As we begin the spring semester, I would like to introduce myself and tell you how honored I am to serve as the next vice president of diversity and community engagement.
On Dec. 14, I was appointed as the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement’s (DDCE) third leader since its launch in 2007. As a proud Longhorn alumna, it is a great honor to accept this position at the world-class university that has shaped who I am today.
I began my career at UT Austin in 2005 and gained a wealth of higher education administrative experience in various roles in Student Emergency Services, Veteran Services, the Title IX Office, and, most recently, Texas Athletics. I’ve experienced campus from a lot of different perspectives, and I look forward to bringing the skills I gained through these rich and varied experiences to the VP role so, together, we can enhance the division’s impact and connectivity across campus.
I am an administrator at heart and go where the university calls me. When President Hartzell asked me to lead the DDCE, I was delighted to accept. As an undergraduate at UT Austin, I would have greatly benefitted from the incredible support structure the DDCE provides—especially for underrepresented students of color.
I would like to thank my predecessor Leonard N. Moore for his leadership—and for his tireless dedication to students. I aim to continue his legacy by improving upon the student experience with forward-thinking programs and initiatives designed to help them thrive.
In the coming weeks, I will be meeting with students and learning more about their experiences on campus and their recommendations for future improvements. I will also continue meeting with faculty and staff within the division and across the university to learn more about their work and priorities. I will incorporate insights from these conversations as I articulate the role and impact of the division on campus and implement a long-term strategic plan. I also welcome you to share your thoughts, concerns and ideas with me via this form.
One priority that is high on my list is to reevaluate the university’s progress in the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, in collaboration with partners across the university, to ensure that we continue to make progress. Moving forward, we will build upon the many progressive changes that were made to our campus over the summer. This work also includes creating a new system for students to speak out against harmful campus incidents while fostering diversity of thought.
We live in challenging times, but as President Jay Hartzell stated in his recent message, we are making progress. As I begin my tenure as your vice president for diversity and community engagement, I am confident that we will move that needle on equity and inclusion even further by working together.
Dr. LaToya Smith
Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement
Assistant Professor of Practice, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy