UTSA Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Kimberly Andrews Espy
Kimberly Andrews Espy is UTSA's new Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The University of Texas at San Antonio on Wednesday named Kimberly Andrews Espy, senior vice president of research at the University of Arizona, as UTSA’s new provost and vice president for academic affairs starting in June.

With a to-do list that already includes developing three new schools for UTSA’s downtown campus, the new provost will have no shortage of major tasks in her new role.

“This, to me, is an institution that is really on the move,” Espy told the Rivard Report. “If you think about the demographics and how things are changing in our country generally, I think UTSA has the opportunity to be a model, a national model, for how you welcome students from all over to enable their academic success.”

Espy will replace interim provost Mauli Agrawal, who is leaving San Antonio to become the chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City in June.

In the university’s most recent search for a leader that resulted in the hiring of President Taylor Eighmy, public officials criticized UTSA and the search process for failing to adequately consider Latino candidates.

Espy beat out four other finalists for the job, who were interviewed on campus in open forums, including Mark McLellan from Utah State University, Junius Gonzales from the University of North Carolina system, Salvador Hector Ochoa from the University of New Mexico, and Chaden Djalali from the University of Iowa.

Espy will start at UTSA June 4, but will make visits to San Antonio a few times before then to begin the transition to her new job. Her role will focus on expansion of the downtown campus, including the development of new academic programs and institutes, the university’s reaccreditation, and implementation of a new budget model.

Espy said she believes that UTSA is well-positioned for partnerships with the City of San Antonio because of the role the university plays as a “community anchor.” Espy said she plans to approach the downtown campus expansion by looking at how to complement student experience in the classroom with additional opportunities to develop non-academic skills.

“I know Dr. Espy shares my passion and energy for the potential of UTSA as an exemplary urban serving, Hispanic-thriving discovery enterprise, and I am delighted to have her join our senior leadership team,” Eighmy said in a prepared statement.

The University of Arizona administrator said she has experience working with the types of students UTSA serves, describing UA as representing the type of demographic change happening across the nation. In Tuscon, Espy partnered with her colleagues to get her university designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a Hispanic Serving Institution.

At the University of Arizona, nearly a quarter of students are Hispanic, while more than half of UTSA’s student body is Hispanic.

Espy’s move to UTSA will mark her return to Texas, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology at Rice University, and her master’s degree in psychology and doctorate in clinical neuropsychology at the University of Houston.

A native of Cincinnati, Espy said she decided to move to Houston because she wanted to try something different. She said she was drawn to the many cultural experiences the city offered.

“One of the things I really loved when I was in Houston is we would go down and get $5 tickets to the Opera, and watch the ship channel, and eat Greek food, and go to Fiesta, because there is a lovely Fiesta there,” she said. “I was able to take advantage of the cultural opportunities in Houston and it really transformed my understanding of our world. … It is really fun to be back in Texas.”

Most recently, Espy was the senior vice president for research at the University of Arizona, a school with an enrollment greater than 40,000. While at the Tucson institution, she implemented a decentralized budget model, experience that UTSA officials noted will be helpful in its own budget transition in the coming year.

UTSA officials also noted that Espy co-coordinated efforts that resulted in the University of Arizona being named a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. Espy also has research and academic leadership experience at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Oregon.

“Obviously, I have had experiences at different types of universities,” she said. “I find that it is important to get out, engage, talk, and take in the culture and activities. I think you’ll probably see me around.”

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Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.