Wednesday morning featured a bit of musical chairs in the state's higher education community as Veronica "Ronnye" Vargas Stidvent was named the new chancellor of WGU Texas.
The current chancellor, Ray Martinez, will become the new president of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas, the state's association of private, nonprofit higher education institutions.
Carol McDonald, who served as the president of ICUT for more than three decades, will step down at the end of September.
The Texas-specific branch of Western Governors University, a 17-year old online, competency-based institution that allows students to advance at their own pace, was established in 2011. Martinez, the school's second chancellor, has been in the position for nearly a year, but Stidvent said she plans to be in the position "for the long haul."
Stidvent, who is currently a member of The Texas Tribune's board of directors, most recently served as president of CEA Consulting LLC, and as a lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin's McCombs School of Business. She also formerly worked as as the assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Labor and as special assistant for policy in the White House, as well as in other government and higher education positions, including a stint as the inaugural director of the Center for Politics and Governance at the University of Texas at Austin.
As to why she was drawn to WGU Texas, Stidvent told the Tribune, "I loved that it was nonprofit, mission-driven and had a great track record in Texas and nationally."
She said a key factor she would bring to her new role was an ability to form partnerships across the state. "I think WGU has made tremendous strides in Texas," she said, "but I think there’s a lot of work to be done in terms of reaching out to communities across the state."
Under Martinez's leadership, WGU Texas recently surpassed an enrollment of 5,000 students, which is a roughly 1,300-student increase from when he started.
"This is a difficult decision," Martinez said about his transition. "I believe very passionately in the success WGU has had since it started over two years ago. It’s a great university that is poised to do really outstanding things."
Martinez served in the Clinton White House and was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as a commissioner at the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. He has also served as the director of the Texas Senate Higher Education Committee, director of government relations at Rice University and as associate vice president for governmental relations at Texas A&M International University.
Since he received his undergraduate degree from Southwestern University in Georgetown and got his first higher ed job at Rice, he said the decision to accept a position where he could represent such institutions was "a very personal one."