Being around students who have gone through recovery can have an impact on an individual. For Thomas Kimball, the director for the Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities, these students have made a direct impact on his life.
Kimball was hired in 2004 as a professor in the College of Human Sciences. Along with his work as a professor, he said he worked directly with the center because of his previous work with addicts and their families helping them make the transition from addiction to recovery.
Kimball then moved through the ranks and became the associate director of the center. As associate director, Kimball was in charge of the day-to-day student offerings and help for the students. When the previous director, Kitty Harris, retired, Kimball said he was surprised he was offered the director position.
“I did not envision that I would eventually become the director,” Kimball said. “That was never a part of my thought process. When our former director Kitty Harris retired, I was grateful to take on the directorship, but it was surprising, and I didn’t expect it actually.”
Through the director position, Kimball oversees the budget and the resources to run the center, he said. He oversees the community itself and is responsible for the programs and the operations in the center.
One of the bigger parts Kimball oversees is the scholarship endowment, he said. Kimball has to make sure the center awards scholarships based on the criteria they give the students.
George Comiskey, associate director of external relations at the Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities, said they are able to give 120 scholarships to undergraduate students and 15 to 20 graduate students scholarships.
Comiskey said this helps some of the students get into the university.
“If they have a checkered past, which many people who are in recovery do, we are able to navigate that and get them into the university, maybe on a probationary status, but get them in, so they can establish themselves in this community and as students here,” Comiskey said.
Being around these students in the center has been a blessing for Kimball, he said. Being around them has made him a better person.
“People in recovery are incredibly grateful, incredibly humble and incredibly hard working,” Kimball said. “They understand what it means to have a second chance at life. Just being in that kind of environment and supporting them and caring about them and vice versa, I’ve learned so much about life. I’ve learned about how a community of people can support one another.”
Being around these students helped Kimball get through a difficult time in his life. He learned from people in the center to learn from the 12-step approach. Kimball learned how to turn his will over to God.
Interactions with the students also helped Kimball in teaching the class on family dynamics of addiction recovery, he said.
“My direct interaction with the people here who are in recovery and their families has really impacted me in the classroom,” Kimball said. “There are situations and scenarios that I’m dealing with every day that helps me be able to teach those principles in a more powerful way.”
Kimball’s favorite moment of every year is the holiday dinner where all the graduating seniors speak about their journeys. These speeches, Kimball said, capture what the center is all about.
“It’s a testament to their recovery, to their growth, to their hard work to realize this goal to be a college graduate,” Kimball said.
However, not everything goes smoothly for Kimball. Every now and then, there are students who do fall out of recovery. Kimball said it does not happen very often but when it does, it affects the whole center, not just a few people.
As the center grows in the future, Kimball wants to grow the community, he said. In the center, currently, they have about 120 to 130 students. In the next year or so, Kimball wants to see 200 students in the program.
For that increase in students to happen, a scholarship endowment base and the operating budget has to increase, he said.
Through the increase in students, Kimball hopes to see the community to be more diverse, he said.
“I anticipate over time that our community will become much more diverse with more women, more minorities and other marginalized people such as the LGBTQ community,” Kimball said. “We are making a specific effort to reach out to folks that typically are marginalized and to let them know we are here and we can be of service to them in their recovery.”
Kimball also hopes to see more colleges adopt centers like the one at Tech, he said. The Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities is a part of the Association of Recovery in Higher Education along with 70 other schools including Baylor University and the University of Houston, according to its website, www.collegiaterecovery.org.
“We don’t have enough collegiate recovery programs across the nation,” Kimball said. “There has to be a collegiate recovery program on every college campus in the nation, and there just isn’t. There could be and should be.”