Julian Vasquez Heilig Named Dean of University of Kentucky's College of Education

The University of Kentucky (UK) appointed award-winning teacher and researcher Julian Vasquez Heilig as the new dean of its College of Education. Vasquez Heilig, who will officially join the university in August pending approval of the UK Board of Trustees, will replace Interim Dean Rosetta Sandidge.

Vasquez Heilig is going to Kentucky from California State University, Sacramento, where he was a professor of educational leadership and policy studies. He also led the Doctorate in Educational Leadership program, the University of Kentucky said in a blog post. “We are excited to welcome Julian Vasquez Heilig to the UK family,” UK Provost David W. Blackwell said in a statement. “As a thought leader in the field of education, he brings with him an exemplary scholarly record and a deep commitment to student and faculty success.”

Vasquez Heilig told The North Star that he is “really excited to move to Kentucky” and for the “exciting opportunity” to grow and “ensure excellence” at the institution. He praised the UK for being “highly ranked” and expressed hope that the school would continue to rise in the ranks, reaching a top 40 spot in the next three to five years. “I look forward to leading the college dialogically and innovatively to impact the educational success of students in Kentucky and beyond,” Vasquez Heilig said in a statement to the university.

In an interview with The North Star, Vasquez Heilig said he envisions that the university will take an innovative and creative approach to reach students in the social media space. That includes a Snapchat channel for the College of Education, as well as Facebook and Twitter profiles. He also hopes to make academic research more readily available to the public.

Vasquez Heilig said it was important to also keep an eye on equity and inclusion as he takes on his new role as dean.

“I think it’s important that we serve students that come from different backgrounds, whether they are deaf, whether they are people of color, whether they are international students,” Vasquez Heilig said. “We want to think about creating an inclusive community where students and faculty from different backgrounds can feel comfortable and thrive and reach for their academic goals and dreams.”

He continued, “We need to continue to fall into that space. Our students, faculty, and staff… have the opportunity to uphold our sacred duty to society, to our nation, our role is to create knowledge and to make that knowledge readily available. That’s our sacred responsibility.”

Vasquez Heilig said that he believes the University of Kentucky has built a solid foundation for providing spaces for students, faculty, and staff of different backgrounds. The university established a strategic plan to increase diversity and inclusion among students and its workforce. According to the university, its student body is overwhelmingly white (73.4 percent), with Black or African American students representing 6.6 percent of the student population and Hispanic or Latinx students making up 4.5 percent. Asian students represent 3.5 percent of the student population.

The scholar received his doctorate in educational administration and policy analysis from Stanford University. He earned two master’s degrees — one in sociology from Stanford and another in higher education from the University of Michigan. Vasquez Heilig also earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan in history and psychology. Vasquez Heilig has worked in schools and universities around the world, most recently at the University of Texas’ College of Education. He also worked as a professor in Texas, researcher at Stanford, and as an English as a Second Language teacher in Beijing, China.

Vasquez Heilig has authored or co-authored nearly 50 peer-reviewed journal and/or refereed articles, law reviews, or chapters. According to the University of Kentucky, he is the recipient of more than 30 teaching, research, and service awards, including being named a Diversity in Education Magazine Multicultural Champion. Apart from his academic positions, Vasquez Heilig also served as the education chair for the California Hawaii State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.