UT System Strategic Initiatives, Academic Affairs, and UT Austin Collaborate on 12-Month Study

Jamie Carroll OSI new hire

Jamie Carroll

The Eyes of Texas Are Upon Us, even more so now that Jamie Carroll has joined the Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI). Jamie, a Sociology doctoral student at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, will be working with OSI, the Office of Academic Affairs (OAA), and UT Austin on a 12-month study to track how different courses, teaching methods, and curricula influence students’ progress through the university experience, as well as their later success, including job prospects and career trajectories. She reports to Dr. David Troutman, OSI’s Associate Vice Chancellor, Institutional Research & Decision Support.

As a doctoral student in Sociology, Jamie studies how organizations stratify individual behavior and outcomes. Specifically, she is interested in how educational opportunities shape long-term outcomes in health, civic participation, and the labor market. Her current research uses the High School & Beyond (HS&B) dataset to understand how the curricular paths and academic environments students experienced in high school are related to their health and voting behavior over a 30-year period. HS&B  is part of the National Education Longitudinal Studies (NELS) program of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Prior to coming to UT Austin, Jamie received her MA in Sociology at the University of New Orleans where she studied the classroom environments of charter high schools. She received her BA from New York University with majors in Journalism and Sociology, and a minor in French. Her undergraduate honors thesis explored the social construction of laughter in a New York City stand-up comedy club. After graduating, she taught high school math and science in New Orleans with Teach for America, which is when she decided to focus on education research. She also has experience working as a freelance writer for Fortune Small Business online magazine, The Gambit, and Huffington Post.

Jamie grew up in Washington, D.C., but she ultimately found her way to Austin, where she enjoys the company of her fiancée, as well as Gumbo, her Old English Sheepdog, who looks forward to swimming in the beautiful local watering holes.

When It Comes to UT System PM – OSI Adds the O and a Whole Lot More

The Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) welcomes two new members to its Project Management Office (PMO)

While the PM in this blog refers specifically to “Project Management,” PM is an acronym for a lot of other really great things—such as power management, performance monitoring, perpetual motion, purpose-made, maximum power, Paul McCartney, perception management, and a lot more—which, coincidentally, are all complementary to project management. Okay, maybe not Paul McCartney, but the others, absolutely.

Now that project management is a part of the University of Texas System’s Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI), an “O” for “office” is added to “PM” to make it official—UT System Project Management Office (PMO). The PMO got its start earlier this year when Donna Thomas arrived in OSI to serve as Director of System Project Management. She has been establishing the PMO to manage the Quantum Leaps introduced in November 2015 by UT System Chancellor Bill McRaven as part of his strategic plan. Quantum Leaps’ eight initiatives are aimed at providing the citizens of Texas the very best in higher education, research, and healthcare.

New Hires Join the PMO

Mary Avila Office of Strategic Initiatives New Hire UT System

Mary Avila


A Texas native from San Antonio, Mary Avila joins the PMO as its projects and administrative coordinator. She will serve as the technical and functional subject matter expert for the new project management software to track Quantum Leaps’ progress, as well as handle the administrative duties for the PMO. The selection process for the new PM software is currently underway, but we will definitely let you know when a selection has been made.

Prior to arriving at OSI, Mary was the senior administrative associate with the UT System Office of Health Affairs, which has primary responsibility for the oversight of the six health institutions of UT System. She is an eight-year veteran of higher education, having worked at UT Austin and UT Health Science Center at Houston prior to joining UT System.

Mary brings a depth of experience in defining, designing, implementing, and supporting new business processes and tools—skills she developed while working at IntelliQuest and at the Texas State Auditor’s office, where she won four national awards for the best implementation of a performance management system in the public sector.



Lashelle Inman new hire Office of Strategic Initiatives PMO UT System

Lashelle Inman

Direct from Caesars Entertainment Corporation in Las Vegas, Lashelle Inman takes the PMO stage as its program manager to assist Quantum Leaps owners define and transform their strategic plans into manageable program roadmaps for execution, status reporting, and process improvements. She will also assist in defining a framework to help improve, on a continuous basis, the project management culture across UT System administration.

Prior to joining UT System, Lashelle served as program manager at Caesars Entertainment where she was responsible for a multi-million dollar portfolio of highly complex projects that spanned 13 functional areas and required deployments across 34+ properties, both domestic and foreign.

