A senior administrator at Texas A&M University-Commerce who played a key role in advancing the university has announced her plans to retire. Vice President for Student Access and Success Mary Hendrix intends to step down at the end of this semester, then continue to provide support as necessary through the transition until a national search finds a replacement.
The East Texas native earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from A&M-Commerce, and has devoted her professional life to serving generations of students in the region and at the institution she has called home for more than 30 years. Hendrix has spent the last 14 of those years as a senior administrator, serving four university presidents and holding key leadership roles in academic and student affairs and enrollment management.
Hendrix noted that the sense of community and shared purpose at her alma mater is especially strong: “What has made this university so special is that we are a family; we take care of each other and we take care of our students.”
While an administrator in academic affairs, Hendrix led the effort to secure the reaffirmation of the university’s Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation. She also managed the integration of new instructional technologies available to faculty and students. In the process, she expanded the number and variety of degree programs delivered to students online, as well as through strategic partnerships to students at community colleges in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Hendrix’s most significant contribution as an innovator and higher education leader has been in college accessibility and student success. The first generation of her family to attend college, Hendrix has long been a passionate champion for students. Her initial response most often heard in meetings and deliberations involving strategic planning or evolving university policy is: “What is best for our students?”
“Years before coming to A&M-Commerce, I knew of Mary Hendrix and her work. She has long been regarded as one of the most effective leaders in the area of student success in The Texas A&M University System,” A&M-Commerce President Ray Keck said.
A compassionate commitment to crafting a superior student experience has long been the hallmark of Hendrix’s leadership. This focus inspired the creation of two successful strategic initiatives that she led as vice president for student access and success:
The One Stop Shop
The Student Access and Success Center, affectionately known now as the One Stop Shop, was created to demystify the administrative and financial complexities for students entering and completing a degree program. Since the One Stop Shop opened in 2009, A&M-Commerce students and parents have enjoyed ready access to a wealth of student-centered services relating to admissions, financial aid, scholarships, academic advising and career services.
The Texas Affordable Baccalaureate (TAB)
In 2011, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry challenged state universities to create low-cost alternatives for completing a college degree. Hendrix led the university’s effort to design the state’s first competency-based baccalaureate degree program offered by a public institution of higher education. Launched in 2014, the university’s Texas Affordable Baccalaureate program is offered entirely online and allows students to earn a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences in organizational leadership at their own pace. The A&M-Commerce TAB program recently won the coveted 2016 Star Award from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for “exceptional contributions” toward meeting one or more goals of the state’s long-term higher education plan.
Hendrix also led the university to reach major milestones with enrollment. Under her leadership, the university has seen a 45-percent growth in undergraduate and graduate enrollment since 2006. Her team also significantly changed the diversity profile of the institution. Today, more than 50 percent of A&M-Commerce students are students of color.
Hendrix says the success she and the university share is the result of the collective work of many committed and dedicated professionals.
“In my 33 years at Texas A&M University-Commerce, I have seen many changes. What has remained constant is the people here who are committed to making a difference in the lives of our students,” Hendrix said.
Ever the forward-thinking, higher education innovator, Hendrix is focused on a smooth transition as she begins to plan for the next phase of her life: “I wanted to exit in time to allow a replacement to assume the leadership role in recruiting our fall 2017 class and making plans for the new academic year. I feel sad that I will not be seeing my second family on a daily basis, but they will always remain in my heart. Our university is well-positioned for the future with a team of incredibly talented and committed individuals who understand our mission.”
After retiring, she plans to pursue new opportunities to fuel her passion for making a difference in the lives of students and spend more time with her family, including five grandchildren.