University of Utah appoints first vice president for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion


Newswise — University of Utah President Ruth Watkins announced that Mary Ann Villarreal will join the university as the inaugural vice president for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

Villarreal is currently associate vice president of strategic initiatives at California State University, Fullerton. She will assume her new role on July 1, 2019.

“Mary Ann has extensive experience in faculty and leadership roles and is known for her success in advancing a vision of social justice, equity and diversity in academic programs,” Watkins said. “Throughout her career, she has worked to advance student success through engagement, innovative program development and use of data to guide decisions.”

Villarreal will provide leadership to the Office for Equity and Diversity, with responsibility across the U’s academic and health sciences campuses for strategic diversity and inclusion initiatives.

The U established an associate vice president to oversee diverse academic programs in 1983; a year later that position was refocused to have broad responsibility for campus diversity efforts. The new appointment elevates the position and office as part of the president’s cabinet.

At Cal State, Fullerton, Villarreal initially served as the director of strategic initiatives and university projects. In 2016, she was the assistant vice president of strategic initiatives and in 2017 as the interim director of the Office of First-Year Experience before assuming her current position there.

Prior to joining Cal State, Fullerton, Villarreal was associate dean at Colorado Women’s College at the University of Denver, where she also served as acting associate dean of academics. She was an assistant professor of history at University of Colorado at Boulder.

From 2002 to 2007, Villarreal was an instructor and then assistant professor of history and ethnic studies at the University of Utah.

“I am thrilled to rejoin and serve the U community,” Villarreal said. “The campus leadership, staff, students and faculty have made tremendous strides in identifying and removing barriers to increase student success and belonging, and the institution is poised to model equity practices with long-term success.

“I look forward to working in partnership across campus and with our diverse Utah communities to support the vision of President Watkins' initiatives, with a focus on equity and inclusion that reaches across the entire institution,” Villarreal said.

Watkins said Villarreal has demonstrated strong leadership in launching new programs, meeting institutional goals and developing collaborative partnerships. Projects led by Villarreal at Cal State, Fullerton included a pilot fellows program aimed at recruitment and retainment of diverse faculty and staff; development of a women’s leadership network program; and refocusing of a first-year experience program to address needs of students’ who had not declared majors.

In 2019, she was named a member of the board of directors of the Association of American Colleges & Universities. Villarreal also is a member of the American Historical Association’s Committee on Gender Equity.

Her research interests include oral history, U.S. history, Latino/Chicano history and leadership. She is the author of “Listening to Rosita: The Business of Tejana Music and Culture, 1930-1955” and of several book chapters and journal articles on diversity and ethnic issues.

Villarreal was selected following a national search. She has an undergraduate degree in women’s studies from Mount Holyoke College and a doctorate degree in history from Arizona State University.


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