Dr. Liz Tovar was named Executive Officer and Associate Vice President of the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on February 1, 2021. The position reports to the president and provost and will serve on the President’s Cabinet. Tovar has served as interim associate vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion since August 2020. The dual report to the provost and president will ensure a direct connection to the university’s academic mission.
In her permanent role, Tovar will oversee the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion while also serving as a senior associate athletics director overseeing Student-Athlete Academic Services and continuing her role as a member of the UI Athletics senior management team. The Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is comprised of the Office or Equal Opportunity and Diversity (EOD), the Center for Diversity & Enrichment (CDE) and Diversity Resources (DR).
“I am honored to lead and be a part of such important work and important change on our campus,” says Tovar. “I look forward to continuing to break down silos and to build relationships across the entire university.”
Upon taking the full-time position, Dr. Tovar launched the universities’ “Journey to Unity,” a messaging initiative to increase listening, discussion, and DEI storytelling. Tovar also began listening to the campus community. Over six weeks, Dr. Tovar held 12 hour-long listening sessions with over 80 students, faculty, and staff members to gauge the university’s current climate. Six themes consistently surfaced from these sessions and have become areas of action for the coming year:
• Understanding of free speech and diversity
• Engagement of senior leadership
• Increase our ability to listen, tell our stories and communicate
• Build a welcoming community to recruit and retain a diverse university
Dr. Tovar began a career in academic services in 1998 at the University of Kansas (KU) in Lawrence, Kansas, where she also received undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral degrees in psychology, clinical psychology, and educational leadership and policy studies, respectively. Before joining Iowa in 2013, Tovar managed student services and advised student-athletes in academic, personal, and professional development at KU, The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, and Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois. At Iowa, Tovar supervises daily operations within academic services and managed academic and personal support services for over approximately 550 student-athletes across all 21 UI sports programs.
“This strong connection between athletics and the university will be a trailblazing model in higher education. It is an example that members of our Hawkeye community can provide leadership in multiple areas,” says Tovar. “Constructing a structure that is broad, welcoming, and connected is crucial to our success as it will allow us to deploy best practices throughout our community seamlessly.”
Under Dr. Tovar’s leadership in athletics, Iowa student-athletes continue to graduate at an all-time high of 90 percent, which is second-highest in the Big Ten Conference and is highest among Iowa’s four Division I institutions. Dr. Tovar launched the Hawkeye Life Program centering student-athlete growth on six pillars of excellence: leadership, community engagement, academic success, career development, health & well-being, and diversity & inclusion. Tovar was an integral member of the $6MM renovation of Gerdin Athletic Learning Center. With over 28,000 square feet of space, the building serves as the home for overseeing the educational development and progress toward graduation of Hawkeye student-athletes.
At the University of Kansas, Dr. Tovar began her career as a student hourly employee and later served as a graduate assistant in academic services. She became a full-time staff member at Kansas in 2005, where she conducted academic advisement for the KU football program. She worked with several sports programs while at Ohio State, including the OSU football program, working with student-athletes in academic, personal, and professional development, while also providing supervision and mentorship of department graduate assistants and interns. At Northern Illinois, Tovar provided academic resource support for over 400 student-athletes who participated in 17 sports. She served as supervisor for 25 full and part-time staff members and served as the athletic department liaison to the Office of Judicial Affairs and Student Conduct. Tovar’s teaching experiences include Skills for Undergraduate Success at Northern Illinois, Positive Transitions for Intercollegiate Student-Athletes at Ohio State, and Career Decision-Making for College Students at Kansas.
Dr. Tovar is married to Steve Tovar.