Patricia Whitely, Aileen Ugalde named senior vice presidents

Pat Whitely, left, and Aileen Ugalde.
By Robert C. Jones Jr.

Pat Whitely, left, and Aileen Ugalde.

Patricia Whitely, Aileen Ugalde named senior vice presidents

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
The two have led their respective units, Student Affairs and the Office of the General Counsel, to new heights during their long years of service to the University.

Two longtime University of Miami leaders renowned in their fields, Patricia A. Whitely and Aileen Ugalde, started at the University of Miami during different eras—the former in the 1980s, when new computer technologies emerged and something called MTV reshaped pop culture, and the latter in the 1990s, the decade that saw the Soviet Union fall and the advent of the internet. 

But though they started their tenures at the University years apart, both gained a reputation of being forward-thinking leaders who were instrumental in raising the stature of their divisions and sharing a philosophy of surrounding themselves with talented team members.

Now, Whitely and Ugalde have been named senior vice presidents in the units they have led for a combined 39 years—Student Affairs and the Office of the General Counsel, respectively. 

President Julio Frenk said elevating the two to senior vice president positions serves two purposes. “First, we recognize excellence. In addition, we set clear criteria for the structure of leadership roles at the University,” he said. 

“Dr. Whitely, who has been recognized by her peers as one of the most accomplished student affairs leaders in the country, has done outstanding work in managing the student experience through a pandemic—always prioritizing the well-being and development of our students and empowering them to grow into their potential,” Frenk explained. 

He noted that as the University weathers an unprecedented confluence of crises on the health, economic, and social fronts, the institution continues to work toward its strategic goals. “The strength of our operations, which sets us up to emerge from this historic time stronger than ever, relies on the sound legal guidance of our general counsel, Aileen Ugalde, who also served as a longtime secretary to the Board of Trustees,” Frenk said. “I am proud to work with these capable and committed members of the team and look forward to our continued collaboration in service to the U.” 

Whitely arrived at the University nearly 40 years ago, starting as a residence coordinator and rising through the ranks to hold such key positions as director of Student Life and associate director of Residence Halls before becoming vice president for student affairs in 1997. 

As senior vice president, she will continue to lead 21 departments and areas that directly provide programs, services, and facilities that better the Miami Hurricane experience for students. 

“I am incredibly honored and humbled by President Frenk’s and the Board of Trustees’ acknowledgement and recognition of my leadership,” said Whitely, who earned her doctoral degree in higher education leadership from the University and is known for her passion and skill in crisis management. 

Serving the University in a variety of leadership roles since she joined the institution in 1982 has allowed Whitely to see student life from all angles, she believes. “I love serving this great institution, and I think I’ve had an interesting perspective in seeing how we’ve grown in the last 40 years,” she explained, adding that she is most proud of helping to bring to fruition the Shalala Student Center and the new Lakeside Village student housing complex. 

She credits her well-rounded staff for their efforts in building what she says is “one of the most well-respected divisions of student affairs in all of higher education.” 

Whitely teaches three courses a year at the master’s and doctoral levels in the School of Education and Human Development, sharing real-world case studies of her experiences in higher education with students. 

She worked closely with the Archdiocese of Miami to establish a permanent Catholic chaplain for the University. She currently serves on the executive board of the National Catholic Campus Ministry Association.

Whitely is a recipient of the Faculty Senate’s McLamore Outstanding Service Award. She has served as the chair of NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, and she has received two of that organization’s most prestigious honors: the Scott Goodnight Award and the Fred Turner Award, which recognizes exceptional work of vice presidents for student affairs across the nation. 

Ugalde began her career at the University almost 30 years ago, when she was recruited as a junior attorney on the medical campus. Over the course of her tenure at the University, she has worked for three presidents and held a number of posts, including vice president for government affairs, assistant to the president, and secretary to the Board of Trustees. Ugalde was appointed vice president and general counsel of the University in 2006. She was also the executive director for the University’s presidential searches in 2000 and 2014. 

“It is very gratifying to be recognized by the leaders you work for and admire,” she said of being named senior vice president. “It is a privilege as much as it is a joy to work for the University.” 

Ugalde, who graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College with a degree in Latin American Studies and International Relations and earned her law degree with honors from the University of Miami School of Law, where she was a Harvey T. Reid Scholar, said one of the keys to her success has been practicing a philosophy of “surrounding yourself with people smarter than you, which in a place like UM, is wonderfully easy to do.” 

Under her leadership, the Office of the General Counsel was honored as the “Legal Department of the Year” by the Daily Business Review in the publication’s 2018 Professional Excellence Awards. “I get to spend every day with some of the brightest, most dedicated professionals in Miami, and our office being selected as the top legal department in South Florida is a reflection on them,” Ugalde said. 

Hispanic Business Magazine named Ugalde one of its “100 Most Influential Hispanics” in 2006 and one of its “Top 20 Women” of 2008. She was also selected as one of “The 20 Leading Latinas in Business” by Hispanic Enterprise Magazine in 2007 and named to the “Best of 2012” list of Hispanic Executive Magazine.

Ugalde is committed to the city where she was born and raised, most recently dedicating her time as chair of the board of the Adrienne Arsht Center, one of the largest performing arts centers in the country. “My career at the University of Miami has allowed me to enjoy, as well as give back to, a community I love dearly,” she said.