Steven Leslie

As a part of his plan to increase the UT System’s influence and excellence in higher education, System Chancellor William McRaven hired two leaders from within the System to join his staff.

David Daniel, the current president of UT-Dallas and previous candidate for president of UT-Austin, will start in the newly created roles of deputy chancellor and chief operating officer.

“David Daniel possesses skills that are transferable across the system in managing and leading people, operations, new construction and technology,” McRaven said in a statement. “He is a respected voice on the needs and benefits of higher education to the state of Texas, and he has demonstrated that he knows how to propel an institution forward on a magnificent trajectory. Everything he has done as president of UT Dallas prepares him for this new role, and now the entire UT System will be a beneficiary of his leadership.”

Steven Leslie, who held the positions of provost and executive vice president from 2007–2013, will become the System’s executive vice chancellor of academic affairs.

Leslie, also a current pharmacy professor and researcher at UT-Austin, started his time at the University as an assistant professor in 1974. During his six years as executive vice president and provost, Leslie helped to lay the foundation for the Dell Medical School and oversee the financial aid and registrar offices, both while working with the deans of all 20 colleges.

“My top priorities are to work with and support and facilitate the priorities of the University of Texas at Austin … to work with and support the programmatic needs of all of the University of Texas System academic institutions and to build a strong partnership and working relationship between academic affairs and health affairs to have a strong structure for medical schools reporting through academic campuses,” Leslie said.

Leslie said he believes his experience as provost will be helpful while he works to support the initiatives of all the different campuses. Additionally, Leslie said he wants to further explore the possibilities of adding more health programs to other campuses.

“The University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley is establishing a medical school, and it has that same structure [as UT-Austin],” Leslie said. “That makes it important to work on establishing new relationships and processes and procedures to support these two medical schools that report through the academic campuses and perhaps think about if there are other campuses that could benefit from the same time.”

McRaven appoints UT System deputy, vice chancellor

Former UT vice president and provost Steven Leslie and UT Dallas president David Daniel will join the UT System as administrators, Chancellor William McRaven announced Wednesday.

Beginning May 11, Leslie will serve as executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, and Daniel will join the System July 1 as deputy chancellor and chief operating officer, according to a statement released Wednesday.

Leslie, currently a professor and researcher in UT Austin’s College of Pharmacy, served as provost and executive vice president from 2007 until 2013.

“There are many ambitious initiatives already underway that are bound to have national and even international impact, and I am thrilled to join Chancellor McRaven as we work to position The University of Texas System as the undisputed finest public university system in the world,” Leslie said in the statement.

Leslie will succeed executive vice chancellor Pedro Reyes, who announced in April that he planned to leave the System and return to teaching.

Daniel, a UT alumnus, has served as president of UT Dallas since 2005. During his presidency, UT Dallas has seen increased enrollment and graduation rates, according to the statement.

“David Daniel possesses skills that are transferable across the system in managing and leading people, operations, new construction and technology,” McRaven said in the statement. “Everything he has done as president of UT Dallas prepares him for this new role, and now the entire UT System will be a beneficiary of his leadership.”

The System will immidiately begin a national search for the next UT Dallas president, according to the statement.

Just before the start of the next academic school year, Greg Fenves, the dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering, has been appointed to the position of provost of the University.

Fenves, who starts his new job Oct. 1, is entering the Provost’s Office at a busy, historic and dramatic time in the University’s history. The University is taking some of its first steps in building the Dell Medical School. Fenves, who serves on both the Dell Medical School Steering Committee and the Dean Search Committee, said the medical school would be one of his top priorities as he enters his new position. However, Fenves also said the medical school is just one part of his new role.

“We have a tremendous foundation here at the University, and its my job to work with the President, the deans and all the faculty to continue to build it,” Fenves said. “I am very much looking forward with looking to the deans, and the different faculty.” 

As provost, Fenves will be responsible for communicating with all of the University’s deans, and essentially function as the University’s chief academic officer.

UT President William Powers Jr., who selected Fenves among other candidates, said the job is incredibly complex. Powers said Fenves will play a crucial role and oversee many of UT’s bigger projects, which includes the effort to increase four-year graduation rates to 70 percent, redesign large entry-level courses (also known as the Course Transformation Program), redesign the curriculum and work with the faculty behind the University’s massive open online courses (MOOCs). 

“It’s a big day to day job,” Powers said. “He has exactly the qualities to move and help move the University ahead in a very strategic way. He’s very good at working with people. I think he’ll be the face of the University to the outside world.”

