Our new Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Dear WMU community,
This afternoon, we will be announcing Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig as our new Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Pending Board of Trustees approval and background check, his appointment will be effective Jan. 4.

Following a nationwide search, Dr. Vasquez Heilig (surnames are pronounced VAHS-kehz HI-leg) comes to us from the University of Kentucky, where he currently serves as dean of its College of Education. He has led the charge to raise the college’s profile and championed the strategies that helped increase its enrollment and diversity.

Dr. Vasquez Heilig is a proven scholar who has been elevated to leadership roles at major public universities in three states, including Kentucky’s flagship institution. As noted, he brings outstanding results in growing enrollment, increasing student and faculty diversity, developing innovative programs and forging beneficial partnerships inside and outside the academy.

We sought a bold thought leader and change agent to advance our academic enterprise, and I believe we have found that leader in Dr. Vasquez Heilig.

Join me in thanking the 14-member search advisory committee, led by Dr. Sarah Summy, Faculty Senate president and professor of special education and literacy studies, and Dr. Brian Gogan, associate professor of English and director of first-year writing, for its outstanding work. 

Please also join me in thanking Dr. Christopher Cheatham, who has done a wonderful job serving as our interim provost while also leading in many other administrative roles and initiatives. 

No stranger to WMU or to our state, Dr. Vasquez Heilig grew up in Lansing, and his mother is a Bronco. 

In our news release this afternoon, he shared the following: “I am excited to return to my home state to serve on the leadership team at Western. I look forward to supporting the Bronco family in leading innovation and scholarship that will have an impact on the communities we serve. I have always found Western—where my mother earned her master’s degree—to be such an inviting campus. The academic programs here strongly enable students to prepare for roles that will impact issues we face in Michigan and across the nation. It is an honor to be part of helping students discover their purpose and prepare for meaningful careers.”

Dr. Vasquez Heilig serves about 3,000 students, staff and faculty as dean of the University of Kentucky’s College of Education, which includes more than 70 programs across a wide range of fields. With an emphasis on recruitment during his three-year tenure, the college saw a 63% increase in freshmen this fall compared to 2019. 

He prioritized increasing diversity among teachers and recruiting more students to the teacher pipeline amid a growing shortage in the United States. This fall, the college saw an 83% increase in freshmen majoring in teacher preparation programs compared to the number of incoming education majors in 2019. Freshman students of color majoring in teacher preparation programs grew by 275% during the same time period. The number of faculty of color in his college also increased under his leadership, and the college achieved its highest-ever ranking by U.S. News & World Report.  

As a faculty member at UK, Dr. Vasquez Heilig is professor of educational policy studies and evaluation as well as a faculty affiliate in African American and Africana studies. The author of more than 70 publications, his research and institutional work focus on equity and innovation, with an emphasis on collaboration and community engagement. He also has been honored with more than 30 teaching, research and service recognitions over his career.

University of Kentucky Provost Robert DiPaola has shared the following: “Dean Vasquez Heilig has led the College of Education through a period of growth, which speaks directly to the need for more teachers in our state and in our country. His public scholarship, around issues of equity, has contributed to much of the conversation that is happening nationally on these critical questions, as well. Western Michigan is getting a national leader in education, someone committed to students and their success and to the value that higher education has for our country.”

Dr. Vasquez Heilig has served as an academic leader in college, department, program, center and association settings during the past 15 years. Prior to his deanship at the University of Kentucky, he held leadership and faculty positions at California State University from 2014-19 and University of Texas at Austin from 2007-14. He has also served as a civil rights leader and on several educational policymaking bodies from the local to international level, working to advance equity and bridge gaps in access and engagement.

He earned his doctorate in educational administration and policy analysis following a master’s degree in sociology from Stanford University. He also earned a master’s degree in higher education and a bachelor’s degree in history and psychology from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor.

We have an exemplary new academic leader joining us in January. I know you will warmly welcome him to our campus community.
Thank you,
Edward Montgomery

Published: Nov. 17, 2022