Whether he’s mentoring Toro business students in organization and leadership or serving on the board of directors of the CSUDH Foundation, Professor of Management Thomas Norman is one of the busiest people on campus.
Why does Norman spend so much time on activities and programs in addition to his teaching responsibilities? “It’s this sincere desire I have to help take care of and help our young learners,” he says. “I’m all about helping them connect to what most of them want—a better job.”
Norman’s work in mentoring students in research labs, executive committees, and boards all stem from his dedication to going the extra mile for Toro students. His hard work has earned him the 2023 Excellence in Service Award. The honor recognizes faculty contributions to university governance and development and acknowledges that service and partnership are an essential component of CSUDH’s mission.
Born in Minnesota, Norman moved to Wisconsin as a teenager and completed high school there. As an outstanding student in a small school, he was accepted into Harvard University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in social studies. Norman went on to attain a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Human Resources and Industrial Relations from the University of Minnesota.
Teaching is actually Norman’s second career. He enjoyed a successful stint as a banker at U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo, and served for five years as program manager in the Human Resources department at Sun Microsystems. He gave up his Silicon Valley career in order to teach and give back to the educational community that had nurtured him.
“I really find this to be a calling,” he says. “The reward I get is seeing a few students every year make that jump into graduate school or a career they’ve been dreaming of. When a student I mentored gets into a master’s program, that’s what’s really exciting to me.”
Since joining CSUDH as an assistant professor in 2007, Norman has devoted much of his time to service activities on campus. He has served as a mentor at the George Marsh Applied Cognition Lab and created the Organization Leadership Effectiveness Lab, as well as founding the CSUDH Rotaract Club and serving as their faculty advisor.
One of Norman’s proudest accomplishments has been helping found the CSUDH Innovation Incubator, where he also served as Chair of the Advisory Board. After spending two years on a task force creating the Innovation Incubator, he provided training, coaching, and mentoring for two cohorts of 20 clients who were starting and growing their businesses. These entrepreneurs learned to finance their ideas, find their first employees, and develop marketing plans under Norman’s guidance.
Norman is also an avid advocate for Study Abroad programs, and has led students and groups on trips to such far-flung locales as Bulgaria and Ethiopia. “Travel is so life changing,” he says. “Nothing can take the place of getting on a plane and experiencing a different culture.”
As if all that wasn’t enough, Norman also finds time to serve as an elected member of the Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council as Chair of the Port/Environmental and Sustainability Committee, on the CSUDH Foundation Board of Directors, and has worked with the CSU Chancellor’s Office to help create a job shadowing program for human resources, finance, IT, and communications students.
Although he is overjoyed to have won the Excellence in Service award this year, Norman says at CSUDH, “So many people on this campus deserve the service award. In terms of what they give to the students and the university community, there are lots of us making outstanding contributions. To me, that’s what makes CSUDH so special.”