èƵ èƵ Board of Regents Announces Sole Finalist for èƵ President

Friday, June 7, 2024

Commissioner Harrison Keller poised to become university’s 17th president

Dr. Harrison KellerAfter a national search to find the next president of Texas’ third largest institution of higher education, the University of North Texas èƵ Board of Regents announced the selection of Dr. Harrison Keller as the sole finalist for president of the University of North Texas.

Dr. Keller will become the 17th president in the university’s history and will succeed Dr. Neal Smatresk, who became president of èƵ in 2014 and led the university for a decade.

"Harrison Keller has spent his career committed to improving Texas higher education," Chancellor Michael R. Williams said. "His ability to lead, innovate, and partner both statewide and nationally has helped transform Texas higher education and will have an invaluable impact on èƵ. This is an important moment for our èƵ’s flagship institution as èƵ continues to provide high-quality, comprehensive educational and research opportunities for Texas. We’re confident Dr. Keller has the breadth of experience and strategic vision to advance èƵ into its next tier of success.”

Since 2019, Keller has served as the commissioner and chief executive officer of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Appointed by the coordinating board to provide leadership and coordination of higher education budget and policy for the world’s eighth largest economy, he is responsible for facilitating the state’s strategic plan for higher education and overseeing an annual budget of more than $1.7 billion.

“I am honored and excited by the opportunity to lead this remarkable university,” Dr. Keller said. “Across the nation, not many universities have the scale, capabilities, and potential of the University of North Texas. For the Dallas-Fort Worth area and across the state, èƵ is uniquely positioned to expand opportunities through innovative, excellent programs and strategic partnerships. I look forward to connecting with students, faculty, staff, and alumni to emphasize èƵ’s deep commitment to transform lives through excellence, curiosity, and innovation.”

The was led by èƵ èƵ Board of Regents Chair Laura Wright, with Chancellor Williams serving as vice chair. Remaining members of the search advisory committee comprised representatives from the Board of Regents and èƵ faculty, staff, students, administrators, and alumni. The committee also convened a series of listening sessions to solicit feedback across a spectrum of internal and external èƵ stakeholders, whose input was fundamental to the development of guiding principles that helped set the aim for the committee.

“From the beginning of our search, we set out to identify a leader who could build strategic partnerships, recruit world-class talent, and advance the institution’s role in meeting the demands of our region, state, and nation,” Chair Wright said. “In addition, we heard feedback from èƵ students, faculty, staff, and community members who shared our desire for a president committed to student success, academic excellence, and research growth. I believe Dr. Keller is the best leader to help us achieve our ambitious goals.”

Appointed by the èƵ èƵ Board of Regents and reporting to the èƵ èƵ Chancellor, the president serves as the chief executive officer of the university. The president oversees university administration and operations and sets the institution’s vision and strategic objectives, including enhancing the university’s academic excellence, strengthening its portfolio of research, scholarship, and creative activity, and fostering the university’s student-focused identity.

Under state law, university governing boards must name the sole finalist for a presidency at least 21 days before making a permanent appointment. The Board of Regents is expected to finalize its selection the week of July 1.




More about Dr. Keller

Dr. Harrison Keller is currently commissioner and chief executive officer for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. He is a sixth-generation Texan with more than 25 years of experience in state budget and policy, university administration, fundraising, and building coalitions among higher education institutions, school districts, and policymakers to expand opportunity through education.

Since becoming commissioner in October 2019, Dr. Keller has led major initiatives and innovations, including working with higher education leaders, employers, and policymakers to develop the state’s current strategic plan for higher education, Building a Talent Strong Texas.

With adoption of this plan in January 2022, Texas became the first state to condition its goals for awarding higher education credentials on the economic value of those credentials to students. Dr. Keller also has worked with the governor, legislators, and higher education leaders to accelerate innovation and increase state support for student financial aid, transfer, workforce education, and research and development.

Dr. Keller is a recognized innovator in policy and programs to improve college readiness and student success, especially for low-income and first-generation students. He is the founder of the OnRamps dual enrollment initiative that provides college-level courses to tens of thousands of high school students across Texas each year. He also founded Texas OnCourse, which supports thousands of college and career advisors across the state.

Dr. Keller came to the coordinating board from the University of Texas at Austin, where he was deputy to the president for strategy and policy and a professor of practice. At UT Austin, Dr. Keller also served as vice provost for higher education policy and research and executive director of the Center for Teaching and Learning. Earlier in his career, Dr. Keller was a legislative aide in the Texas Senate and Texas House of Representatives, director of research for the Texas House, and senior education advisor for the Speaker of the Texas House.

Dr. Keller has taught at Georgetown University, St. Edward’s University, and the University of Texas at Austin. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s and Ph.D. in philosophy from Georgetown University. From 2005 to 2015, he served as an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserve. He and his wife, Gena Nivens Keller, currently live in Austin with their three children.