UT’s current provost, Steven Leslie, will return to teaching this year and is stepping down at the end of September. However, Powers said Leslie will still assist with some of the technicalities behind building UT’s new medical school — specifically the memorandums of understanding that still need to be written and signed. Memorandums of understanding are agreements between multiple parties. 

But while Leslie will assist in developing the Dell Medical School, Powers said Fenves will still lead the effort.

“The developing medical school will be a project for the Provost and the President, and many of the colleges,” Powers said. “The Provost will lead that effort.”

Meanwhile, as Fenves becomes the Provost, he is leaving the Cockrell School of Engineering in an uncertain situation. The school was planning to build a new engineering building that is expected to cost more than $300 million. Part of that funding was supposed to come through tuition revenue bonds, or TRBs, which is essentially money from the state for higher education construction projects. However, legislation for the tuition revenue bonds failed to pass in the final days of the 83rd regular session. 

Since then, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has called three special sessions, and while several lawmakers have urged Perry to add tuition revenue bonds to the special session’s call, Perry has not done so. During special sessions, lawmakers can only pass legislation that is related to what the governor has put on the call.

While Fenves is leaving the engineering school this fall, both he and Powers said they would continue to work on getting the funding needed to build the new engineering building. Both said the building is a focus not just for the engineering school, but the University as a whole.

“Greg [Fenves] will continue, as I will continue almost on a daily basis, on working with the legislature on tuition revenue bonds,” Powers said. “That will continue to be a priority in the Tower. Both in the president’s office and the provost’s office.” 

Fenves said other options of revenue for the funding of the new engineering building are being considered.

“What I can say is we are working on various scenarios for funding the building,” Fenves said.

Who is the Provost?

President William Powers Jr. named Greg Fenves the University provost Thursday. Fenves was the dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering, and this is what he’ll be expected to do in his new position. 

The provost is supposed to make sure the concerns and goals of deans, department chairs, faculty and staff reach Powers, and that information from Powers gets back to them.

The provost is also to put into action recommendations on how to improve the University academically. The provost receives reports from the Commission of 125 that includes many former UT System Regents. Recommendations have included a focus to develop a new undergraduate core curriculum and to establish a more demanding standard for leadership of academic departments and research centers.

Fenves is replacing Steven Leslie, who was provost for six years. Leslie has said he wants to return to teaching. During his term the responsibilities were expanded to not only oversee academics but also financial aid and. the registrar.

Despite a national unemployment rate of 7.6 percent, the University of Texas is hiring.

In the last two years, several administrators have stepped down or left for various reasons, including deans of law, natural sciences, social work, undergraduate studies and graduate schools.

Last week, Gretchen Ritter, vice provost for undergraduate education and faculty governance, announced she will be leaving the University for a deanship at Cornell University, while Steven Leslie, executive vice president and provost, announced he will be returning to teaching and research in the College of Pharmacy in February. 

At a Faculty Council meeting last month, UT President William Powers Jr. said filling at least one of those seats, the provost position, will be more complicated than usual, largely as a result of tensions between the University and the UT System Board of Regents

“We’re in a tricky situation,” Powers said.

Jeremi Suri, history and public affairs professor, said these departures and recruitment complications reflect a larger trend, as tensions surrounding the regents could make other options for faculty members and administrators more attractive. 

Suri, who joined the UT faculty in 2011, said he left his previous position at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in part because of political controversy. He said the situation here is playing out in a similar, if not identical, fashion, and might have serious implications for the University’s recruitment efforts in the future.

“One difference — and it is a big difference — is that UT is far better run and has much more of an emphasis on maintaining excellence,” Suri said. “There is also stronger support from alumni across the state. But there are people who see the University as a sitting duck, as something they can attack to earn political points because they look tough ... and that makes it harder to retain people and harder to bring in the best minds.” 

Alan Friedman, English professor and a former Faculty Council chairman who has worked at the University since 1964, said he also feels the board’s actions have an impact on faculty and administrative decision-making.

“There is a good deal of talk about what is happening on campus as a result of the regents’ actions, and some if it does factor into faculty members who are not staying or who are not coming,” Friedman said. “I think a lot of faculty members feel the campus is under siege from the very people who are appointed to protect and support the quality of the educational experience on this campus.” 

Friedman cited the regents’ recent decision to tighten conflict of interest policies as an example of a point of tension.

