Shaping a future leader

Jacqueline A. Travisano, executive vice president of business and finance and chief operating officer; ACE Fellow Jesús Castro Balbi; President Julio Frenk; and Jeffrey Duerk, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. Photo: T.J. Lievonen/News@TheU

By Janette Neuwahl Tannen

Jacqueline A. Travisano, executive vice president of business and finance and chief operating officer; ACE Fellow Jesús Castro Balbi; President Julio Frenk; and Jeffrey Duerk, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. Photo: T.J. Lievonen/News@TheU

Shaping a future leader

By Janette Neuwahl Tannen
ACE Fellow Jesús Castro-Balbi is spending the academic year with top leaders at UM to learn the ins and outs of higher education administration.

A professor at Texas Christian University, Jesús Castro-Balbi is also an accomplished cellist who is featured on 13 albums and has performed all over the world. Yet, this academic year he is spending his time observing the University of Miami’s top leaders as President Julio Frenk’s first ACE Fellow.

Selected by the American Council on Education, Castro-Balbi is one of 43 fellows across the nation tapped to spend the academic year on another campus to prepare for a career in higher education administration.

“Being placed at UM for this fellowship affords me a unique opportunity to learn about leadership in higher education with a world-class team at a major research university on the move,” Castro-Balbi said. “Eighty percent of fellows go on to be deans, provosts, or presidents, and that track record attracted me to the program—to work with leaders of higher education institutions and prepare to contribute to institutions in a higher capacity.”

As part of his fellowship, Castro-Balbi will be shadowing Frenk, Jeffrey Duerk, UM’s executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, and Jacqueline A. Travisano, executive vice president of business and finance and chief operating officer. Although Castro-Balbi is here to learn, UM’s leadership believes they are benefitting from his presence as well.

“While Dr. Castro-Balbi is here to further develop his leadership competencies, he also brings valuable insights on different aspects of university governance and academic administration,” Frenk said. “He very often provides perspectives from his own experience, adding another way to analyze and address problems.”

Travisano echoed Frenk’s sentiments, and said that UM is lucky to have Castro-Balbi on campus. “It’s really an honor that Jesús chose UM and we are delighted to share with him anything that he would like to be exposed to,” she said.

Duerk added: “Having a different perspective always adds context. Now, after I’ve been at UM for a year, it’s been a great opportunity to hear a new perspective from Jesús.”

In addition to his 15 years of teaching in Texas Christian’s School of Music, Castro-Balbi has served as chair of the Faculty Senate at TCU. He also worked on several advisory committees to improve compensation, endowment and the academics at TCU. Meanwhile, he has participated in 15 premiere performances with orchestras in Louisiana, New York, Peru, Colombia, China, Japan and Mexico, just to name a few locations.

Some of the reasons Castro-Balbi wanted to spend the year at UM include the school’s commitment to student success, innovation, research and the scope of its academics. The U’s well-established Miller School of Medicine was also intriguing for Castro-Balbi because TCU is in the process of opening its own medical school. Finally, Castro-Balbi noticed that UM and TCU both operate in a way where faculty and leadership work together toward academic goals.

“Collaboration is a sign of good health at a university and that is something that UM and TCU both have,” he said.

Another draw for Castro-Balbi is the fact that UM is currently executing its strategic plan. Some highlights of the UM plan, in Castro-Balbi’s opinion, are its priority placed on increasing scholarships and expanding endowed faculty positions.

“This will dramatically raise the level of teaching and research, and therefore, contributions to society that the university can make,” he said.

Despite the fact that he has only been at UM for a month, Castro-Balbi said that he has found a lot of inspiration on campus.

“From my vantage point, I can see a leadership team that is very united and cohesive and fully dedicated to collaboratively advance the institution’s missions,” he said.