Introducing UT’s First Female VP For Student Affairs: Gage Paine

Of all UT’s busy faculty and staff, few have more on their plates than the vice president for student affairs—the leader who oversees 14 of the University’s largest non-academic units, from University Health Services to the Office of the Dean of Students and the Texas Union.

Enter Gage Paine, PhD ’96, Life Member, whose hiring was announced yesterday.

Paine will follow Juan Gonzalez, who is leaving the position to return to teaching in the College of Education. Paine currently serves as vice president of student affairs at UT-San Antonio.

When she starts the job Aug. 1, Paine will make history by becoming UT’s first female vice president for student affairs. She spoke with The Alcalde about why she’s excited to return to her alma mater.

What was the biggest challenge you faced at UT-San Antonio?

Starting a football program was certainly the most visible challenge. I didn’t do it alone, of course—it was a huge effort involving everyone from community members to students to the regents.

It was a running joke, but a true one, that when we hired our football coach, the only piece of equipment we had was a helmet that we took to press conferences. And we turned a little pep band into 220 students who marched onto the field at our very first game. We asked ourselves, how do you create the exciting experience that people expect at a Division I football game? That’s a tall order.

Why did you choose a career in educational administration?

When I was an undergrad at the University of Oklahoma, I was an R.A. in my dorm. I loved it—it was a wonderful job, working with students. Then when I was in law school at Texas Tech, I got a job as a hall director, and I realized that being in the residence halls with the students was more fun than being in the law school. That’s when I realized, hey, this could be a career. I really love working with people who want to make a difference in their lives and the world around them. That’s why I’m in education.

What will be your first priority in the new job?

Learning the UT-Austin of today. I know the history and traditions, but I’ve been gone for 15 years. Anytime you come to a new campus, you need to do a lot of listening. I’ll listen to faculty, staff, and students, and after that we’ll work together to create a picture of what’s working well and what isn’t working well.

Does being the first female VP for student affairs hold any special significance to you?

I think it’s a great opportunity. We need diversity in leadership, just like everywhere else. I’ll bring my own style to this position, and some of that has to do with my work experience; some of that has to do with being a woman. It’s a challenge in this kind of position to make time to be with students, but I will work hard to do that, because being a role model when you’re in a job like this is so important.

You’ve been at many of UT’s peer institutions, from Trinity to SMU to UT-San Antonio. What’s unique about the Forty Acres?

During my time as a student here, I remember walking across campus to hear a talk on creativity at the LBJ School. The speakers were writer James Michener, physicist Steven Weinberg, politician Barbara Jordan, and foreign policy expert Elspeth Rostow. Where else in the world do you have a chance to just walk out the door and take in something like that? That’s what’s special about UT-Austin: the opportunity to be around people who are world-class in so many fields.

You know, I really love my job at UT-San Antonio. I wasn’t looking to leave. But when I saw this opening, I just had to apply. I struggled with the decision right up until President Powers called me with the job offer. When he called me, I just knew I had to say yes.

Are you a sports fan?

I hate to admit it, but I’m an Oklahoma Sooner—I got my bachelor’s degree at OU. But I enjoy watching all of our student athletics. And I know how to do the Hook ’em Horns. The cool thing about working in student affairs is that when you watch a game, you know the students out there on the field, so you root for them.


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