LU Educational Leadership alumna receives Texas Women in Higher Education Representative of the Year Award

Dr. Teresa Simpson has been breaking the glass ceiling of higher education at Lamar University and beyond since September of 2004. In January of 2023, Simpson’s hard work paid off as she was the awarded the 2023 Texas Women in Higher Education (TWHE) Representative of the Year Award.T Simpson

Being a proud first-generation and transfer college graduate, Simpson wanted to create a supportive space in this area for women. “In terms of career decision-making, how often does a male have to pause his career like women do? How do you try to create a mentorship or a space to help explore this field and bring awareness to things women face that men do not, like maternity leave. The percentages of women in senior leadership roles were sparse in comparison to their male peers when I became involved in TWHE.”

When asked about the impact that TWHE has on females seeking leadership roles, Simpson explains that it was designed to have a collective sourcing of women leaders in higher education to come together to bring awareness, create a mentorship network, support others, and create space to cultivate ideas about what someone can bring back to their own campus.

“During my time at Lamar, women leaders in Texas were growing and we went through the President and the Provost of the university at that time to be able to share correspondence between our campus and TWHE,” said Simpson. “Being one of the youngest directors, and one of the few female directors on campus in 2004, I was mentored by the then Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, Dr. Brenda Nichols. Dr. Nichols asked me to serve alongside her to offer TWHE at LU and serve as LU’s first Institutional Representatives to get it off the ground. Dr. Nichols would mentor women seeking roles in academic affairs, and I would serve on the staff and administrative side of things.”

Their goal was to establish this space to create pipelines for women as leaders in Higher Education, where they did not see barriers, but opportunity. It did not matter if they were not interested in seeking a president or provost role, that leadership comes in many forms.

The Institutional Representative role for TWHE was founded and supported by then President Jimmy Simmons and Provost Steve Doblin. “During those years we hosted conferences on the LU campus, HER Stories and even partnered with peer two-year colleges in our region,” said Simpson. Later, we visited with Lamar University’s President, Dr. Jaime Taylor, and he was supportive to re-establish the initiative. Under Dr. Taylor, Brenda and I worked more collectively to bring the focus back to our campus,” said Simpson.

Now serving as the Director of the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness at University of Houston-Victoria, Simpson successfully continues and implements the model for her role she created at Lamar University. When approaching the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs about the role and TWHE along with the Dean for College of Education and Health Sciences, it would be the University’s found TWHE Institutional Representative role.

“I was honored by Dr. Chance Glenn’s support and sponsorship of this new role and collaborative initiative we are developing with the University of Houston System and peer regional institutions,” Simpson said. “I am driven to not only see our students succeed, but to see student, staff and faculty employees all have a gender-neutral ability to fulfill their passions and be on a path to do so. Being a mentor to women leaders, developing women professionals in higher education, and helping them stay true to their passion is something I’ve always been interested in doing.”

Simpson is both humbled and honored to be the recipient of an award she is passionate about. “It’s not about me. It’s about the work you inspire in others. You’re the place of real conversation of, ‘It’s not my journey, it’s yours, and I’m here to help you navigate some of these challenging chapters as well as the positive ones.”

Simpson currently serves as the President of the Texas Association of College & University Student Personnel Administrators (TACUSPA) to partner with a group that wants to lift others up, allow for growth opportunities and help others see themselves through a lens they don’t always see. She also oversees professional standards of student affairs, student success, retention and enrollment management.

“I used to coach volleyball, now I coach professional development,” said Simpson. “The relationship that I’ve built with my students and seeing our student employees start their professional journey is what it’s all about. You don’t have to be a certain title. Not everyone has a path of interest to the Presidency or Provost; but a passion to lead no matter the organization ladder of interest. As a career woman who is a proud wife and mother of two; I understand this journey; therefore, being a voice at the table to create leadership opportunities that supports the inclusion of women is something I am very proud of.”