(Jan. 7, 2019) – Ambika Mathur, dean of the graduate school and associate provost for scientific training, workforce development and diversity at Wayne State University, has been named UTSA vice provost for graduate studies and dean of the Graduate School. She begins her duties Feb. 24, 2019.
“Being able to attract someone of Dr. Mathur’s stature is a wonderful testament to UTSA, as she is nationally recognized for creating and championing innovative workforce pipeline programs for students, particularly those who are traditionally underrepresented in graduate studies,” said Kimberly Andrew Espy, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Dr. Mathur is committed to providing similar opportunities to UTSA students, and she is ready to work in close collaboration with the colleges and others across the university to enhance and increase our graduate programs and further diversify UTSA’s graduate enrollment to advance our institutional goals of student success and research excellence.”
Mathur has worked for Wayne State, located in midtown Detroit, since 2003. Part of the appeal of coming to UTSA, she says, is the opportunity to continue working to enhance education and research opportunities in an urban context. She also sees opportunities to expand collaborations with industry and educational partners in the city, such developing new joint degree programs with UT Health San Antonio, Southwest Research Institute, and Texas Biomedical Research Institute.
“What really drew my attention was President Eighmy’s and Provost Espy’s vision for moving UTSA forward as emerging research institution and in particular the initiative to expand the Downtown Campus,” said Mathur. “The vibrancy of the graduate education community at UTSA is very apparent, and there is a strong commitment across that community to driving growth and opportunity in San Antonio. The UTSA Graduate School will play a critical role in providing the programming and training to fulfill those goals, as well as the university’s goals of achieving National Research University Fund (NRUF) and Carnegie R1 status.”
At Wayne State University (WSU), Mathur served as founding director of the university’s combined M.D./Ph.D. degree program, as well as the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs. She has led the Graduate School since 2012, when she was appointed interim dean; she was named dean in 2014. Under her leadership, the Graduate School has introduced a number of initiatives to support students and postdoctoral trainees. In 2016, Mathur was further appointed associate provost to lead the university’s Office of Scientific Training, Workforce Development and Diversity. In this role she has created a number of programs to support trainees who are underrepresented in their disciplines. One such program is the Postdoctoral to Faculty Transition Fellowship program, which prepares early career scholars for tenure-track appointments at WSU and other institutions.
Mathur serves as co-principal investigator of ReBUILDetroit, a $21 million program funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to prepare students from diverse backgrounds for careers in research. The program, part of NIH’s 10-site, cooperative Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) Initiative, seeks to increase the number of students participating in biomedical research training. Through the accelerated program, ReBUILDetriot scholars earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in five years and gain research experience to prepare them for doctoral programs. The first cohort of students will graduate in May 2019.
Mathur also is principal investigator of another $1.8 million NIH grant, Broadening Experience in Scientific Training (BEST), which seeks to train graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to prepare them for careers in the biomedical research workforce outside of academia. BEST dovetails with another project Mathur led at Wayne State: collecting and reporting the career outcomes of nearly 3,000 doctoral alumni who graduated from the university in the last 15 years.
Recognizing that many Ph.D. students go on to obtain jobs in government, non-profit and for-profit sectors, Mathur is a staunch advocate of providing enhanced career training to graduate students. Another example of that is the competency-based micro-credentialing program she launched at Wayne State as a way to highlight leadership skills that are not always readily apparent on resumés and transcripts; graduate students and postdoctoral scholars can attend seminars and earn digital badges in any of five core competency areas that are applicable to diverse career paths: communication, career development, ethics, teamwork and collaboration, and leadership and professionalism.
Mathur says she plans to develop similar enhanced career and professional development training at the UTSA Graduate School to support students and foster economic development.
“Graduate students gain valuable transferable skills beyond their chosen discipline in the course of their studies,” she says. “Micro-credentialing, as one example, provides evidence to potential employers about a student’s skillset, which is as important for graduate students as it is for undergraduate students.”
A cancer immunologist, Mathur holds a faculty appointment as professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Wayne State. She has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and several other agencies for research in cancer immunology, the immunological basis for complementary and alternative medicine interventions in pediatric populations, and has over 120 research publications. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and a Master of Science in Biochemistry from Bombay University in India. She earned her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Iowa, where she also completed post-doctoral training. Prior to joining Wayne State in 2003, she held faculty positions at the University of Minnesota and West Virginia University.
Beyond her academic career, Mathur is the author of a children’s book series, “Miss Panda,” which she developed to teach children about cultures around the world. In 2016, she published her first novel, “Transplant,” a medical thriller.
The UTSA Graduate School offers 67 master’s degree programs, 25 doctoral degree programs and 31 graduate certificate programs to more than 4,200 graduate students across seven colleges.
“UTSA has done a great deal work to improve graduate education processes over the last year, and I am grateful to Interim Dean Can Saygin for working with colleagues across university in redesigning the application and admissions processes and restructuring resources to give the colleges more flexibility in recruitment and funding. These changes already have resulted in significant results: graduate applications have increased more than 9 percent, and new graduate student enrollment is up more than 36 percent for the Spring 2019 semester compared to last year,” said Espy, noting that continuing student enrollment also has increased.
“Considering Dr. Mathur’s proven track record, I am confident that under her leadership the UTSA Graduate School will be able to accelerate this early progress to meet our strategic enrollment goals on our march towards NRUF and Carnegie Research 1 status.”
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