AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin has selected David Vanden Bout to serve as the next dean of the College of Natural Sciences, effective immediately. In this role, he will hold the Robert E. Boyer Chair in Natural Sciences and lead the university’s largest college.
“I am thrilled David has agreed to serve as dean of the College of Natural Sciences, our biggest college and one that is critical to our future impact. His commitment to the success of this university and the college, and his willingness to innovate and lead have been evident throughout his career,” said UT Austin President Jay Hartzell. “His leadership as interim dean has highlighted his ability to think ambitiously and strategically, and to work with our students, faculty and staff to advance our teaching and research missions. I look forward to our continued work together and to seeing the college flourish even more under his leadership.”
Vanden Bout has served in top College of Natural Sciences leadership posts since 2014, both as associate dean for undergraduate education and, since 2018, as senior associate dean, overseeing many aspects of the strategy, operations and budget for the college. He has played a leading role in advancing the academic mission of a college that includes nearly 13,000 students, almost 700 faculty members and about 1,300 staffers, and that spans a wide range of areas in the sciences, mathematics and technology and at multiple sites, including the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas and the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis.
“I am honored to be selected to lead the College of Natural Sciences. At a time when the importance of science and education simply couldn’t be clearer, I am excited to embrace an opportunity to work in this new capacity with the excellent community of researchers and learners here. I look forward to continuing to build on the partnerships we have and to build new ones, as our community continues making the discoveries and creating innovations that affect the lives of people across Texas and the world with their impact.”
Having grown up in Austin, Vanden Bout has a long history with the community and UT Austin specifically. After earning a B.S. in chemistry from Duke University, he received a Ph.D. in chemical physics from UT Austin and was hired as an assistant professor of chemistry in 1997. He rose through the ranks in the department before entering leadership in the dean’s office.
During his time in the college, Vanden Bout has contributed directly to dramatic improvements in four-year graduation rates among the university’s STEM students, which were 50% in 2014 when he assumed leadership of the undergraduate division in the college and had risen to 74% by last year. Many of the most notable improvements in student success occurred among populations that the College of Natural Sciences previously had struggled to retain, including first-generation college students, students from low socioeconomic households and students underrepresented in STEM.
This year, as well as when he served previously in the role in 2018, Vanden Bout has overseen the hiring of dozens of new faculty members and guided the college through times of transition. With a focus on research discovery, community belonging and impact at scale, he has advanced a culture that recognizes and advances great science, teaching and service throughout the College of Natural Sciences.
Vanden Bout has received many awards in recognition of his accomplishments in research, teaching and leadership. In 2019, he was recognized for his leadership by the talent-pipeline nonprofit GlobalMindedED, which awarded him its Inclusive Leader Award. Both as interim dean and in his capacity overseeing the Office of Undergraduate Education, Vanden Bout has prioritized diversity and equity initiatives that invite ongoing input from underrepresented communities and opportunities for conversation and learning throughout the college.
A physical chemist who uses spectroscopy and imaging techniques to better understand how different materials transport and transfer energy, Vanden Bout is the winner of an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship. He was named a Cottrell Scholar by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, and he received a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation. He was also recognized with a UT Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award.