AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin has named Lydia Contreras as its new vice provost for faculty diversity, equity and inclusivity, effective immediately. Contreras, who currently holds the Jim and Barbara Miller Endowed Faculty Fellowship in Chemical Engineering, has served for the past two years as the managing director of diversity in the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.
She succeeds Edmund T. Gordon, who will serve as the inaugural executive director for the university’s Contextualization and Commemoration Initiative.
Contreras’ primary responsibility will be to lead the advancement of the Strategic Plan for Faculty Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity in alignment with UT’s new plan for an equitable and inclusive campus, You Belong Here.
“Lydia Contreras is a thoughtful, energetic and engaged leader, and she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this important position,” said Sharon L. Wood, executive vice president and provost. “As a faculty member in the Cockrell School of Engineering, she has driven successful recruitment and retention efforts that champion a more diverse and inclusive community. And as the university’s managing director of diversity, she has demonstrated an ability to activate plans and develop meaningful initiatives. We are thrilled to have her in this new role as she builds on the excellent work that Ted Gordon has done over the past five years.”
Contreras is an accomplished professor and researcher who joined the UT faculty in 2011. A native of the Dominican Republic, she earned a BSE in chemical engineering from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in chemical and biomolecular engineering from Cornell University.
Her scholarship is at the interface of RNA biochemistry and protein engineering, and she leads a large interdisciplinary team that studies RNA regulatory systems. Her work has been recognized by the National Science Foundation with a CAREER award, by the Society for Biological Engineering with the Biotechnology and Bioengineering Daniel I.C. Wang Award, and by the Division of Biochemical Technology of the American Chemical Society with a Young Investigator Award. She is the co-founder and chief technology officer for Griö, a startup that has revolutionized baby feeding routines by incorporating cutting-edge science.
Contreras will bring the same high level of energy and creativity to serve the university in this position that she brings to her research. As the managing director of diversity, she was integral to the launch of the Early Career Fellows Program and Seed Grants for Actions that promote Community Transformation, both designed to build a more inclusive environment on campus.
The vice provost for diversity position was created in 2017 when Gordon was appointed to the role. A longtime advocate and voice for faculty equity at UT, Gordon has been instrumental in the development of many faculty diversity initiatives, including the Faculty Diversity Strategic Plan, which launched in 2021.