Vice President for Student Affairs to Retire After 32 Years at UT Dallas
Rachavong Played Critical Role in Expanding Programs, Services for Students as University Evolved and Grew

Dr. Darrelene Rachavong

Dr. Darrelene Rachavong

Dr. Darrelene Rachavong, vice president for Student Affairs at UT Dallas, who helped establish and expand services and programs over three decades for the University’s burgeoning undergraduate enrollment, will retire June 1.

In her 32-year career at the University, Rachavong was instrumental in helping UT Dallas shift from being a commuter school for upperclassmen and graduate students to a traditional campus that provides a well-rounded, four-year student experience.

President Dr. David E. Daniel appointed Rachavong to her current role in 2005, after she had served as interim vice president of Student Affairs. Rachavong previously had been director of Student Life and dean of students/assistant vice president for Student Affairs.

“When Darrelene was chosen for this job, we were hopeful she would be the one to take UT Dallas’ student experience to another level,” Daniel said. “She has been everything we could have asked for and more. We have benefited from her great leadership and dedication to the students during these past 10 years of unprecedented growth. It is a tribute to her and her team that we have come so far in such a short period of time. I’ll greatly miss working with Darrelene, but I wish her the best.”

Rachavong’s early Student Affairs staff of about 20 has blossomed, as the University’s growth has accelerated more student needs, into 24 departments with more than 200 full-time professionals who provide a variety of programs and services to enrich the student experience at UT Dallas.

Student Affairs now encompasses areas such as Intercollegiate Athletics, Recreational Sports, Dean of Students Office, Student Programs, Student Housing, Residential Life, the Student Health Center, the Student Wellness Center, the Student Counseling Center, the Career Center, Living Learning Communities, the International Center, Student AccessAbility and the Center for Students in Recovery.  

“It’s been a great journey. It’s been amazing to see how it’s all happened. I’ve loved every year of it,” Rachavong said.

After the Texas Legislature authorized UT Dallas to admit freshman and sophomore students in 1990, Rachavong led the process of accommodating an increasing number of students who needed on-campus housing and greater involvement with campus life.

“We’re going to be able to have a real college environment, and we’re going to be part of creating that. What fun this is going to be,” Rachavong recalled thinking at the time.

She has been everything we could have asked for and more. We have benefited from her great leadership and dedication to the students during these past 10 years of unprecedented growth.

Dr. David E. Daniel,
UT Dallas president

Student Affairs staff researched other campus offerings to find programs that would be helpful for new students at UT Dallas, such as a Peer Advisors program for freshman residents, Freshman Orientation, Family Orientation and Comet Camp.

Staff also offered service components for students through the Office of Student Volunteerism, including the Alternative Spring Break projects at locations across the country.

Sports programs got a boost with the 1998 opening of the Activity Center to house club sports, intramural sports and athletic offices. The University also added an intercollegiate athletic program with membership in the NCAA Division III and the American Southwest Conference.

Student interest persuaded UT Dallas to approve its first Greek Life chapter in 1992. More than 700 students now participate in 21 fraternity and sorority chapters.

A growing international student population spurred the creation of the International Student Services Office. Today, the International Center provides immigration advising, orientation programs and cultural and educational events for more than 5,500 international students from 100 countries. 

Rachavong was key in helping UT Dallas adopt school traditions such as the Temoc mascot in 1998 and its alma mater in 2004. In 2008, the University gained a fight song, an artist’s mural on the Pub Patio and Spirit Rock, three boulders on which everything from pop art to marriage proposals have been posted.

In 2009, UT Dallas completed its first residence hall for freshman students; today the University has five halls and a second dining hall and recreation center. To make sure the new hall wouldn’t stand empty in the summer, Rachavong and her staff initiated the Residential Camp and Conference Services program for outside groups to use the facilities.

Student Affairs came together under one roof in 2011 with the Student Services Building (SSB), the first LEED Platinum facility in the UT System. An addition to the building is already underway.

In 2012, a Veteran Services Center was established to assist veterans returning from service who needed help with everything from financial aid and benefits to academic success programs.

“One thing that made Student Affairs able to move forward with all these programs is we have always had the support of the president and the provost. They have been behind us all the way, and we couldn’t have done it without them,” Rachavong said.

“I have felt so privileged to have been a part of UT Dallas and to have worked with so many amazing students. I am going to greatly miss my Student Affairs colleagues and other friends across campus with whom I have worked for so long.”

Rachavong said she is looking forward to spending more time with her grandchildren and to having her first summer off.

“I want every night to be Friday night, and every morning to be Saturday morning. I’m looking forward to that second cup of coffee and having totally unscheduled time,” she said.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].