Jennifer Cowley, provost and vice president of academic affairs at the University of North Texas, will be the sole finalist for next president of UT Arlington, the University of Texas System Board of Regents decided unanimously Friday.
Cowley would be the first woman president of UTA if approved after the legally mandated 21-day waiting period the board of regents must observe before holding a final vote on her appointment.
“Dr. Cowley is an accomplished leader in academia, research and industry partnerships, and her experiences align well with UT Arlington’s mission and growth aspirations,” Regents Chairman Kevin P. Eltife said in an emailed statement Friday. “Throughout her career, she has remained focused on student success, faculty collaborations, and external partnerships — all essential elements needed to advance a top public research university.”
The board voted at a special meeting Friday after an hours-long closed-door executive session.
The decision to nominate Cowley, who grew up in Arlington and attended summer camps and classes at UTA, as the sole finalist came days after Teik Lim, interim president, was announced as the new president of the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
For the last decade, Cowley has taught annual professional development workshops at the university, according to the emailed statement.
During her tenure as provost at UNT, Cowley has been responsible for budget allocations and changes to curriculum, degree programs and organization.
It’s been nearly two years since former UTA president Vistasp Karbhari resigned amid allegations of misconduct, bullying and retaliation. The search for Karbhari’s successor was placed on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cowley said in Friday’s emailed statement from the University of Texas System that she looks forward to working with employees, students, alumni, the UT system and the state and surrounding region as president of the university.
“I am honored to have the opportunity to return to my hometown to play a leadership role in shaping the future at UT Arlington, and I enthusiastically accept this opportunity and responsibility,” Cowley said in the statement.
She wants to “help UTA achieve its full potential as it serves the people of Texas through education and discovery.”
According to her LinkedIn, Cowley has been with UNT since July 2017. Before that, she held jobs from associate professor to vice provost for capital planning and regional campuses at The Ohio State University from 2009 to 2017. She also served at an associate professor at that university from 2001 to 2007.
From 1998 to 2001, she worked as an assistant research scientist at Texas A&M University, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Cowley has a doctorate in urban and regional science from Texas A&M, according to a curriculum vitae and cover letter published by the University of Nevada, Reno, where she applied to be president in 2020. She earned her Bachelor of Political Science from A&M, then went on to earn a master’s degree in urban planning from A&M and master’s in public administration and interdisciplinary studies from UNT.
In 2020, Cowley applied to be the president of the University of Nevada, Reno, according to her cover letter posted online by UNR. She said in her cover letter that one of the things that drew her interest to the university was its status as a research institution.
UTA was named last year as a Texas Tier 1 university, one of the requirements for which is spending more than $45 million in restricted research two years in a row. In 2016, the university was named a Carnegie Research 1 institution, a designation also held by UNT.
The Texas Tier 1 designation means UTA will have access to the state’s National Research University Fund, which awards dollars toward emerging research universities in Texas. State lawmakers established the fund in 2009 to provide institutions an opportunity to become “national leaders in research output,” according to the university’s press release.
Before entering higher education administration, Cowley was a planning assistant for the City of College Station and a planner with the City of Amarillo. From 2010 to 2011, Cowley served as an appointed special government employee for the Environmental Protection Agency.
Cowley’s candidacy for UTA’s next president was recommended by a search advisory committee, headed by UT System Chancellor James Milliken and composed of UT employees, students and alumni, as well as community leaders, UT presidents and members of the board of regents.
This story was originally published January 7, 2022 3:14 PM.