Larry P. Thomas Managing Director

Larry P. Thomas, managing director of the Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars (FDDS) program, is one of the most influential, honored, and admired leaders in American higher education today.

Known for over 20 years of success in student leadership development, career readiness, and graduate/professional school preparation, hundreds of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students from around the world have relied on Thomas for exceptional guidance, mentorship, and sponsorship. Before coming to American University, he directed the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) at Syracuse University for nearly a decade. Under Thomas' extraordinary leadership, the program enjoyed record levels of enrollment, raised the cumulative grade point average of its students from 2.3 to 3.2+, and achieved the highest graduation rates in 22 years. His high standards, common sense, and fresh approach to student development resulted in unprecedented progress for CSTEP, including the lowest student attrition rates and the highest undergraduate-to-graduate school enrollment rates in program history. Since 2009, Thomas has led the establishment of the award-winning FDDS program as its founding director, on a mission to elevate the intellectual curiosity, social responsibility, and success of enterprising students for post-baccalaureate education, impactful citizenship, and lifelong achievement.

Thomas previously served as associate director of the Office of Graduate Preparation Programs at Syracuse University, area coordinator for College House and Conference Services at the University of Pennsylvania, and residence coordinator at Florida State University. He has taught courses in sociology and psychology at Drexel University, and written about leadership and higher education for the Huffington Post, the Post Standard, and Syracuse University Press.

Dolen Perkins-Valdez Faculty Director

Dolen Perkins-Valdez is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel WENCH. *USA Today* called the book "deeply moving" and "beautifully written."  *People* called it "a devastatingly beautiful account of a cruel past."  *O, The Oprah Magazine* chose it as a Top Ten Pick of the Month, and NPR named it a top 5 book club pick of 2010. Dolen's fiction has appeared in The Kenyon Review, StoryQuarterly, StorySouth, and elsewhere. In 2011, she was a finalist for two NAACP Image Awards and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for fiction. She was also awarded the First Novelist Award by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. In 2017, HarperCollins released Wench as one of eight "Olive Titles," limited edition modern classics that included books by Edward P. Jones, Louise Erdrich, Roxane Gay, and Zora Neale Hurston.

Dolen received a DC Commission on the Arts Grant for her second novel BALM which was also published by HarperCollins in 2015. The *Washington Post* called the novel "Moving...In gorgeous, compassionate prose, Perkins-Valdez continues our national conversation about people working together to heal our communities." *Publishers Weekly* wrote that the novel was  “Elegantly crafted …captures the fierce energy, diversity, and suffering of Civil War-era Chicago…Perkins-Valdez moves gracefully among her three protagonists’ viewpoints as they struggle to claim their authentic gifts and free themselves of the pain of their pasts. Her spare, lyrical voice is unsentimental yet compassionate.

In 2013 , Dolen wrote the introduction to a special edition of Solomon Northup's Twelve Years a Slave, published by Simon & Schuster, which became a New York Times bestseller. She followed that with an introduction to Elizabeth Keckly's Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House, published in 2016.

Dolen serves on the board of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. Over the last few years, she has been a frequent participant in their Writers in Schools program. She has visited nearly every public high school in the District of Columbia to talk about the importance of reading and writing. She is Associate Professor in the Literature Department at American University.


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