A Texas A&M University graduate with a BA in Political Science and Government, as well as an MBA from Schiller International University, Lashelle has lived internationally—in Germany, but more extensively in England where she resided for 11 years, working as a business analyst, as well as a business development and projects manager. While in England, she worked in the public sector defining strategic initiatives, managing system implementations, transforming business processes, and assisting with organizational change management.

Lashelle, a Native Texan, was born in Kingsville and raised in Corpus Christi. She is surrounded by her wonderful husband, two daughters and a son, and a menagerie of three cats and a dog. She speaks French, German, and Gulf Coast Texan.

Time is Money – New Hire Barbara Satterwhite Keeps Track

Barbara Satterwhite New Hire OSIBARBARA SATTERWHITE

There’s a lot to be said for Time. Maybe that’s why there are so many quotes about it. From Benjamin Franklin’s “Time is money,” to Theophrastus’ “Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend,” to Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Time and tide wait for no man” – Time gets a lot of airplay, and it certainly plays a major role in our work and personal lives. That’s why it is important to have timekeepers in our lives, and why the Office of Strategic Initiatives is happy to welcome administrative associate and timekeeper Barbara Satterwhite as its newest hire.

Bastrop-born Barbara comes to UT System after spending 15 years at the University of Texas at Austin. She most recently served as a senior administrative associate for Dell Pediatric Research Institute (DPRI), which conducts scientific and biomedical research in collaboration with the Dell Children’s Medical Center and other healthcare facilities.

A self-professed early riser, Barbara hits the deck around 5:00 a.m., enjoying an early morning run and/or brisk walk. Adhering to the words of Virgil, who said, “All our sweetest hours fly fastest,” Barbara spends many hours a week as a dedicated caregiver. She also enjoys cooking; attending her book club, where she reads non-fiction (no self-help books); and cuddling with her Russian Blue cat Polly.

Everyone needs a timekeeper in their lives so we might be reminded of author and journalist Adam Hochschild’s words, “Work is hard. Distractions are plentiful. And time is short.”

Dr. David Troutman – Part of Quantum Leaps’ Team of Teams

David Troutman promotion Quantum Leaps Associate Vice Chancellor

Dr. David Troutman

Dr. David Troutman has been promoted to Associate Vice Chancellor for Institutional Research and Decision Support

The former Director of the Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI), Dr. David Troutman, was promoted to Associate Vice Chancellor for Institutional Research and Decision Support earlier this year. Still part of OSI, David’s new role will focus primarily on research in support of the Chancellor’s Vision and Quantum Leaps and other collaborative research initiatives.

This position, and others, are part of Chancellor Bill McRaven’s plan to create a team of talented and diverse members – known as a Team of Teams – to implement his Vision and Quantum Leaps that will tackle the big challenges facing our state and nation.  The Quantum Leaps initiatives will enhance the University of Texas System’s ability to provide the very best in higher education, research, and healthcare to the citizens of Texas.

There are eight Quantum Leaps

1. The Texas Prospect Initiative
2. The American Leadership Program
3. Win the Talent War
4. Enhancing Fairness and Opportunity
5. The UT Health Care Enterprise
6. Leading the Brain Health Revolution
7. The UT Network of National Security
8. UT System Expansion in Houston

Team of Teams

In order to achieve the goals of Quantum Leaps, McRaven is creating a network of specialists who can find quicker answers to problems. Rather than using hierarchy and rigid command, the Chancellor has chosen a structure that engenders creativity, boldness, and teamwork through communication and collaboration. Known as a Team of Teams, this extensive network will tap expertise across diverse sectors, with each individual adding value to the enterprise.

Troutman is part of this Team of Teams. He will provide a dedicated resource for data and analytics for the Quantum Leaps leads, including vice chancellors and system and campus personnel associated with the initiatives. He will provide research and decision support focused on trend analysis and thought leadership to identify emerging issues and key institutional needs. These efforts are expected to broaden and deepen the capabilities of UT System’s institutional research (IR) offices. Troutman will also partner and collaborate with senior university leaders to transform data into information in support of university decision-making.

Congratulations are in order for Dr. David Troutman, but each one of us, in our own inimitable way, is an integral part of the Team of Teams here at UT System. We are charged with the task of shaping the future, not only of the great state of Texas, but for our entire nation. This strategic plan will go a long way in establishing a solid foundation for our continuing efforts to enhance UT’s legacy.

