Get to know Rebecca Karoff

Each month, Get to Know… will feature two members of UT System Administration’s talented and diverse staff as they offer insights into their lives in and out of the office. Each new edition will be published here. This week,

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Rebecca Karoff stands with her son Jacob outside the Hundertwasser Museum in Vienna, Austria.
Rebecca Karoff stands with her son Jacob outside the Hundertwasser Museum
in Vienna, Austria.

Rebecca Karoff, PhD

Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Office of Academic Affairs

What are your primary job responsibilities? 

I am responsible for developing, leading and implementing student success initiatives and programs at the academic institutions as well as stakeholder groups focused on key dimensions of student success, like belonging, advising, transfer, the faculty role in student success and financial well-being through open educational resources, to name a few. All my work can be categorized under the umbrella of Equitable Student Pathways, which is also the name of a Lumina Foundation-funded grant focused on getting actionable data in the hands of faculty, staff and administrative leaders to redesign majors and curricula to serve the students we have in our institutions now, not the ones we had 10 or even five years ago.

What do you most enjoy about your job? 

Two things: First, it is my incredible privilege to be able to work with hundreds of student success champions across the UT System and the state of Texas, people who are passionate about equity, the diverse students we serve and how we ensure our institutions are ready to help students achieve their educational, career and life goals. Second, I love working in a university system because I believe post-secondary systems are catalysts of change for the public good and have a unique responsibility and opportunity to address higher education and societal challenges that are systemic and institutional in nature.

What is your proudest work moment?

I've had several moments where institutional colleagues come to me to ask that I — and therefore the UT System — work with them to develop a new initiative or put together a new stakeholder group to address a shared challenge. One example is a Hispanic "Servingness" initiative we have underway with representatives from all the academic institutions. I am proud of the trust shown by the institutions, by the faith they have in me to not only be a good collaborator but also to get things done with them, and — perhaps most importantly — the understanding they have of the power of the system to be a problem-solver and have collective impact.

What is a fact about you that may surprise your colleagues?

I am a beader and make virtually all my jewelry. I especially love crystals and glass beads because they absorb and reflect light and color and can change depending on what you are wearing.

What is a book or movie that has inspired you – and why?

One of my favorite novels ever is Toni Morrison’s Beloved, which is a ghost story, a love story, structurally complex in its non-linear representation, and the most powerful exploration of the impact of slavery on Black Americans and American culture and society — fictional or historic — I have encountered. I taught the novel multiple times to undergraduates years ago and students found it difficult, moving and perspective changing.

What do you do to disconnect or de-stress?

I read a ton of fiction, at least one novel every weekend and these days on my Kindle. I have a PhD in Comparative Literature and in a former life was a scholar of late 19th-/early 20th-century French and German novels and poetry (think Proust, Thomas Mann, Mallarmé, Max Ernst). I am a long way from reading that kind of literature these days. At this point, give me a fast-moving plot and some kind of romantic tension, and I am happy.

Who is currently playing on your Spotify playlist?

I have these walking playlists and they are very eclectic with everyone from Fleetwood Mac and Carly Simon to the Bare Naked Ladies, Sufjan Stevens, Dolly Parton, Lyle Lovett and Rihanna. Songs with a beat make me walk faster so I frontload those.