A truly rowdy presidential search forum

Caroline Traylor

utsa-presidential-search-timelineLast September, UTSA President Ricardo Romo—who made UTSA history as the university’s first Latino and longest serving president—announced his plans to retire, effective August 2017.

To launch the nationwide search for his successor, the UT System established the UTSA Presidential Search Advisory Committee. The group—comprised of UT System officials, UTSA faculty and alumni and other community members—is tasked with making recommendations to the Board of Regents on who will replace Romo. The Board will make the final decision.

Dr. Steven Leslie—UT System executive vice chancellor for academic affairs—is the committee’s chair.

Other members include:  two Board of Regents (Vice Chairman Steven Hicks and Regent Ernest Aliseda); UT institution presidents (Guy Bailey, president of UT Rio Grande Valley; and William Henrich, M.D., president of UT Health San Antonio); Michael Klein, president of the UTSA Alumni Association Board of Directors; James Bodenstedt, CEO and president of MUY!; Francisco Cigarroa, M.D., director of pediatric transplantation, UT Health San Antonio; Martin Salinas, CEO and director of Phase 4 Energy Partners; Dr. JoAnn Browning, dean of UTSA’s College of Engineering; Emily Bonner, associate professor of interdisciplinary learning and teaching and UTSA Faculty Senate chair; Hamid Beladi, UTSA associate dean of research and professor of economics; Heather Shipley, UTSA associate professor of civil engineering; Hazem Rashed-Ali, UTSA associate dean of research and graduate studies; Elisa Perkins, associate director for diversity and recruitment and finally UTSA Student Government Association’s (SGA) President Andrew Hubbard.

Hubbard is the only student on the committee.

On Dec. 2, the Presidential Search Advisory Committee held a two-hour town hall meeting in the Main Building Auditorium to receive input from UTSA community members.

Dr. Leslie led the forum and opened it by promising more “listening tours with constituents both on and off campus.” The auditorium was packed with attendees who did not hold back in vocalizing their thoughts and described qualities that they wanted to see in the new university president.

Tristan Ipock, The Paisano
Tristan Ipock, The Paisano

The perceived lack of Latino/a representation among the committee members was a concern raised by several attendees, including UTSA College of Public Policy Dean Rogelio Sáenz.

Dr. Sáenz addressed the panel passionately, describing the committee’s makeup as irresponsible and discriminatory.

“Latinos are able to work and study here but are not included in this process,” he said.

Another attendee asked the committee membership to be revisited stating that it did not accurately reflect the demographics at UTSA. Dr. Leslie asked the auditorium, “Is this something that y’all find significant?” to which the crowd erupted, “yes!”

“Okay,” Leslie said. “Let me go back and work on this. I sense the significance of this and I’ll give you all I got.”

The committee met for the first time on Dec. 9 to receive its charge and a second meeting is scheduled for February.

Witt/Kieffer, a global executive recruitment firm, is assisting the UT System in the national search.

Comments and nominations on the UTSA presidential search can be made anonymously, and will only be shared with the executive search firm. Visit: