16:56 PM

UHD President's Message - Announcing Interim Provost and Other Leadership

Dear Faculty & Staff,

As you are aware, our colleague, Dr. Eric Link, has accepted a leadership role at the University of North Dakota and soon will leave his position as UHD's Senior Vice President for Academic & Student Affairs and Provost. Dr. Link has been an outstanding leader, and we are grateful for his service.

In August 2021, we will officially launch a national search for Dr. Link's successor and anticipate that our next chief academic officer will be selected by early Spring 2022.

Today, I am pleased to announce that Dr. Akif Uzman will serve as UHD's Interim Senior Vice President for Academic & Student Affairs and Provost. Dr. Uzman's leadership as Dean of the College of Sciences & Technology (CST) has been exceptional during his tenure at UHD. This year marks his 24th year at the University, and he is well familiar with our institution and the campus community. During his time here, Dr. Uzman has led CST for 10 years (being named Interim Dean in 2011 and taking on the Dean's role in 2014). Prior to that, he served as Chair for the Natural Sciences Department for eight years. Additionally, he has been a member of the Faculty Senate and served on several UHD search committees (including two presidential search committees). I know he will bring expert guidance and direction to UHD's Office of Academic & Student Affairs as we work to identify UHD's next permanent Provost.

As Dr. Uzman takes the reins of the Provost's Office, the College of Sciences & Technology will be led by Dr. Ermelinda DeLaVina as Interim Dean. Dr. DeLaVina is an accomplished scholar and currently serves as the college's Associate Dean. She has served as the Director of the Master of Science in Data Analytics Program (effectively helping it grow into UHD's second-largest master's program). Within the College, she established its Advising Office and has supported efforts to enhance student development, retention and success. She also played a key role in preparing CST's first two Assistant Deans and the Bachelor of Science in Nursing Coordinator. During her time at the University, Dr. DeLaVina also has participated in UHD's strategic planning process and served on Faculty Senate. I look forward to Dr. DeLaVina's leadership of this very important academic unit and stand assured that she will lead the CST effectively and innovatively as we complete the search for the University's next Provost.

In addition to these important roles, I look forward to working closely with Dr. Daniel Villanueva, Vice President of Enrollment Management as he will become one of my direct reports and serve as a member of the President's Cabinet. Dr. Villanueva's experience and expertise have been essential as the University has posted strong enrollment growth for the past four years. As an official member of the President's Cabinet, I am confident Dr. Villanueva will continue to effectively lead the University's enrollment management efforts resulting in even stronger enrollment, persistence and completion outcomes.

I am also pleased to soon welcome Ms. Lynette Cook-Francis to our institution as Special Advisor to the President for Student Affairs & Enrollment Management for a one-year period. Ms. Cook-Francis will bring deep and consequential experience in the areas of student life, student affairs, enrollment management, admissions, financial aid and many other critical areas to UHD. She previously served as Senior Vice President for Student Engagement and Enrollment Management at Simmons University and Senior Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Chief of Staff at the University of Arizona. Her record of accomplishment speaks for itself, and I am confident she will provide invaluable support to UHD as a growing higher education enterprise.

Lastly, the University will undertake a search to identify a qualified candidate for an important new role, Associate Vice President for Academic Equity, Inclusion & Success.

Since arriving at the University, I have undertaken a comprehensive Listening Tour to meet with students, faculty and staff. During these sessions, there has been a clear indication that even with our current efforts around improving diversity, equity and inclusion outcomes, UHD would benefit significantly from enhanced strategic efforts to ensure equitable classroom-driven educational practices and opportunities for our diverse student body. Additionally, these listening sessions revealed the need to provide immediate support for faculty to improve their success outcomes resulting in higher retention rates, particularly for tenured faculty who mirror the diversity of the very students they teach and are poised for campus leadership roles.

The candidate for the role of Associate Vice President for Academic Equity, Inclusion & Success would steer these and other institutional initiatives. We will notify the UHD Community once the interim candidate is finalized.

These administrative shifts, both temporary and longer-term, are among the first that will be implemented to ensure that UHD continues its momentum, particularly as we approach a new academic year following an unprecedented pandemic.

I'd like to conclude this message by extending my gratitude to Dr. Eric Link for his service to UHD. He has proven time and again to be a tireless advocate for our institution and campus community.

While Dr. Link leaves big shoes to fill, I am confident that the leadership changes noted in this message and others to be announced soon will support the University's mission and its service to our students and to the city of Houston.


Loren J. Blanchard, Ph.D.
President, University of Houston-Downtown