June 21, 2021
Dear UT Community,
It is with great pleasure that I write you to announce that Dean Sharon Wood has agreed to serve as our next Executive Vice President and Provost, effective July 19, 2021. This will follow an impressive seven-year run as Dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering, one of the top schools of its kind in the world. After an extensive national search, her talent, experience, accomplishments and rich knowledge of UT made her the clear choice to lead our academic efforts.
As a leader, I have always admired Sharon’s intelligence and judgment, her commitment to excellence, her values, and her ability to listen and understand the important perspectives of our stakeholders. She will bring ambitious goals and innovative thinking to the university’s opportunities and challenges, just as she has always brought great focus to support all students and their success before and after graduation. She is a passionate advocate for faculty and staff members and regularly emphasizes that our greatest strength lies in our people and collective talents. In these and other ways, she is a special leader, and I am thrilled about her appointment.
Sharon’s experience as dean, and previously as a department chair, will be immensely beneficial to the campus and ensure a smooth and efficient transition during an important time of immense opportunity for the university.
Provost-designate Wood’s accomplishments as dean are many, and under her leadership, the Cockrell School has been widely regarded for its innovative approaches to supporting students, investing in faculty and staff and developing resources to maximize their impact and success. A few of her accomplishments that stand out include:
- Increase in total engineering research expenditures from $176 million to $199 million annually.
- Construction of Engineering Education and Research Center, the Cockrell School’s flagship facility.
- Naming of Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering (Hildebrand), Department of Mechanical Engineering (Walker) and new Energy Engineering Building (Gary L. Thomas).
- Collaboration with College of Natural Sciences on renovation of Anna Hiss Gymnasium and creation of an interdisciplinary home for Texas Robotics.
- Launch of “You Belong Here” campaign to help build an environment within the Cockrell School that is free of hate, racism and intolerance, and where everyone is supported and valued.
- Creation of school’s first-ever Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and introduction of school’s first DEI plan and annual report.
- Increase of 22% in total number of undergraduate students enrolled from underrepresented communities.
- Launch of Ramshorn Scholars Program, a student success initiative that supports hundreds of first-year students as they transition to college.
- Record-high engineering graduation rates in engineering, with four-year rates increasing by more than 80% and six-year rates increasing by nearly 25%.
Provost-designate Wood is internationally recognized for her research on the earthquake response of reinforced concrete structures. She is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and previously served as president of the American Concrete Institute. She has served on federal advisory committees for the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program and the U.S. Geological Survey. She received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree and doctorate in civil engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
I would also like to take the opportunity to recognize Dan Jaffe for his invaluable service as interim provost during the past year. This is a challenging role to take on under the best of circumstances, and he did so with great distinction during what has arguably been the most challenging period in our lifetime. Dan deserves enormous credit for navigating the education and research enterprise of UT successfully, and carefully advising and directing our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I simply cannot overstate how critical his work has been, and we owe him a great deal of thanks. I look forward to continuing to work with Dan as he returns to his previous role as Vice President of Research.
Please join me in congratulating Provost-designate Wood on her new appointment and thanking Professor Jaffe for his service.