“A lot of time is being wasted on these new requirements,” Friedman said. “Absolutely no justification was offered with regard to why the policies are being imposed on us, and there have been no studies done suggesting this will improve the situation on campus. We’re wasting time.”

Though some think the rate of administrative departure is a trend, others attribute it to natural turnover. Leslie, who will step down Aug. 31, said turnover in faculty and administrative roles is something he dealt with every year as provost and is not unnatural.

“I’ll admit these are difficult times right now, but we’ve recruited some of the top talent in the nation as leaders and deans and in other important posts,” Leslie said. “Under any circumstances, people who love higher education and want to lead will come here.” 

I am writing to express my concern and dismay in the way you reported the membership of the search committee for the expedited replacement of outgoing Provost Steven Leslie. I read the names and positions of four of the five very important and high-ranking people who make up the “five other members” (besides President William Powers Jr.) of this committee — name, comma, rank, semicolon — followed by “and a staff member from the provost’s office” (no name, no position). I cannot begin to tell you how that dismissal affects my morale as one of thousands of nameless, invisible, but dedicated and indispensable staff members University-wide. 

I realize that there could be many reasons why the staff member was not named. Perhaps the staff member wishes to remain anonymous. Perhaps the staff member’s identity needs to remain anonymous for internal reasons in the provost’s office. But if you don’t name the staff member who is important enough to be one of the five other committee members, you must tell your readers why that staff person is unnamed. Omitting the name of the staff member in your article without this explanation sends the wrong message. Please make sure in future articles that the same parallel information, if mentioned for one, is included for all.

Marilyn Harris
Administrative associate
Division of Statistics and Scientific Computation

Distinguished members of Austin’s medical community gathered with civic leaders Monday afternoon at the Four Seasons Hotel to discuss the upcoming Dell Medical School and the work of People’s Community Clinic at the “There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch” luncheon. 

Dr. Steven Leslie, executive vice president and provost of UT, was the keynote speaker of the event and is spearheading the development of UT’s new Dell Medical School.

Leslie said the Dell Medical School will be a community-engaged medical school reaching out to all areas of medicine, as well as a school for research and the expansion of biomedical engineering and neuroscience on campus.

“We will engage the process of new discovery and innovation with the medical school in areas that will launch it as a centerpiece for learning more about medicine and medical research,” Leslie said. “But also as an economic engine for the central Texas area.”

Leslie said the medical school will be at the forefront of computational science with Stampede, a supercomputer which is 20 times more powerful than Ranger, the most powerful supercomputer five years ago.

“When you deal with the complexities of the human body and brain, the computational capacity that you need is huge,” Leslie said. “It will help us in terms of new discoveries as we move forward and medical research areas.”

Leslie said the financial platforms are laid and the resources for the first buildings are well underway. A steering committee is being put together to manage the medical school and an inaugural dean will be in place before the end of the year. Leslie anticipates the first medical class to take place in 2016.

Evan Smith, CEO and editor-in-chief of The Texas Tribune, was master of ceremonies for the event and acknowledged the sponsors and notable officials attending the luncheon. Among those in attendance were Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Travis, and Mayor Lee Leffingwell.

Founded by volunteer nurses and doctors in 1970, the clinic works to deliver high-quality, affordable healthcare to 10,000 uninsured and underserved central Texans a year.

Smith said according to a recent report, 6.2 million Texans are without insurance.

“That is the highest number of citizens, raw number and percentage, of any of the 50 states,” Smith said. “PCC, of course, addresses that problem and so much more by providing care to those in need.”

Dr. Robert Sorin, director of reproductive health for the clinic, said their concern is delivering the greatest good to the greatest number of people when there is a finite amount of space that only a small number of providers can see to.

The luncheon raised more than $400,000 through donors and sponsors to support the mission of the People’s Community Clinic, more than the annual event has ever raised in the past.

Printed on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 as: Provost discusses medical school 

The search committee to find a University provost will meet for the first time Tuesday, beginning a process more expedited than is typical for the high-level position. 

The committee, led by President William Powers Jr., will consist of five other members. In contrast, the search committee that recommended outgoing provost Steven Leslie was a committee of 18. 

Leslie announced his resignation in February after serving for six years.

The process will also be shorter than previous provost searches have been. The search for Leslie began in May 2006, and he was appointed the following January. The search for Leslie’s replacement, which formally begins Tuesday, will be expedited so a new provost can be installed by the time he steps down in August.

