Director of the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights in 2007-08, Downing A. Thomas also served as associate dean for University of Iowa International Programs during that time, and is a professor in the UI's French and Italian Department in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Thomas received his doctorate in French literature from New York University in 1991 and joined the UI faculty that year.
He has served on the Regents International Study Abroad Council (RISC) and as a UI International Programs representative to the Internationalization Laboratory of the American Council on Education, and has chaired the IP Strategic Planning Committee.
In 2005, the French government honored him as Chevalier, or Knight, in the Order of Academic Palms. In February 2007, Thomas was elected to a one-year term as president of the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages, an organization including 1,000 schools in the United States and Canada. In addition to his current leadership positions, he served as chairman of the Department of French and Italian from 1999 to 2007.