Linda Schott was just starting to enjoy her retirement when an opportunity to serve as interim president for Texas A&M-San Antonio came up in November. Three days into her new role, Schott is moving fast with her priorities, knowing she’ll only be in the position for the next several months.
The presidential search committee immediately began looking for TAMU-SA’s next leader after former university President Cynthia Teniente-Matson announced her departure to assume the same position at San José State University.
“People are nervous that [Teniente-Matson] left, because she was very well-liked and successful,” Schott said. “I want to assure people that I may only be here for six months or eight months, but I’m going to keep things moving forward.”
As the committee currently develops the position description for the closed search, Schott, who chose not to pursue the job on a permanent basis, is prepared to lead the university through September. Then, she’ll return to the retirement she had been enjoying at her Bandera ranch near Medina Lake.
Schott is a graduate of Bandera High School. She earned bachelor’s degrees in history and German from Baylor University, and a master’s degree in history and a Ph.D. in history and humanities from Stanford University. Most recently, she was president of Southern Oregon University from 2016 to 2021.
Teniente-Matson, president since 2015, was heavily involved in strategic initiatives and partnerships that improved student learning and degree attainment. Schott, in her first few days, has resumed the work Teniente-Matson cultivated.
“There’s really a lot that you can do to help that transition be very successful,” Schott said about preparing the campus for its next president. “If you’re intentional about how you prepare for that transition, you are able to keep moving forward more easily. There’s a lot less starting and stopping and hesitation.”
Schott has three key priorities: Continuing to increase enrollment, prepare the campus for the next president and persuading the Legislature to keep money coming into the university.
“The vision here, and I see it very clearly, is that putting this university here is a catalyst for development here in the South Side of San Antonio. I’m just thrilled to be able to play a part in that. It may only be six or eight months,” Schott said.
In 20 years, Schott said she hopes to witness the university’s growth and reflect on her short time as interim president, knowing she played a small part in the big development in the area and in the opportunities created for people.
Schott’s priorities include joining other universities in advocating for more funding in the 88th Texas Legislature in order to ensure affordability to students.
To help support enrollment and offset rises in tuition and fees caused by inflation, Schott is advocating that the Texas Legislature provide an increase in formula funding for classrooms and labs. In addition, she is seeking an increase in financial support for the Hazlewood Legacy Program, which would reimburse the institution’s costs for funding tuition for the families of veterans.
She’s also pushing for state investment for services to address the student mental health crisis, including increasing the number of counselors, services and technology resources.
The Texas A&M System is also requesting more money to cover unplanned budget reductions that have necessitated a redirection of funds that would have otherwise been used to support the university’s mission and its students.
Schott noted students across the 27 regional universities in Texas are less college-ready, first-generation and economically disadvantaged. She hopes to be instrumental in securing additional funding as provided in Senate Bill 1295 for the university to support at-risk students outside of the classroom with what they need to succeed.
The university is also pushing to establish a degree program for health care and industry needs, which would cost about $6.6 million. If achieved, people will be able to enroll in degree, certificate and credential programs for high-wage, high-demand jobs.
On campus, Schott is focusing on personal relationships with people in the community, she said.
While there was no time for a full briefing, Schott said she hopes to continue cultivating the relationships the previous administration made and to learn more about those people and organizations to pass on to the new president.
Meet-and-greets are a part of engaging with the community, but for Schott, the interactions are vital because she’ll only hold her position for a short time, she said.
“I will make the effort to step forward and get to know those people,” Schott said. “It’s sort of giving the community the assurance that things aren’t going to switch dramatically.”
A first-generation college graduate herself, Schott also hopes to inspire other first-gen students, and women, to realize they, too, can achieve high positions in their careers through the power of education.
“All of the commitments that we made out in the community are solid,” Schott said. “I’m going to be here to support them and keep us moving. I don’t want us to just sit for six months.”