College Undergraduate Dean Wins National Award for Inclusive Leadership
Vanden Bout received the 2019 Inclusive Leader Award from GlobalMindED, a national nonprofit organization that aims to improve education and employment opportunities for students who are in the first generation in their family to attend college.
David Vanden Bout, the College of Natural Sciences' senior associate dean for undergraduate education, has been named the inaugural winner of a prize recognizing outstanding leadership at a university for efforts in the areas of equity and inclusivity.
Vanden Bout received the 2019 Inclusive Leader Award from GlobalMindED, a national nonprofit organization that aims to improve education and employment opportunities for students who are in the first generation in their family to attend college. The awards, given at an event in Denver this summer, recognized efforts to improve access to education, entrepreneurship and employment for first-generation college students and others. Vanden Bout's award recognizes outstanding leadership at a four-year institution working to improve opportunities for women, diverse communities, first-generation students and other populations historically underrepresented in STEM.
"We are so fortunate to be able to honor this incredibly talented group of leaders," said Carol Carter, president and founder of GlobalMindED. "They inspire all of us with their dedication and commitment to opening doors for people from diverse backgrounds and building a better future for the next generation of leaders."
In the five years that Vanden Bout has overseen undergraduate education, the College of Natural Sciences has dramatically improved four-year graduation rates and other key indicators of success for all students. Some of the most dramatic improvements have come for students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and households where they are in the first generation in their family to attend college.
Prior to Vanden Bout's arrival, only about two in four Natural Sciences students were graduating within four years, whereas today, roughly three in four (73.5%) Natural Sciences students complete a degree within that time. The Office of Undergraduate Education credits the gains to a series of efforts to remove barriers for students and ensure student success in a particularly vulnerable time: the first year in college.
All students now receive support in a first-year community of learners, and many are connected to experiential learning opportunities soon after they arrive on campus, such as in the Freshman Research Initiative. As a result, rates of staying enrolled at UT and in Natural Sciences specifically after the first year have climbed dramatically, and the number of students on academic probation in their first year has plummeted. Students in populations that previously struggled the most early on in college have seen some of the greatest gains: for example, the four-year graduation rate for first-generation students has improved by two-thirds.
Beyond the student success work in Undergraduate Education, Vanden Bout also has prioritized a range of diversity and equity initiatives, providing critical support for staff-, student- and faculty-led efforts to promote a sense of belonging in the college. A council of students formed to advise the college about diversity and equity issues meets with Vanden Bout throughout the academic year, and he established a new Diversity and Student Programs unit within the Office of Undergraduate Education to help ensure existing programs have the support they need and that new ones, such as the college's new concentration in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, are successful.
Vanden Bout's previous awards have recognized both his research and teaching. They include an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, a Cottrell Scholar award, a Research Innovation Award, a President's Associates Teaching Excellence Award and a UT Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award.
Dean Paul Goldbart, staff members in undergraduate education and students on the Council for Diversity Engagement all wrote in support of Vanden Bout's selection for the Inclusive Leader Award.
"Dean Vanden Bout participates as an active listener to students, who consider him a trusted advocate and ally," said senior Briana Ortiz in her nomination letter. "He is thought-provoking in his questions and pushes us to create change within the college."