Graduation Rate Champion Appointed at The University of Texas at Austin

As part of a strategic plan to increase its four-year graduation rate, The University of Texas at Austin has appointed a graduation rate champion to oversee its efforts to streamline the undergraduate experience and remove institutional roadblocks to timely graduation.

David Laude, who has most recently served as interim dean of the College of Natural Sciences, will join the Provost's Office on July 15, 2012, as senior vice provost of enrollment and graduation management. The new role was one of the major recommendations from the Graduation Rate Task Force Report released in February.

The strategies outlined in the report are designed to ensure by 2016 that 70 percent of undergraduate students earn their degrees within four years. Funding for the new position will come from vacancies created by recent departures from the Provost's Office.

"This appointment will help bring together the full spectrum of the undergraduate experience admission, financial aid, registration, the colleges, advisers, technology and facilities to make sure that students have the means and motivation to graduate within four years," said Executive Vice President and Provost Steven Leslie.

"David Laude has distinguished himself as a professor and administrator in the College of Natural Sciences and has a passion for student success. His perspective and talents will serve to bridge all of the university's diverse functions and focus them on ensuring students make timely progress through their degree plans," Leslie said.

Currently, about half of first-year students entering in the fall semester earn a degree at The University of Texas at Austin within four years. That rate is higher than at any other public college or university in Texas but lower than at several peer, public research universities around the nation. About 75 percent of University of Texas at Austin students graduate in five years, and more than 80 percent graduate within six years.

"This is such an exciting opportunity to take the experiences I have had working with students as a dean in Natural Sciences and use those experiences to promote student success across the university," Laude said. "For me, achieving improved graduation rates will be more than just about the numbers. It will be the chance to appreciate the accomplishments of our students, which is what makes this work so gratifying."

Laude, a professor in the Chemistry Department, served as associate dean for undergraduate education in the College of Natural Sciences from 1997 until 2010, then as senior associate dean for academic affairs until his appointment as interim dean last May. He was instrumental in the development of the UTeach program, the Texas Interdisciplinary Plan and the Freshman Research Initiative. He received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of the South, a master's of science from Virginia Tech and a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from the University of California at Riverside in 1984.

In addition to Laude's appointment, the provost has announced that Vice Provost Dan Slesnick will be elevated to senior vice provost for resource management, effective May 1, 2012.  His duties include identifying funding for student success initiatives and strategies for academic facility usage.

Before moving to the provost's office, Slesnick served as associate dean for research and technology in the College of Liberal Arts. He began his teaching career at The University of Texas at Austin in 1982 as an assistant professor of economics. He became an associate professor in 1986 and has been a professor of economics since 1993. Slesnick received his bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Washington and his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University.