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OSU names Dr. Jeanette Mendez provost and senior vice president

Friday, May 27, 2022

Oklahoma State University has named Dr. Jeanette Mendez as provost and senior vice president following a nationwide search.


The announcement made Friday was guided by input from the OSU community, as well as a diverse, 24-person selection committee, assisted by the national search firm Buffkin/Baker.


The search committee included representation from a broad mix of academic and administrative units. Dr. Thomas Coon, vice president, dean and director of the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, and Dr. Johnny Stephens, president of the OSU Center for Health Sciences, interim president of OSU-Tulsa and senior vice president for health affairs, led the search process.


“Dr. Mendez’s impressive academic achievements and desire to build on the quality and effectiveness of our programs stood out during her interview. Her familiarity with OSU and our state will serve her in advancing our statewide education, research and Extension initiatives. This is an exciting time at OSU, and Dr. Mendez has the leadership, experience and character to lead our academic units to new levels of success. I am looking forward to working with her as she collaborates with our deans and academic leaders to set our priorities. I commend the co-chairs and search committee for their service and thank the OSU/A&M Board of Regents and campus community for their participation,” said OSU President Kayse Shrum.


In a letter to the search committee, Mendez outlined her vision for OSU’s future: 

“OSU needs to further advance its reputation as an academic powerhouse, focusing on providing a top-tier education and solving society’s most pressing needs through research and Extension,” she wrote. “As provost, I will help lead OSU to be a premier, modern land-grant institution marked by a commitment to excellence in research, innovative teaching and activities that extend these efforts to the broader communities of Oklahoma, the nation and the world. We also need to better leverage our expertise and partner with K-12 schools to show the value of both a liberal arts and STEM education — and how they shape the ideal OSU graduate.” 


In her letter, Mendez also highlighted the need for continued emphasis on the student experience, enhancing OSU’s welcoming environment and investing in faculty and staff. 


“Oklahoma State University’s strong commitment to the overall student experience sets us apart from our peers in the higher education landscape,” she wrote. “Our faculty and staff are dedicated to student success, and key initiatives — such as the Math Learning Success Center and First-Year Success — are examples of investments in programming, faculty development, advising and expanded tutoring that saw large increases in student success and retention. As OSU has seen increases in retention and graduation rates, continued success will require additional investments, strategic programming and collaboration.”


A first-generation college student, Mendez graduated from Santa Clara University in 1998, receiving a bachelor’s degree in combined sciences. From there, she went to Indiana University, earning a master’s degree in political science in 2000 and a Ph.D. in political science in 2003. She then became an assistant professor of political science at the University of Houston (2003-2005) before joining the OSU political science faculty in 2005. 


Mendez was named interim provost in January 2021 following the announcement of Dr. Gary Sandefur’s retirement. She has served as a member of President Kayse Shrum’s senior leadership team, co-chair of the strategy steering committee, co-chair of OSU’s Pandemic Response Team as well as co-chair of the campus-wide Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force.


During her time at OSU, she also has led initiatives to increase collaborative research opportunities across academic colleges and campuses, increased online degree offerings and enrollment as well as led efforts to examine and provide recommendations for possible reforms to general education at OSU.


Prior to that, Mendez served as vice provost of academic affairs and a professor of political science, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (2018-2019), associate dean for research and facilities (2017-2018), interim associate dean for research (2014-2015) and political science department head (2011-2014; 2015-2017). 

Mendez’s research background is rooted in political information processing, political behavior and political communication. Her work has been published in journals including Journal of Politics; Political Research Quarterly; Social Science Quarterly; Political Psychology; Politics and Gender; Journal of Women, Politics and Policy; PS: Political Science and Politics; Journal of Media Psychology; and the Journal of Political Science. 


“Dr. Mendez’s breadth of experience, proven leadership and dedication to higher education will position her to make an immediate and lasting impact,” Stephens said. “We’re excited to have her join OSU’s leadership team and play a pivotal role in propelling Oklahoma’s premier land-grant university into the future.” 


Coon echoed Stephens’ excitement about the announcement and the impact Mendez will have at OSU. 


“This is another milestone announcement for our university,” Coon said. “I commend President Kayse Shrum for her bold and clear leadership and the search and screening committee for their dedication to finding the perfect fit for this crucial role. Dr. Mendez is dedicated and passionate about OSU and will continue to be an invaluable asset for this university, as she has been for many years.” 


Mendez was selected from a pool of three finalists. If approved by the Oklahoma A&M Board of Regents, she will lead the Division of Academic Affairs, beginning with the fall 2022 semester. 


“I believe higher education institutions should be focused on real-world solutions for real-world problems,” Mendez wrote. “This is a hallmark of the Cowboy Culture — solving problems for the common good. During the last decade, I have watched OSU grow across all facets of the university and am confident there has never been a more exciting time for OSU than right now.”

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