By Coshandra Dillard
Dr. Michael Tidwell is settling in his new role as president at The University of Texas at Tyler. The university’s fourth president has spent 16 years as an administrator and professor at universities around the country and abroad before venturing to East Texas. He succeeds Dr. Rodney H. Mabry, who retired in December, after serving as president for nearly 18 years.
Prior to his current role at UT Tyler, Tidwell, 43, was dean of the Eastern Michigan University College of Business. He has also served as dean of the College of Business at Bloomsberg University of Pennsylvania and as assistant dean of the Clayton State University School of Business in Morrow, Georgia.
He also served as assistant professor at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri; Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington; and University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky.
A Los Angeles native, Tidwell has worked in many cities of all sizes, but was pleased to finally land in Tyler, where he has roots. His grandfather, Ezra Tidwell, was born in Rusk and grew up in Tyler.
“I didn’t have the kind of cultural shock some may have thought,” he said. “It’s been refreshing. Culturally, I think the people here are just naturally more friendly and giving and altruistic.”
Tidwell set his sights on becoming president of a higher education institution early in his career.
“The process started 20 years ago,” he said. “Once I went into academia this was the goal. For every move, every position, every city, every project, it was all with this in mind. I don’t take it likely because 20 years of work have gone into getting myself and my family here. To have it occur in the city where my grandfather grew up is unspeakably phenomenal.”
UT Tyler has experienced a steady increase in enrollment for the last five years. In 2016, it rose by 12 percent, with nearly 10,000 students enrolled in the fall. Tidwell wants to build on the university’s growth, which will include a focus on student services and identifying community needs in order to better train students.
“They’re going to be employed somewhere,” he said. “They’re going to need a skill set, a knowledge base. What are those skills? What will that knowledge base look like? We are going to have to design a curriculum so that it’s relevant enough that our students walk into their careers effortlessly.”
Tidwell brings experience from teaching overseas. He traveled to India numerous times to develop partnerships, guest teach and participate in exchange programs.
He also has a passion for ministry, which grew after teaching at Daystar University in Nairobi, Kenya.
GETTING TO KNOW: Michael Tidwell
⦁ Dr. Tidwell is married to his high school sweetheart, Karen, and they have two children, Cyrus, a college junior, and Bradley, a high school sophomore.
⦁ He’s a former Division 1 volleyball player and award-winning debater.
⦁ He earned a bachelor of science in communication at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, and both a master of arts degree in communication and a doctorate in organizational studies from Washington State University.