Torres Named New USF College of Education Dean
National leader brings record of success to efforts to shape an exciting and distinctive vision for the college’s future.
By Kevin Burke
Special to USF News
TAMPA, Fla. (May 15, 2013) — Vasti Torres, a seasoned educator with nearly two decades of experience in higher education as a professor, researcher and administrator, has been named the new dean of the College of Education at the University of South Florida.
The West Palm Beach native and Stetson University graduate will return to her home state and take up her new responsibilities at USF in mid-summer. She leaves the nationally ranked School of Education at Indiana University-Bloomington, where she has served as professor of educational leadership and policy studies and director of the Center for Postsecondary Research since 2010.
The externally funded center is known throughout North American higher education for administering the annual National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), which measures the level of student participation in institutionally sponsored programs and activities as a reflection of collegiate quality. More than 1,400 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada have taken part in NSSE over the years.
The center also conducts research on undergraduate student learning environments, faculty use of effective teaching strategies, and best practices in assessing college student learning outcomes, among other topics, for many education-focused organizations including the College Board and the Lumina and Spencer Foundations.
“I’m exceptionally pleased that a leader of such national standing as Dr. Torres has agreed to become our next dean in the College of Education,” said USF Provost Ralph Wilcox. “Her broad experience with issues of growing importance in higher education, such as the dynamics and factors linked to the academic success or failure of working students, as well as her personal research concentration on the college experience of Latino students — a significant constituency here at USF — make Dr. Torres an excellent fit for the deanship of the college.
“In addition, her proven track record of successful fundraising in support of IU’s Center for Postsecondary Research holds the promise of novel and creative streams of new revenue for the college, further enabling our efforts to shape an exciting and distinctive vision for its future in alignment with USF’s strategic priorities. Our goal is a College of Education that is especially relevant to the needs of educators in the 21st century and I look forward to working with Dean Torres as, together with the faculty, we strive to expand opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, build and strengthen partnerships with the communities we serve, and raise the profile of the college to national and global prominence.”
Torres indicated that the opportunity to enhance and extend the spirit of collaboration between USF, the College of Education, partner colleges, as well as local and regional schools was a significant inducement for her to make the change.
“The community engagement that is so strong at USF is a very attractive aspect of the university. As colleges of education look towards the future, it is critical that we have strong partnerships with P-12 school districts and promote outreach that will prepare globally minded educators. I share Provost Wilcox’s enthusiasm for investing greater energies and resources in these vitally important relationships,” said Torres.
She succeeds Interim Dean Harold Keller, who Wilcox thanked for his service after taking over the college’s helm in June 2012, stepping up from his longtime post as associate dean.
Prior to her tenure at IU, where she also has served as an affiliate faculty member in Latino Studies, as program chair in higher education and student affairs, and director of the university’s Project on Academic Success, Torres was an assistant professor of higher education administration at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., coordinating the admissions process for the higher education program while also teaching and advising master’s and doctoral degree candidates.
She has additional experience as assistant dean of students at the University of Virginia, assistant director for residence life at Emory University, and associate vice provost and dean for enrollment and student services at Portland State University in Oregon, where she conducted a post-doctoral fellowship with joint appointments as assistant dean of student services and assistant professor of university studies after receiving her PhD in counseling and student affairs administration from the University of Georgia.
A widely sought after conference speaker and the author or co-author of four books, including the upcoming The Latino College Student Experience: Understanding Developmental and Environmental Influences, Torres was a Fulbright Specialist assigned in South Africa from November 2011 until August 2012. She is a recipient of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators’ Contribution to Research and Literature Award and was a Diamond Honoree of the American College Personnel Association in 2005.
Kevin Burke can be reached at 813-974-0192.