“We want to be both thorough and expeditious in the search, given that Provost Leslie will be leaving his post fairly soon,” UT spokesman Gary Susswein said. 

The other five members of the committee are Faculty Council Chairwoman Martha Hilley; Ugeo Williams, Student Government vice president; Linda Hicke, dean of the College of Natural Sciences; Randy Diehl, dean of the College of Liberal Arts; and a staff member from the provost’s office.

At last month’s Faculty Council meeting, Powers spoke of potential difficulties the University would face when trying to find a provost. He said the process would occur on a smaller scale than previous provost searches, largely as a result of “instability on campus.”

“The process of going about looking for a provost with a full, natural search, or normal committee, will be difficult to do,” Powers said at the meeting. “We’re in a tricky situation.”

Tensions between the University and the UT System Board of Regents have been ongoing for the last two years. Two weeks ago, the Board took a 4-3 vote to continue an external review of the UT School of Law Foundation’s relationship with the University. At the meeting, Regent Steve Hicks told his colleagues they might as well take an outright vote on Powers’ continued employment.

“It would be simpler to me, instead of spending the money. If that’s the real goal, let’s just put that on the table and deal with it,” Hicks said. 

Beyond simplifying and expediting the search process, Powers said the scope of the search will also be minimized, and the new provost will likely be an internal hire.

“Given what we’ve been through and what we are going through, it will be very hard to get [a candidate] from off of the campus,” Powers said. “It’s not an impossibility, but it would be very hard.” 

Susswein said the University will likely open an application for the position once the committee begins its work. 

Printed on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 as: University fast-tracks search for new provost 

After six years as executive vice president and provost, Steven Leslie will be stepping down from his position to return to the College of Pharmacy in August.

“For the past six years, Provost Leslie has been an indispensable partner in transforming the academic life of The University of Texas,” President William Powers Jr. said in a blog post Friday. “He has guided our deans and vice provosts with a steady hand and a vision that encompasses all aspects of this vast university.”

Powers appointed Leslie, then dean of the College of Pharmacy, to the vice president and provost position in 2007. Leslie has a doctorate in pharmacology and toxicology, and in his former position conducted research on topics that included alcohol’s effect on the brain. He joined the University as an assistant professor in 1974.

M. Lynn Crismon, dean of the College of Pharmacy, said in an e-mail that the college is excited to see Leslie return as a professor. 

“Dr. Leslie was a great provost, and it was my honor to serve as a dean under his leadership,” Crismon wrote. “We welcome him back to our college, and we look forward to him contributing positively to the mission of the College of Pharmacy.”

In his role as provost, the top academic post at the University, Leslie reported directly to the president and oversaw all 18 college deans and more than a dozen other senior academic posts. More recently, he led the early planning stages of UT’s new medical school. The provost’s office is in charge of deciding the new dean’s salary and overseeing the $1.2 million set aside for medical or surgery faculty salaries this year. A new dean has not yet been hired. 

The UT System Board of Regents voted last May to provide $25 million annually toward the medical school and an additional $5 million for the first eight years for equipment. 

Michael Morton, president of the Senate of College Councils, said Leslie has been a continuous advocate for students.

“Throughout his tenure, Provost Leslie has been a strong supporter of students and has worked constantly to strengthen the University academically,” Morton said. “He’s been an absolute pleasure to work with, and I know he’ll continue to play an important role on campus.”

Published on February 11. 2013 as "Univeristy provost of six years resigns". 

Provost Steven Leslie to step down at the end of the summer

[Originally published Feb. 8 at 12 p.m.]

Steven Leslie, executive vice president and provost, will be stepping down from his post to return to teaching at the end of August, according to a blog post from President William Powers Jr.

“For the past six years, Provost Leslie has been an indispensable partner in transforming the academic life of The University of Texas,” Powers said in his blog. “He has guided our deans and vice provosts with a steady hand and a vision that encompasses all aspects of this vast university.”

Powers appointed Leslie in 2007, who was then serving as the dean of the College of Pharmacy. Leslie joined the University in 1974 as an assistant professor in the division of pharmacology and toxicology.

The provost is the top academic post at the University and reports directly to the president. All 18 college deans and more than a dozen other senior academic posts are all overseen by the provost.

Michael Morton, president of the Senate of College Councils, said Leslie has been an advocate for students.

“Throughout his tenure, Provost Leslie has been a strong supporter of students and has worked constantly to strengthen the university academically,” Morton said. “He’s been an absolute pleasure to work with, and I know he’ll continue to play an important role on campus.”