December 11, 2020
Since I began my tenure as your president, I have spoken to many of you about your aspirations for our great university. What comes up again and again in our conversations is this: the need to continue to push for excellence in education, to better ensure that all our students experience an inclusive and welcoming campus, and that they are supported in ways that set them up to succeed in college and beyond.
Today, I wanted to share with you four leadership changes and a new initiative that are designed to help us achieve our shared goals.
While we all share the responsibility for ensuring that our campus is an inclusive and welcoming place, the campus unit at the heart of these efforts is the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, led by Professor Leonard Moore.
Dr. Moore recently approached me with an opportunity to develop deeper and more productive partnerships between UT Austin and historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and the Prairie View Interscholastic League Coaches Association (PVILCA). I share Leonard’s enthusiasm and agree wholeheartedly that tighter collaboration with HBCUs could help our partners, our university’s students and faculty, and also benefit Texas and broader society.
In order to move toward a launch, Leonard will transition out of his role as Vice President for the DDCE and will serve instead as the Executive Director of this initiative, reporting to me, as he explores this opportunity and develops a comprehensive plan for how we will move forward.
Dr. Moore leaves big shoes to fill, and given the scope and importance of DDCE, leadership continuity is critical. I’m delighted to announce that Dr. LaToya Smith has accepted my offer to lead the division as its new Vice President. Having served for the past three years as Senior Associate Director for Student Services in Texas Athletics, Dr. Smith has been responsible for establishing one of the strongest student support networks in all of college athletics. Her work has been instrumental to supporting our athletes’ academic development and success.
He had this to say about this new role and the leadership transition. “Our opportunity to build stronger bridges to the HBCUs is paramount to the success of our diversity and inclusion efforts at UT. I am passionate about this effort and excited to focus my efforts more intently on these partnerships. Dr. Smith is the right person to lead the DDCE team’s great work on campus and in the community and further expand our efforts in creating a welcoming and inclusive campus environment.”
Please join me in thanking Leonard for his outstanding service and accomplishments leading DDCE, and for his willingness to take on a new initiative and build it from scratch. I am also grateful for his work in elevating DDCE, and for reaching and engaging important constituents across our campus and community.
Prior to her role in Athletics, LaToya served as the university’s Associate Vice President and Title IX Coordinator. Between 2008 and 2015, she held the roles of Assistant and Associate Dean of Students at UT Austin. As a pioneer in strategic planning in higher education, she has been instrumental in developing many campus resources and programs such as Student Emergency Services, the Behavior Concerns Advice Line (BCAL), and Student Veteran Services. As a faculty member in the College of Education, she also teaches Higher Education Law and Student Affairs.
Under LaToya’s leadership, we will build on the current foundation of our diversity and community engagement efforts. Make no mistake, this is a priority for the university and for me personally.
Another priority is for us to continue to work to ensure that we coordinate our academic efforts in order to improve student and faculty experiences and outcomes. With this in mind, I am excited to announce that Professor Richard Flores has accepted my offer to become Deputy to the President for Academic Priorities. In this new role, Dr. Flores will support a host of academic programs and initiatives across campus, increasing their capabilities when it comes to communication, organizational effectiveness and strategic planning. Working with the Provost and other campus leaders, Richard will ensure that we communicate clearly across units, avoid duplication of efforts, and ensure a more unified approach to similar but noncentralized initiatives and programs. Another key area of support will be for our faculty promotion and tenure decisions; Richard will also serve on the President’s Promotion and Tenure Committee, and I look forward to having his voice, perspective and expertise as part of that critical process.
A professor of anthropology and Mexican American studies, Richard holds the C.B. Smith, Sr. Centennial Chair in U.S.-Mexico Relations. Until recently, he was the Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Liberal Arts, a role he grew and developed through 16 years of service in the dean’s office. As Senior Associate Dean, he oversaw the college’s curricular and academic mission, its study abroad and international studies programs, and its faculty recruitment and retention efforts (including recruitment, retention, and pipeline issues for underrepresented faculty members) as well as “UTeach-Liberal Arts,” the college’s secondary teacher preparation program.
Finally, I’m happy to announce that Jeffery Graves has accepted my offer to become the university’s Chief Compliance Officer. Mr. Graves has been our interim compliance officer since February, and he has been an outstanding asset in this position as we’ve made several critical transitions. In this role, he oversees our Compliance and Ethics Program, which includes the Title IX Office, staff and faculty training, policy development and Clery Act compliance. Previously, he was the university’s Associate Vice President for Legal Affairs. Jeff brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience to the role. He is a 1991 graduate of UT’s School of Law, has practiced higher education law for nearly 30 years and has been a member of the National Association of College and University Attorneys since 1995.
LaToya, Richard and Jeff all have very different roles in my leadership team. But each role strengthens the same mission: to support our university as we strive for excellence in teaching and research, while we provide our students with a diverse, welcoming and inclusive campus that maximizes their likelihood of success. Like myself, they have all been at the university for a significant amount of time, and they all happen to be Texas Exes, with five total degrees from UT among them. They know UT well and call it home. I’m excited to work with each of them more closely, and to see their energies and expertise focused in new ways when it comes to serving our students.
Please join me in congratulating LaToya, Richard and Jeff.