Seventeen years ago, Yvonne Villanueva-Russell moved to Northeast Texas with the thought that A&M-Commerce would offer a temporary stop along her winding academic journey. But that soon changed. A&M-Commerce offered her a space to thrive and grow, and she chose to stay. Unexpected opportunities at A&M-Commerce enabled her to mentor thousands of students, excel in research and even travel abroad. From the Sydney metropolis to the Swedish countryside, she’s traveled far and wide. Today, Villanueva-Russell serves as dean of the College of Innovation and Design. She’s found her belonging, and now she’s helping first-year students discover theirs.
A Conversation with Dr. Villanueva-Russell
What would you tell a student who is thinking about attending A&M-Commerce?
“A&M Commerce is a small enough campus to enjoy intimate class sizes and intellectual stimulation, like what is found at a liberal arts college, but is also large enough to offer the research, cultural and athletic performances found at larger schools. At A&M-Commerce, you can be a big fish in a small pond. Your professors will likely know you by name and invest in you. Your accomplishments and efforts are noticed and appreciated here.”
How has A&M-Commerce influenced your life and/or career?
“Faculty and students alike sometimes move to Commerce with the mindset that this will be a temporary stop. A decade (or two) later, many of us are surprised to realize that we are still here, staying for another degree, an unexpected opportunity, a career pivot. As I have moved into administration, I have become an effective leader, innovator and problem-solver. Higher education is about adding value and dimension to a person by expanding their outlook and worldview. Much like a student, I have taken advantage of opportunities to develop my fullest potential: building relationships, learning new skills, and growing personally and professionally.”
Tell us about an academic project you are working on or recently completed.
“My focus is on the assessment of new programs and initiatives for lifelong learning built within the College of Innovation and Design (CID). The First-Year TRAC program is an innovative freshmen experience with the potential to improve retention and graduation rates, but more importantly, ensure our first-year students develop a sense of belonging to their institution, peers and professors. I am also interested in assessing the outcomes of the academic programs we are creating for adult completers, especially in the area of competency-based education. It is exciting to know that CID is impacting the state of Texas by re-inventing how education is delivered.”
- Women in Leadership Certificate, Cornell University, 2017
- Ph.D., Sociology, University of Missouri-Columbia, 2002
- MA, Sociology, Western Illinois University, 1992
- BA, Sociology, Western Illinois University, 1990
Honors and Awards
- Social Change Award, Hunt County African American Council, 2018
- Distinguished Global Fellow, TAMU-C, 2017
- Outstanding Faculty-Led Study Abroad Award, TAMU-C, 2017
- Honors Professor of the Year, TAMU-C, 2015
- Medical Sociology
- Occupations and Professions
- Qualitative Methodology