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College of Natural Sciences: Dean Search

 

The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), a member of the prestigious Association for American Universities (AAU) and one of the nation’s premier centers for academic excellence, seeks applications and nominations for the next Dean of the College of Natural Sciences. In partnership with University leadership, the Dean of the College of Natural Sciences will play a major leadership role in advancing the mission and enhancing the resources and reputation of UT Austin’s largest college and will thereby contribute measurably to the success of one of the nation’s finest public research universities.

The College of Natural Sciences (CNS) comprises 12 departments (astronomy; chemistry; computer science; human development and family science; integrative biology; marine science; mathematics; molecular biosciences; neuroscience; nutritional sciences; physics; statistics and data sciences) and the School of Human Ecology, making the disciplinary scope of the College considerably larger than its counterparts at peer institutions. U.S. News and World Report currently ranks 11 of the College’s degree programs among the top 10 in the country. The College’s annual operating budget is $258 million, and it generates more than $110 million in extramural funding each year. With an endowment of $566 million, CNS has 62 endowed chairs, 78 endowed professorships, and 216 endowed excellence funds. The CNS community is comprised of approximately 11,200 undergraduate and 1,700 graduate students, respectively; 700 tenured, tenure-track, and instructional faculty; and 1,200 administrative staff. CNS has more than 75,000 living alumni, and more of them are making gifts to the College than at any time in the past five years. CNS received roughly 5,000 gifts from alumni, friends, corporate and foundation partners in 2019-2020, totaling $43.5 million.

Dean, College of Natural Sciences

Reporting to the University’s Executive Vice President and Provost, the Dean of the College of Natural Sciences is the chief academic and administrative leader of the College and serves as an essential member of the University’s leadership team. The Dean is responsible for advancing the mission, operations, and services of the College through strategic decisions regarding personnel, general administration and management, budget, academic programs, and development functions. The next Dean will guide a robust scholarship and research agenda and promote excellence and inclusiveness in undergraduate and graduate education.  Examples of current research and educational priorities include:

  • Empowering future leaders for Texas, the nation, and humanity
  • Equipping UT students for success in the “big data era”
  • Sidestepping the next pandemic 
  • Harnessing the power of data to tackle society’s greatest challenges
  • Driving diversity in science 
  • Charting a sustainable course for Texas and the planet  
  • Illuminating the origin of the universe 
  • Leading the AI revolution 
  • Unlocking the cures for Alzheimer’s and addiction 

With sustained research energy across its faculty and four-year graduation rates for undergraduate students at record levels -- with largest improvements seen among students who are the first in their families to attend college, Pell-Grant eligible, and/or from populations underrepresented in the sciences -- the College is in a fundamentally strong position. The talented leadership team in the dean’s office and collaborative cadre of department chairs are committed to working with the new CNS dean to sustain and build on current strengths and capacities and to pursue longer-term initiatives.

Unique, transformational opportunities identified for CNS over the coming years include, but are not limited to:

Engagement in translational health sciences research and medicine.  Through broader and deeper collaboration with the new Dell Medical School, other health-related schools and colleges of the University, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the emerging local biotech industry, CNS can contribute its expertise and capacity for innovation to the pursuit of new prevention strategies, diagnostic technologies, treatments, and cures for disease. Existing active areas of medical/health-related research in the College include neuroscience, nutrition, oncology, as well as many efforts that helped to combat COVID-19 – from impactful work in antigen development for vaccines to advances in monoclonal antibody therapy to epidemiological modeling.  The College also brings complementary expertise in leading-edge computational, statistical, and mathematical tools needed to support discovery and innovation in health sciences and in certain socio-behavioral domains relevant to translation.

Partnership with local industry.  The College benefits from its location in Austin, which has a vibrant economy, growing population, and booming tech industry.  Austin serves as the corporate and regional headquarters for many Fortune 500 companies and successful tech start-ups, including major technology-oriented companies such as Amazon, AMD, Apple, Dell, and Google. These companies have established operations in Austin in part to draw from the highly skilled talent the University produces.  Opportunities for strategic partnerships and workforce development innovation are seemingly limitless.   

