September 9, 2019
Dear UT Faculty and Staff,
Earlier today, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board voted to appoint Harrison Keller as the state’s next Commissioner of Higher Education. He will begin his term October 1.
Harrison has served The University of Texas at Austin during the past decade as vice provost for higher education policy and research, professor of practice in the LBJ School and the College of Education, and for the past four years, deputy to the president for strategy and policy.
When I became president, I asked Harrison to join my executive team, and since then he has coordinated strategy development and policies with a particular focus on student success and affordability. He has expanded UT’s engagement with state and national leaders in higher education to spur educational innovation, and he has partnered with policymakers and Texas colleges and universities to streamline student transfer and improve student success.
Harrison has led UT’s participation in state and national organizations, including the Postsecondary Innovation Network (Texas), University Innovation Alliance, American Talent Initiative and, most recently, the “Powered by Publics” cluster that UT leads for the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. And during this past legislative session, Harrison and his colleagues across the state were able to inform major provisions of Senate Bill 25 that will streamline course credit transfer between community colleges and four-year institutions.
In 2011, with the support of the Texas Legislature, Harrison founded UT’s pioneering OnRamps program, which launched with a single computer science course delivered to 166 Texas high school students. This year, OnRamps will provide high-quality college-level courses developed by our faculty to a growing network of more than 47,000 Texas students, connecting UT faculty members with high school teachers and school districts to better prepare students for academic success in college. This summer, I had the pleasure of speaking to more than 800 Texas high school teachers who are part of OnRamps at their annual summit. It was inspiring to see and hear about the impact this UT program has had on communities across the state.
In 2015, Harrison founded Texas OnCourse, which is recognized as the nation’s most comprehensive digital learning initiative to promote college and career advising for secondary students. More than 12,500 counselors and advisers — who serve more than 95 percent of Texas secondary students — are connected to the OnCourse digital academy.
If you know Harrison, you have seen his passion for education and commitment to students. It is rooted in his upbringing in the Texas Panhandle as the son of two public schoolteachers and his years shaping policy as a staff member in the Texas Legislature. He is a deep thinker who has the clarity of vision to effect lasting change, and he has provided me with counsel and guidance during the past six years we’ve worked together.
I wish Harrison the best in the next phase of his career, where he will have a key leadership role for higher education in Texas. I encourage you to reach out and congratulate him.
Gregory L. Fenves