to accomplish more than they thought possible.”
As our senior HR leader, Valerie is responsible for talent acquisition, benefits, classification and compensation, organization development and workplace learning, employee relations, information management, staff recognition, wellness, and payroll. She has also been a staunch advocate for work/life balance, encouraging the campus to adopt alternative work arrangements to support employees and allow for more accommodations. Today, UMBC is recognized as one of the most family-friendly institutions in work/life balance policies for faculty and staff. UMBC has also been recognized for 12 years running by the Chronicle of Higher Education for being one of the nation’s “Great Colleges to Work For,” in large part due to Valerie's work.
Valerie not only has a heart for UMBC, but also serves many professional and civic organizations. She is a long-standing member of the College and University Professional Association, the Society for Human Resources Management, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women. Her tireless service to these organizations has earned her awards and accolades from each.
Through her dedication to exceptional service to the campus community, Valerie has transformed the Human Resources department into a model for institutional excellence. We will begin searching for the University’s next Chief Human Resources Officer immediately to continue this important work. The University has retained Koya Partners to assist with this search; more updates will be forthcoming.
I am immensely grateful to Valerie for all that she has accomplished at UMBC. Please join me in wishing her happiness and good health during her much deserved retirement.
Kathy L. Dettloff, Vice President for Administration and Finance