Aerial view of TAMU

Improving Communication Through Leadership Structure

General (Ret.) Mark A. Welsh III
Interim President

December 7, 2023

Members of the Aggie Family,

During my State of the University address last week, I discussed our efforts to reestablish transparent communication and remove barriers to such communication.

In the last several months, we’ve instituted regular meetings with key faculty, staff and student groups, as well as affiliated organizations, foundations and associations, to stay connected across the university. We also streamlined our executive leadership team, decreasing the number of vice president titles by 55%. The number of vice presidents had expanded to more than 20 in the last few years. They are all great people doing great work (and they still are); however, too many leadership positions at the top of an organization can create confusion and make communication more difficult. The new structure ensures the right people are accountable and responsible for their areas of focus, which should help eliminate confusion and enhance communication. I encourage you to view the revised president’s cabinet, which includes our vice presidents and a few senior leaders from core units.

Also key to improved communication is a team supporting the university’s initiatives and priorities. As I mentioned in my last monthly President’s Brief, we’ve made a few changes to reinvigorate the Office of the President with dedicated staff. In addition to the prior announcements regarding my Chief of Staff, Dr. Susan Ballabina, and Deputy Chief of Staff, Alexandra Rainey, I’m pleased to share additional staffing updates:

  • Sarah Franke, who most recently served as an administrator in the Division of Human Resources and Organizational Effectiveness, has joined the team as Executive Assistant to the President. Sarah will provide me with calendaring and high-level executive administrative support. She will also oversee administrative staff, including Hope Mireles and our incredible student workers.
  • Julie Kopycinski now serves as our Chief Government Relations Officer, where she will lead the university’s engagement with the Texas Legislature, Congress and senior state and federal executive branch officials to advance the university’s mission. Julie most recently served as Assistant Vice Chancellor for Government Relations for the Texas A&M Engineering agencies. I want to thank Norman Garza for his dedicated service over the past few years and value his continued service to lead government relations for Texas A&M Engineering. Michael Hardy will continue his critical role focused on federal relations for the university as Director of Government Relations, reporting to Julie.
  • Holly Shive, who previously served as an Associate Vice President in the Division of Marketing and Communications, has transitioned to the role of Chief Presidential Communications Officer. Holly and her team, including Rebecca O’Neal, Director of Presidential Engagement, and Haley Poole, Coordinator of Presidential Engagement, will support all presidential communications and engagement opportunities to advance our priorities among internal and external audiences. This team also helps me review opportunities to attend or speak at your events. As you look ahead at your spring and summer calendars, please submit this form if you would like to request my attendance.
  • Fred McClure will serve as Chief Community Engagement Officer, leading the administration’s community outreach and engagement efforts that support Texas A&M, Bryan-College Station, the region and state. Fred most recently served on the leadership team within the Division of Academic and Strategic Collaborations. Given the university’s tremendous impact on the state economy as well as that of the communities in which it operates, maintaining a strong connection to the communities we serve by promoting culture, civic engagement and economic development is essential to the success of the university overall. Fred will be supported by Dr. Rebekka Dudensing, Executive Director of Economic Development, and Dr. Scott Shafer, Executive Director of Campus and Community Engagement.
  • Deena McConnell, who most recently served as an Associate Vice President within Operations, has transitioned into the role of Chief Policy Officer. Deena will continue to manage the submission of Board of Regents agenda items on behalf of the president and will provide assistance, advice and counsel on matters concerning policy, governance, strategy, processes and procedures, and other issues affecting Texas A&M.
  • Michael O’Quinn and R.C. Slocum will continue their service to the Office of the President as Special Assistants, providing counsel and using their extensive university experience and context to guide special projects.

Contact information for the new Office of the President team is available online. I encourage you to reach out to these individuals with your questions, thoughts and ideas. We all look forward to engaging with you further in the coming year.

And, finally, the president’s office will be relocating to Suite 200 in Jack K. Williams Administration Building. The office will be physically closed to guests on Dec. 14-15 to accommodate the move.

Thanks for all you do, and Gig ’em!

General (Ret.) Mark A. Welsh III, Interim President

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