Marked for Prominence – Ankita Agarwal Is the Newest Member of OSI

Ankita Agarwal New Hire UT System OSI

Ankita Agarwal


Our most recent newcomer to the University of Texas System’s Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) is Ankita Agarwal. Serving as Director of Finance and Business Analytics, Ankita supervises the business intelligence and information technology teams within OSI, and is responsible for finance analytics for UT System.

Ankita has more than 12 years of experience in banking, high-tech, and education industries, having held senior leadership and management positions in corporate finance. Most recently, Ankita led the shared services, strategic procurement, and finance projects for the North American region for Wincor Nixdorf. Prior to that, she was the chief financial officer for the commercial segment at PNC Financial Services, where she was responsible for forecasting, performance analytics, and strategic planning for a $9 billion commercial loan portfolio.

The name Ankita (pronounced un-kee-tha) is a Sanskrit word meaning “marked for prominence,” which is appropriately descriptive given Ankita’s Agarwal’s impressive education and experience. She is a Forté Foundation Fellow and holds a Financial Risk Manager (FRM) certification. She earned a Master of Business Administration degree with a concentration in finance from the UT Austin McCombs School of Business, a Master of Science in biomedical engineering from the University of Southern California, and a Bachelor degree in chemical engineering.

OSI welcomes Ankita Agarwal.

Quantum Leap and the Future Will Appear – Donna Thomas Joins OSI




In February of this year, Donna Thomas joined the University of Texas System’s Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) as the Director of System Project Management. She will be establishing a project management office (PMO) to manage the Quantum Leaps introduced in November 2015 by UT System Chancellor Bill McRaven as part of his strategic plan. The eight initiatives are aimed at providing the citizens of Texas the very best in higher education, research, and healthcare.

Prior to joining UT System, Donna served as vice president for the PMO at Lumeris, a top-rated, value-based care-managed services provider. She collaborated with senior leadership to establish priorities, allocate resources, and provide ongoing updates on mission-critical initiatives. Before that, she served as Lumeris’ senior program manager for technology and development.

Additionally, Donna has held project management positions at Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Dell, among other top technology companies. She is an experienced curriculum developer, instructional designer, and trainer, and has delivered guest lectures on “Estimating Effort and Project Costs” to academic audiences.

Donna earned a BBA in Management Information Systems from the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business. She has lived in Austin for 35 years, and enjoys golfing and skiing with her husband Jeff. Donna also spends a lot of family time with her daughter Carrie, son Robert and his wife Lauren, and most importantly her cherished grandchildren Nolen and Averie.

With less than two months on the job, Donna rolled up her sleeves alongside OSI staff to help host UT System’s first-national conference Vertex 2016 – At the Intersection of Higher Education and the Workforce.

Vertex 2016 Conference and Cruise – It’s Here!

Vertex Conference

Click here to read more about Vertex 2016

If I were to tell you that planning a national conference is not an incredibly difficult undertaking, don’t believe me. It is a daunting task – especially when you have never done it before. Having experienced a year-long preparation for Vertex 2016 – At the Intersection of Higher Education and the Workforce – I now have a newfound respect for event planners, who, in my estimation, are worth their weight in gold.

And yet, without the aid of highly-trained professionals in the world of event planning, The University of Texas System’s Office of Strategic Initiatives (OSI) is poised to launch its inaugural conference series, commencing Monday, April 18-19, in Austin, Texas. The OSI team has pulled together a roster of top notch speakers recognized across the country for their expertise in higher education, private industry, non-profit, and government sectors. Nearly 200 Vertex participants will experience presentations, panels, and showcases by more than 40 industry leaders who will open a dialogue about the challenging issues currently affecting our academic institutions and students, and the impact these challenges have, not only on the academic and professional careers of students, but also on the local, state, and national economies – here in Texas and across the nation.

To fully appreciate Vertex as we know it today, you must understand a little more about its inception.

