Dr. Travis J. CooperTen years after joining the teaching faculty of Thomas Aquinas College, Dr. Travis J. Cooper is now assistant dean for student affairs on the California campus, succeeding fellow tutor Dr. Jared P. Kuebler, who concluded his four-year term on June 30.

“The Assistant Dean oversees student life outside the classroom, directing it so that it suitably supports the intellectual life that our students have come here to pursue,” says Dr. Cooper. “Our program of studies, and the Discussion Method in particular, require a flourishing community of friends, with extra-curricular activities that strengthen friendships and refresh our students in mind and body.”

Unlike most American colleges and universities, Thomas Aquinas College chooses its assistant deans — as well as its deans and its president — from among the members of the teaching faculty, so as to safeguard the institution’s commitment to Catholic liberal education. Aiding the assistant dean in his duties is a network of prefects, who are tasked with being active and exemplary members of the campus community, attentive to the needs of their fellow students and promoting observance of the rules of residence by example and by word and, when necessary, by enforcement.

For Dr. Cooper, it was this very sense of a well-ordered and faithful community that first attracted him to Thomas Aquinas College — well before he became an educator. “I came here whenever I could,” he says, recalling his own undergraduate days, when he would visit the Santa Paula campus to see his future wife, Briena (Dunkel ’06), then a TAC student. “I was astonished at the quality of the student life. I learned during my own experience, first as a student and then as a teacher at another small Catholic college, that it’s not easy to establish a good, vibrant student life. I’ve always been amazed at how the College has managed to achieve that, and how wonderful it is to be a student here.”

It is now Dr. Cooper’s responsibility to protect the student life he as long admired. “The Assistant Dean is charged with promoting and cultivating such a community,” he says. “I very much look forward to serving our California campus in this capacity.”