University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt has recommended that Dr. Victoria De Francesco Soto — an assistant dean at the University of Texas at Austin's LBJ School of Public Affairs — become dean of the Clinton School of Public Service, reports the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
The recommendation comes after a national search to replace Dr. Skip Rutherford, the former dean, who retired in June, and after associates of former U.S. President Bill Clinton provided "strongly worded recommendations" to Bobbitt about the direction of Clinton's namesake school.
According to the Democrat Gazette, one of Clinton's associates had previously stated that he was "not sure the Clinton School could survive a bad choice." Meanwhile, a "Strategic Plan Report" for 2021-26 released by the Clinton School stated, "There is a recognition that work toward improving the national reputation must be done in tandem with improving the academic program at the Clinton School." Among the goals of the strategic plan are improving the school's national reputation and strengthening its funding structure.
While DeFrancesco Soto's appointment must still be approved by the UA board of trustees, Bobbitt expressed confidence in his decision, stating that he "couldn't be more pleased with the way the search process was executed."
"At this moment in our country and world, public service is vital to creating a space for people to engage with one another and find common ground," said DeFrancesco Soto, whose main research areas include immigration, women and politics, political psychology and campaigns and elections. "[I am looking forward] to building even more capacity for the school to strive toward President Clinton's vision of a graduate program that builds bridges through public service."