Dr. Vanessa Beasley was named Trinity University’s president in the summer of 2022, but you might say her first “interview” was in 2014. That’s when she accompanied her older son, then a high schooler, to the Trinity campus for a prospective student visit. Even though her son didn’t ultimately choose Trinity, the school made an impression on her.
“I was very impressed by Trinity’s faculty-student engagement. Undergraduate research has always been at the center of why I do what I do. I feel like if you're at a university, you should learn how new knowledge is created, and there's no reason undergraduates can't be at that table or in those labs too,” says Beasley. “So when we got to Trinity for that tour and I saw what was happening with the interaction of the undergraduates and their faculty members, I told my son, ‘This is really special. You don't see this everywhere.’”
Fast forward to the new fall semester and you’ll find Beasley enthusiastically meeting faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community leaders. She understands that Trinity is at a unique—and critical—juncture in its 153-year history.
“Trinity has made the bold step to put the liberal arts together in a unique way – one that combines the humanities, the social sciences, STEM, and a few key professional programs to really redefine what a liberal arts education is,” says Beasley. “Very few universities are talking about how they're going to propel themselves to a new level of STEM education as well as a new level of humanities education.”
For Beasley, job number one is making sure Trinity is recognized nationally as a leader in the 21st-century liberal arts – for what it’s already doing. That includes its unwavering commitment to the student experience through interdisciplinary experiential learning and undergraduate research on a residential campus in one of the nation’s most vibrant urban areas.
Beasley comes to Trinity University from Vanderbilt University, where she served as vice provost for academic affairs, dean of residential faculty, and an associate professor of communication studies. As vice provost and dean of residential faculty, she oversaw Vanderbilt’s growing Residential College System as well as the campus units that offer experiential learning inside and outside of the classroom.
Beasley’s areas of academic expertise include the rhetoric of American presidents, political rhetoric on immigration, and media and politics. She attended Vanderbilt as an undergraduate and earned a bachelor of arts in speech communication and theatre arts. She also holds a Ph.D. in speech communication from the University of Texas at Austin.
Beasley and her husband, Trey, a community volunteer, are parents to two adult sons, Adam and Charlie. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking, and listening to live music. She considers herself a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers “superfan.”
Beasley says she’s looking forward to hearing music rise from the residence halls as students move in, adding that she won’t rule out the possibility of breaking out in a dance. As the semester gets underway, Beasley hopes to remind everyone that a university campus like Trinity is a very unique setting.
“It's one of the few spaces where different ideas can circulate, different experiments can happen, and where frankly, we can experiment with failure and learn from that, too. So it's very important to me that everybody has a sense that we're in a very special place with a very special mission. And as a leader, it's my job to make those opportunities available to as many people as possible.”