Vertex Higher Education Conference UT SystemThe Conference Name Says It All

Up until now, there have been conferences that discuss higher education, and conferences that discuss the workforce; but this first-ever Vertex Conference is breaking new ground by combining the two topics. With the question, “Is College Worth It?” being bandied about by media – who harp on whether there is a return on investment (ROI) for college degrees – UT System took the bull by the horns (Texas reference intended) to address what academic institutions need to do in order to make sure students’ skills keep up with our changing, global economy – ensuring the workforce of America that yes, a college education is definitely an investment with a payoff. For this to happen, higher education and private industry must engage in an ongoing dialogue.

That pretty much explains why the name Vertex was chosen – because the word “vertex” literally means the point where two or more lines meet. Higher education is one line, the workforce another, and they are converging here in Austin, Texas, starting tomorrow.

Mind you, there were other names in the running, such as Connexion360, UTSummit, EDTX, UTforward, among others, but Vertex survived, having been conceived on January 15, 2015, in an office overlooking Guadalupe and 5th Street in downtown Austin, Texas. With a 15-month gestation period, Vertex National Forum on Higher Education will be born tomorrow at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Barton Springs Road.

UT System Vertex 2016Lions and Tigers and Logistics Oh My!

Everything about planning this conference was more or less unknown and a tad scary, except for finding and securing an agenda of presentations and venerable speakers. Compared to the planning and logistics needed for a national conference, finding higher education, government, non-profit, and private industry leaders who want to discuss the issues at hand was comparatively easy. What turned out to be more difficult was deciding on a location, scheduling, branding, promotional items, and signage. That’s because we are the inaugural conference in a series of Vertex conferences, and we have a responsibility to lay the foundation for future events.

This year, OSI is hosting Vertex. In the future, conferences will be hosted by various UT System offices, which, based on each one’s area of expertise, will continue this national forum to discuss solutions, from their perspective, to some of the most challenging issues in higher education.

Behind the Scenes

With the help of the OSI Communications team, including two graphic designers, the Vertex logos and branding were created. Following that, communications materials – including, but not limited to, online and printed fliers, mastheads, banners, kiosks, window clings (we nicknamed them “cling-ons”), tablecloths, table runners, invitations, advertisements, labels, promotional items, programs, maps, name tags, and other items – were designed and produced.

Weekly meetings with our project manager, communications team, administrative staff, and management helped us stay the course. Teleconferences and emails with our speakers and panels allowed us to amass the many bios, headshots, abstracts, and online presentations that are included in the program and will be made available throughout and even after the event. Social media played a huge roll in pulling together a panel of top-notch private industry leaders, as well as spreading the word about a conference named Vertex that has never existed before. Constant updates were made to our conference website to stay current with incoming information and registration.

Vertex 2016 UT SystemHours were spent behind the scenes ensuring that our attendees (nearly 200 of them) would have a pleasant, educational/informational, and memorable experience – prompting them to return to the next Vertex forum, as well as recommend it to colleagues. Room blocks were secured at the Hyatt Regency for visitors, hotel spaces were scheduled for presentations and receptions, breakfast and lunch menus selected, meetings with AV reps were conducted to discuss our media needs, wranglers appointed to move attendees to and from sessions, announcers lined up, opening and closing remarks written, stages and lecterns selected, parking accommodations made, conference packets assembled and put into conference bags along with branded promotional items. That’s just a short list.

Last week found OSI a beehive of activity and excitement. Everyone from the office pulled together to tie up loose ends – from stuffing packets, to hooking name tags to lanyards, loading boxes into vehicles, receiving banners and signage, and . . . watching the weather reports. Last Wednesday, the fly landed in the ointment when local meteorologists started announcing doomsday forecasts for heavy rains, high winds, possible tornadoes, flooding, and hail, all starting on Sunday night and running through the week of the conference. We kept waiting to hear about a locust infestation, but it appears we will be spared that horror.

Creating a Memorable Conference

So, here we are on the eve of Vertex 2016, the University of Texas System’s first-ever national forum on higher education, with everything ready to go for a stellar event, not really certain how Nature will play its hand, nor how it will impact our well-planned event. Let’s suffice it to say, this is Texas, and we are hearty stock. We’re used to rain and a lot more, and we even sing soulfully about it. There is no doubt in my mind that Vertex 2016 will be a complete and total success. In fact, it may even become known as the unofficial Stevie Ray Vaughan National Forum on Higher Education. Our theme song? It’s Floodin’ Down in Texas, of course!

See y’all at the Vertex 2016 Conference and Cruise, coming to a boatslip near you April 18-19.


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