IOWA CITY — Former University of Iowa Provost Montse Fuentes — who unexpectedly stepped down in July after just one year on the job — has been named the next president of St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.
“Fuentes, a native of Spain, will be the first Hispanic president to lead St. Edward’s, representing a significant milestone for the university, which is a Hispanic-Serving Institution,” according to a St. Edward’s news release. “She will also become the second female president in the university’s history.”
Fuentes will take the helm of the private Catholic university July 1 — allowing her to remain a UI “special assistant” earning vice-president-level pay for as long as allowed under a July 15 deal she signed with Iowa’s Board of Regents.
“Fuentes will hold that appointment at the discretion of the president, but in no event beyond June 30, 2021,” according to the settlement, which would have allowed her to ben a UI professor after the special assistantship expired, but with a 60 percent pay cut.
She’s currently earning $439,000 a year.
Neither Fuentes nor UI officials have answered The Gazette’s questions about why she stepped down — just months after the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion head, who started the same day as Fuentes, quit his post under a similar settlement.
Fuentes did, however, answer questions from the Kent State University community in October while participating in a public presentation as a finalist for its senior vice president and provost. At that forum, Fuentes said she wanted to leave Iowa because “I’m looking for the opportunity to have complete alignment with my core values — my commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
In naming Fuentes its next president, St. Edward’s Board of Trustees Chair Steve Shadowen touted her “deep knowledge of higher education, a dedication to providing world-class scholarship and classroom teaching, an unsurpassed commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and a clear vision for the university’s future.”
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“Fuentes shares the university’s devotion to social justice and to the Holy Cross mission of educating the heart and mind,” according to Shadowen’s statement. “The board is convinced that Dr. Fuentes is the right leader to move the university forward in the growing and evolving State of Texas and in the dynamic, global city of Austin.”
Shadowen noted Fuentes “will stand on the shoulders of giants,” succeeding retiring George E. Martin — whose 21-year tenure saw undergraduate enrollment there grow 55 percent, national and regional rankings improve and more than $400 million invested “in our beautiful hilltop campus.”
In announcing the hire, St. Edward’s reported Fuentes “was most recently executive vice president and provost for the University of Iowa, where she championed entrepreneurial and real-world training, curricular initiatives, leverage of technology, and civic engagement to enhance student success.”
“Beyond her academic achievements, she has championed the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion through work that has helped women, minorities and disadvantaged students reach their full potential,” according to St. Edward’s.
In a statement, Fuentes said, “I will be devoted to the success of all our students, faculty and staff to unlock their full potential, while offering an individualized, high-quality education in a caring environment and strengthening the ties and connections to the Austin community.”
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