Biography

Tom is one of the founders of Columbia College Calgary. He currently serves as President of the College and sits on the Board of Directors.

Tom was born in Taber, a small town in southern Alberta. While attending junior high and high school he was active on student council, wrote a column for the local paper, was highly active in most school sports, managed a band, and worked at Safeway. He left school in 1967 and in 1969 was given a scholarship to attend an executive management program at Cornell University.  Tom later entered the University of Lethbridge Faculty of Arts and Science.   His major focus was industrial psychology.  After learning about special education Tom transferred to a five year joint B.A., B.Ed. program.  In January, 1974 Tom moved his family to Calgary to work in the head office of Canada Safeway.

He joined the Calgary Board of Education to take up a special education teaching position in September of 1974 and completed his Master’s Degree in Educational Administration in Washington in 1978. During his years with the Board, Tom developed and administered one of the first work experience programs in Canada designed to train youth with intellectual challenges for employment in industry. In 1979 he was selected as an Outstanding Young Calgarian by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.  Tom also designed a training program for young adults with intellectual challenges and was able to get provincial government approval for it in 1980.

Tom and Nola married in March 1980 and in June he was offered a program coordinator position at Mount Royal College to head up the educational program he had developed earlier. While at Mount Royal College, Tom started working on a doctoral program, established and coordinated three other programs for adults with disabilities, conducted a major fundraising campaign, and taught Industrial Psychology in the business faculty at Mount Royal and the University of Calgary.

The Snell family (consisting of 4 children) moved to Saskatchewan in 1984 where Tom took on the CEO (President) position of Cypress Hills Community College. During their time in Saskatchewan, Tom and Nola welcomed their fifth child and Tom continued to work on his doctorate. Much of his research began to focus on the needs of non-traditional adults and the lack of educational programs designed to meet their needs. His research led to the development of a new model of education dedicated to serve older adults and non-traditional adult learners. This is the model that Columbia College is based on.  It is called The Four Stage Learner-Centered Model of Education.

Since starting Columbia College in 1986 Tom completed his Doctor in Higher Education (1995) at Nova Southeastern in Florida.  He has also taught management courses at the University of Calgary.  Columbia College is now one of the largest private colleges in Alberta.  As a result of also adopting the Mastery Learning Model and the Columbia Olympic Games, its graduates have consistently achieved among the highest marks in Canada on national exams.  The college is positioning itself to offer university degrees.

In 2005, Tom was awarded the Alberta Centennial Medal for his dedication to the people of Alberta. Over the next fifteen years the college focused on improving the quality of College graduates by introducing Professional Behaviour into each program.  This has further increased the success of each student in their field of education. He also been worked on the development of a new internet-based model of delivering high-quality education to people around the world.

Over the summer of 2011 Columbia College received the results of an international survey on student engagement. This survey, which focuses on quality education, is conducted by the University of Texas and includes most two year colleges in the United States and many colleges in Canada. The survey concentrates on five critical areas including Academic Challenge, Active and Collaborative Learning, Student-Faculty Interaction, Student Effort, and Support for Learners.  Columbia’s students came through in spades. The College scored above average on three of the five critical areas and in the top 10 percent in North America on the other two. Tom considered this to be the proudest moment in his professional career to that date.

On October 20, 2011, Dr. Snell received the “Wall of Fame” Award from Myers High School in Taber, his old high school.  The award is given to Myers High graduates who have demonstrated outstanding service to the community.

Tom is on several provincial committees, is active in community organizations and volunteer work.  He works out several times a week.  Tom enjoys spending time with his best friend and wife (Nola), family members, and when time permits – golf.