Brenau University appointed Crystal Toombs of Barnesville, Ga., as associate provost for adult and graduate studies.
Toombs specializes in studying, understanding and dealing with the multiple needs of adult learners, many of whom delayed undergraduate or graduate studies to pursue career opportunities, raise families and complete military obligations.
“Dr. Toombs brings to us an extensive background in adult education with extraordinary organizational skills and work ethic,” said Nancy Krippel, Brenau University provost and academic vice president. “Since ‘nontraditional’ students already make up close to two-thirds of the student body and will continue to grow in numbers as the university expands its undergraduate and graduate offerings, it is extremely important to have someone with impeccable credentials responsible for meeting the needs of those students.”
Brenau created the position this year as part of its strategic initiative to increase its enrollment to more than 5,000 students in the next decade. With its current enrollment approaching 3,000, the 135-year-old institution currently operates the legacy undergraduate residential Women’s College on the historic Gainesville campus with an enrollment of about 900 students. However, several hundred who do not fall into the more traditional 18-to-25 age group normally associated with college students already enroll in the nonresidential programs at two Gainesville locations – main campus and Brenau East; soon they will also be able to enroll in classes at the Brenau Downtown Center. Brenau’s other Georgia campuses – North Atlanta/Norcross, South Atlanta/Fairburn, Augusta and Kings Bay – serve the nontraditional student population. Adult learners also account for a substantial portion of the growth in Brenau’s online programs, including nationally ranked graduate students in business and education and general undergraduate studies.
“The challenge of working with nontraditional students is support,” said Toombs. “Brenau’s programs are phenomenal, my goal is to support AGS students from the day they walk through the door until their educational journey ends – and even beyond that. Our programs are geared toward success – not only as students while they are here, but throughout their lives.”
Toombs, a Philadelphia native, earned a Bachelor of Arts in clinical psychology and rehabilitation from Wilberforce University and a Master of Education in counseling at Kent State University and a Ph.D. in education leadership at Mercer University. Her doctoral dissertation dealt with adult students’ managing their transitions into college. She also holds a diploma in Christian leadership from New Covenant International Bible College in Auckland, New Zealand.
Since 2004 she served as the center coordinator overseeing academics and activities of more than 700 students at Mercer’s regional academic center in McDonough, Ga. She also taught as an adjunct professor in human services and psychology.
Toombs from 1990 to 2009 worked in a variety of counseling and family care roles primarily in not-for-profit counseling and services organizations in Ohio, Pennsylvania and the metro Atlanta area.
What attracted her to Brenau, she said, was its commitment to incorporate adult learners into the university culture. In many institutions, it is “far too often an us and them” view of “mainstream” students vs. the adult learner population.
“Brenau wants to be known not just for the outstanding Women’s College but for all of its students,” she said. “We are Brenau – regardless of where you are in the [student] spectrum.”