Vice President of Research at UTSA, Dr. Muali Agrawa speaks at the ribbon cutting ceremony. Photo by Scott Ball.
UTSA Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Mauli Agrawal has announced his departure from UTSA. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Mauli Agrawal, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Texas at San Antonio, announced Tuesday that he is leaving UTSA to become chancellor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

With this move, Agrawal trades the chief academic job on a campus of nearly 31,000 students for the top position at a school with an enrollment of roughly 16,000. He is scheduled to start his new job June 20.

“My time at UTSA has been an incredible journey and I have been privileged to work side by side with faculty, staff, and students who have great passion and commitment toward building an institution that transforms the lives of its students and community,” Agrawal stated.

Dr. Mauli Agrawal
UTSA Interim Provost and Vice President for Acedemic Affairs Mauli Agrawal

“Although [my wife] Sue and I will miss UTSA and San Antonio, we are excited about the adventures that await us.”

Agrawal has played a key role in raising UTSA’s profile as a research institution. During his tenure, student enrollment in the College of Engineering increased by 40 percent, the number of faculty rose by 50 percent, and research funding jumped by 400 percent.

Agrawal started his UTSA career in 2003 as a professor and associate dean of research in the College of Engineering. In 2010, Agrawal partnered with the City of San Antonio and then-Mayor Julián Castro to create the Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute at UTSA. In 2013, he was promoted to interim vice president for research, and in 2016, UTSA named Agrawal interim provost.

City and university leaders wished Agrawal well in his next position.

“You have an absolute gem of a man to lead the university forward,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said in a prepared statement. “He understands the important role that a university plays in the civic life of a city and has a unique skill set of translating that role into meeting the needs of the university.”

UTSA President Taylor Eighmy called Agrawal’s impact at UTSA “profound,” with great work in engineering, research, and academic enterprise.

Agrawal’s new institution, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, is similar to UTSA in that both schools are the largest in their respective metropolitan areas. Both are campuses within a strong state university system.

Whereas more than half of UTSA’s student body is Hispanic, UMKC’s is 60 percent white and 7 percent Hispanic. Roughly half of UMKC’s students are pursuing undergraduate degrees; at UTSA, three-quarters of students are doing the same.

When the University of Missouri System search team began looking for candidates to fill the chancellor job, one of Agrawal’s colleagues recommended him for the post.

“He has a great understanding of the strengths that University of Missouri-Kansas City can bring to the Kansas City region,” UM System spokesman Christian Basi told the Rivard Report. “One of the significant factors that he understands is that universities in many cases are the foundation for economic development in their region.”

Basi said the UM System is eager to see how Agrawal merges his skills as a “well-established scholarly researcher” with his understanding of economic development.

David Steelman, chair of the University of Missouri Board of Curators, echoed this sentiment, saying Agrawal was in the mix with a “very strong finalist pool,” but stood out because of his innovative approaches. “He is not a status-quo leader,” Steelman said.

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Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.