Dean of Tusculum’s College of Civic and Liberal Arts to examine 100 years of the short story during Cicero Lecture on campus

GREENEVILLE – Spend an evening learning about the history and value of short stories from an expert writer and Tusculum University leader during the annual lecture that captures elements of the higher education institution’s commitment to civic engagement.

Wayne Thomas

Wayne Thomas

Wayne Thomas, dean of the College of Civic and Liberal Arts and an associate professor of English, will give the Cicero Lecture Wednesday, March 20, at 7 p.m. in the Behan Arena Theatre on campus. The title of his comprehensive and insightful presentation is “American History and the Short Story: Readings and a Lecture.”

“The themes and styles of the American short story offer striking parallels and contemporaneous commentary on American history,” Thomas said. “The lecture will trace 100 years of that history via this literary form, decade by decade, starting with the early 20th century and continuing through the early 21st century.”

The event will be more than a lecture from Thomas. In keeping with one aspect of the university’s mission – to deliver active and experiential learning experiences – Thomas will periodically stop during his lecture to enlist students in Tusculum’s communication program to perform excerpts from favorite readings for the audience. He will also incorporate students from Tusculum’s acclaimed creative writing program at the end of his lecture.

In addition, Thomas will provide the audience with a recommended reading list of three titles from each decade.

“Edgar Allan Poe defined the short story as a narrative that ‘can be read at one sitting,’” Thomas said. “The best short stories challenge who we are while examining who we are. They make us think and feel, which are the very things that make us human.”

Dr. Tricia Hunsader, Tusculum’s provost and vice president of academic affairs, said the university is pleased to have Thomas deliver this year’s Cicero Lecture.

“Wayne is extremely talented and well-versed with short stories as an academic and a practitioner,” she said. “His passion for the short story is palpable and will be evident as he gives his compelling presentation, which will enrich the lives of our audience. His skill with the pen is extensive and touches multiple genres, so the audience will be in for a treat as he shares his knowledge.”

The Cicero Lecture is a tradition spanning about two decades at Tusculum and features a talk by a current or former faculty member of the university.

Cicero was a Roman statesman, lawyer, philosopher and orator. He would often host debates and learned discussions at his villa in the ancient town of Tusculum, located 15 miles southeast of Rome. There, he outlined principles of civic republican virtue, which involved active engagement in political life, a commitment to reflective thought and a willingness to put the well-being of the community above narrow self-interest. His principles inspire Tusculum’s focus on the civic engagement component of the university’s mission.

Thomas has served on the Tusculum faculty since 2005. Initially, he designed and coordinated the journalism and professional writing program and advised the student newspaper. The student editors he mentored subsequently achieved impressive heights. They include the executive editor of an international journalism company out of New York City, who previously served as deputy foreign editor of BuzzFeed and manager for the “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” television show; a law professor at the University of Tennessee; and a programmer/analyst for a higher learning institution.

Following this success, Thomas became Tusculum’s creative writing coordinator and elevated that program to prestigious heights. The skill sets his students developed under his tutelage and that of other high-caliber English faculty landed them at prestigious graduate programs, including Columbia University, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Mississippi and Johns Hopkins University. Their Tusculum experience and graduate studies led many to successful writing careers.

His former students work as editors, publishers, journalists, technical writers, marketing specialists, public relations specialists, special events coordinators, teachers and professors. Justin Phillip Reed, a 2013 graduate of the creative writing program, earned the 2018 National Book Award for poetry.

Thomas has served as an academic dean since 2014, first with the School of Arts and Sciences and now as founding dean of the College of Civic and Liberal Arts. For his service to Tusculum and its students, he has earned the Teaching Excellence and Service to Students Award as well as the National Living Faculty Award. In recognition of the regard students have for him, these Pioneers have honored him with 20 pins through the years at the university’s annual Lantern Festival.

Thomas holds a Bachelor of Arts in theater and a Master of Fine Arts in scriptwriting from Georgia College.

“We are proud of the Cicero Lecture Series’ history of inviting the community to join us for thorough discussions of interesting subjects,” said Dr. Scott Hummel, Tusculum’s president. “We have presented a wide array of topics that have given our audiences valuable information and something to ponder when they return home. Dean Thomas takes great pride in this series and will definitely live up to the high standards we have established for the Cicero Lecture.”

The Cicero Lecture is free, but Tusculum welcomes donations to support the broad array of programs and presentations available to the community at the university.

Further information is available by emailing Rouja Green, director of Tusculum’s Center for the Arts, at More information about the university is available at