Diversity, equity, and inclusion. UT Austin serves a state population that is both growing and diversifying, and the institution is proud to have recently become one of only four AAU members to be designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. Undergraduate Hispanic enrollment at UT Austin has surpassed 25% and is on a steady upward trajectory. Building on this development, CNS can advance its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in order to become and remain a welcoming and supportive community for all and to play a transformative role at local, state, and national levels, particularly with regard to diversity in science.

In preparation for the CNS dean search, the consultative committee completed a listening tour with groups of CNS stakeholders and administered an electronic survey.  From this feedback, the CNS community is looking for the next dean to prioritize the following:

  • Building a shared vision for CNS by providing bold, inclusive, and collaborative leadership that engages all stakeholders in a shared commitment to the lasting success of the College
  • Championing the natural sciences and all CNS constituent disciplines across campus and beyond via purposeful and proactive engagement with University administrators, local and state government officials, donors, alumni, and media
  • Supporting the recruitment, professional development, and retention of faculty and others who support the University’s research and educational missions
  • Advancing a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Sustaining and enhancing excellence and innovation in the College’s teaching and student support programming
  • Engaging transparently with CNS students and student governance to increase awareness and understanding of College priorities and to align aspirations for curricula, pedagogy, the student experience, and the culture of the College
  • Establishing strong consultative and collaborative relationships with Department Chairs and Center/Institute Directors, as well as with leaders across campus
  • Supporting and facilitating interdisciplinary initiatives with other colleges and schools within the University
  • Listening to the valuable perspective of staff and providing exemplary support for the wellbeing and professional advancement of all College employees
  • Enhancing the financial resources of the College through development activities
  • Building external partnerships with industry and philanthropic foundations
  • Addressing the capital needs and advance facility renewal across the College

Professional Qualifications

The College’s new dean should be an inclusive, transparent, and empathetic leader who commits to the full scope of the role, to the community of the College, the University, and the State, and to the sustained effort that success in such a multi-dimensional leadership position requires. They will demonstrate a deep commitment to excellence in research and education, with equity centered at the core.

Candidates for the position should demonstrate a mix of skills, qualifications, experiences, and aptitudes that will include some measure of each of the following:

Leadership. An established record of effective, strong, and collaborative leadership. Demonstrated administrative experience. A history of developing and promoting shared governance between faculty and administration. The ability to make difficult decisions and prioritize.  The capacity to formulate and articulate a shared vision of education and research in the sciences, to persuade a wide range of audiences of its value, and to engage others in its development and implementation. Experience with faculty recruitment and retention and facilitating promotion and tenure processes. Ability to motivate and inspire others to strive for academic excellence. Strong interdisciplinary outlook.

Academic Credentials. A sustained record of research excellence in one of CNS’s constituent disciplines. A history of academic mentorship and effective teaching. Recognition by professional societies and/or associations at a national level. Credentials for appointment at the Full Professor level, including Ph.D. or recognized equivalent.

Focus on Students. Genuine understanding of the teaching mission and the importance of providing undergraduate and graduate students with the highest-quality educational experience. Demonstrated leadership in the development and management of transformative approaches to undergraduate and graduate curricula. Must understand and value the importance of a diverse student body and mechanisms for retention and support of all students with an emphasis on students from groups historically under-represented in the sciences. Commitment to transparency and honesty in engaging students.

Fundraising. Commitment to increasing philanthropic support from individuals, foundations and corporations; ideally, a track record of increasing external support in gifts, contracts, and grants and of developing industry partnerships.

Administrative and Financial Management Experience. Record of operational leadership and fiscal management demonstrating excellence, growth, and financial effectiveness.

Personal Qualities. Personal and academic integrity. Strong interpersonal, oral, and written communication skills.  Commitment to openness and transparency in decision making. Innovative and entrepreneurial, with a willingness to take risks. Demonstrated commitment to fostering a collegial and respectful work and educational environment.

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