Gail Thomas, center, with Human Sciences program director Elizabeth MacDougall and Hood President Ronald Volpe

As a senior study director with Westat, one of America’s oldest social science research organizations managing and conducting process and outcome data collection for studies involving at-risk youth, clergy and the elderly, Gail Thomas wanted to know more. So the 15-year Westat veteran came to Hood’s Graduate School to deepen her understanding of human behavior and gerontology.

When she graduated with a master’s in Human Sciences in May 2015, Gail was honored with the Outstanding Human Sciences Student Award for 2015. This monetary award, established by Craig D. Lebo in 2011, is given annually to the top graduate student in the program, based on criteria such as academic achievement, leadership ability, teamwork skills, and contribution to the program. ​

Since 2008, Gail has collaborated with the Divinity School of Duke University to conduct the Clergy Health Initiative Longitudinal Study, which seeks to assess, track and improve the physical, spiritual and emotional health of United Methodist Church clergy in North Carolina. In 2013, she was project director for the Congregational Decision-Making About Clergy Compensation Study for Duke University’s School of Sociology and the Lilly Endowment. In spring 2015, Gail was a task leader for the Association of American Universities’ Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct, which was administered to 27 participating research colleges and universities.

Currently, Gail is exploring the potential role for clergy as sentinels of elder abuse.