Thomas Poon, Ph.D., became executive vice president and provost on June 1, 2017. Reporting to the president, he leads the university’s Academic Affairs, Enrollment Management, and Student Affairs divisions, including overseeing the university’s educational, scholarly and creative activities; co-curricular and student development endeavors; and career and professional development, registrar, and admissions areas. As provost, Poon has demonstrated a commitment to the recruitment and retention of faculty of color, championed initiatives that promote globally conscious perspectives, and helped usher LMU into a new status as a nationally recognized research institution. He is also a tenured professor of chemistry, having held teaching positions at Colby College, Randolph-Macon College, the Claremont Colleges, Columbia University, and LMU.
Under Provost Poon’s guidance, LMU has expanded the pool of nationally-recognized faculty, created new tenure-line faculty positions across all colleges and schools, provided demonstrable, award-winning support for non-tenure track faculty, and enhanced resources for faculty and students from underrepresented backgrounds. Undergraduate enrollment has grown by 15 percent, and support for graduate studies in the areas of graduate admissions and program development has been bolstered through additional staffing and leadership appointments, leading to an increase in LMU’s graduate offerings with the addition of new programs in business analytics (MSBA), management (MSM), performance pedagogy (MFA), online educational leadership (EdD), global entrepreneurial management (MGEM), literacy for urban schools (LTUB), computer science (CMSI), entrepreneurship and sustainable innovation (ENSI), and entertainment leadership management (MELM).
Poon has collaborated with campus leaders to bolster the university’s reputation for academic excellence on a national scale. In 2018, LMU opened its Playa Vista Campus, a stunning 50,000-square-foot facility in the heart of Silicon Beach, L.A.'s technology hub. That same year, LMU celebrated its distinction in the liberal arts and sciences with the installation of a new chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. He has been instrumental in increasing philanthropic interest in LMU through impactful donations to support film and television, dance and theater arts, conservation efforts, the William H. Hannon library, and academic support services.
Poon oversaw the long overdue recognition of LMU as a leading research university through its reclassification as a Carnegie R2 institution, a status that acknowledges the consistency and strength of our scholarly productivity and raises LMU’s standing on a national level. Since his appointment, LMU’s support for research and development increased by 81 percent according to the National Science Foundation higher education survey on institutional research and development, with a 62 percent increase in research and development expenditures from $7.9 million in 2018 to $12.8 million in 2021. Provost Poon’s leadership team provides more support for faculty grant writing and proposal guidance each year, resulting in a 42 percent increase in grant dollars awarded over the past five years.
Additionally, in line with LMU’s commitment to expand its reach beyond the bluff, Poon has overseen a broad range of academic and social justice measures that emphasize community involvement. Under his tenure, the university appointed its first vice provost for Global-Local Affairs, expanded study abroad offerings to over 100 programs, and grew undergraduate international student enrollment by 18 percent. He is a dedicated advocate for first-generation and underrepresented college students and spearheaded the efforts to centralize Undocumented Student Support Services, which launched in fall 2023.
Along with his administrative accomplishments, Poon is an accomplished scientist, publishing numerous peer-reviewed articles, including many with undergraduate co-authors. He has also contributed chapters and co-authored books on pedagogy, chemistry, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Poon has received multiple grants from the National Science Foundation to increase the pipeline of Ph.D. students in STEM fields, acquire cutting-edge instrumentation, and integrate the sciences into the undergraduate curriculum. He pioneered textbook methodologies and created hybrid-learning approaches that have been adopted by other authors and have become prevalent in chemical education. His OCHEM educational website has been highlighted in the journal Science and has helped college students learn organic chemistry since 1999. Poon earned his Ph.D. in chemistry at UCLA in 1995 and his Bachelor of Science degree in 1990 at Fairfield University, a Jesuit institution. He has competed in several triathlons and marathons, including the Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York City, and Boston marathons. His personal interests include professional and collegiate sports, film and cinema, and music. He plays guitar and ukulele, and he has recorded audiobooks for the visually impaired.