Antonio Tillis, the former interim president of the University of Houston–Downtown and former dean of the University of Houston’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, was recently annonced by Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway as the new chancellor of Rutgers University–Camden.
Tillis will begin his tenure on July 1.
“Antonio Tillis is a brilliant scholar and gifted administrator whose commitment to the transformative power of higher education presents an exceptional opportunity for both Rutgers and New Jersey. We are proud that he will lead Rutgers University–Camden,” Holloway said.
“Rutgers is deeply invested in bringing opportunity and growth to Camden. Antonio Tillis will be a driving force in helping Rutgers University and the City of Camden reach new heights,” Holloway added.
Tillis, 55, will lead Rutgers University–Camden, the southernmost campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, with more than 7,200 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in 39 undergraduate and 29 graduate programs. Nationally recognized for its commitment to access for first-generation students, as well as its innovative civic engagement programs, Rutgers–Camden recently achieved status as a Carnegie National R2 Research University.
While at UH-D, Tillis worked collaboratively to promote student and faculty development, engage the community, and advance the strategic vision for the second-largest campus in the University of Houston system.
Under his leadership as dean of UH’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, the largest of the 15 academic and professional colleges at the university, the reputation and resources of that school grew significantly.
Tillis successfully led a $60 million fundraising campaign while developing new opportunities for student learning experiences and creating partnerships with community organizations in the city and throughout the region. He also increased student scholarships, recruited and retained nationally known faculty, created an infrastructure to nurture the research profile of the school, and greatly expanded outreach to the city by launching such programs as the Dean’s Mayoral Summer Internship and a mobile unit to deliver social and health-related services in the community.
In 2017, the University of Houston named Tillis as the M.D. Anderson Professor in Hispanic Studies. He is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. Before his move to UH, Tillis served as dean of the School of Languages, Culture, and World Affairs at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, where he instituted numerous initiatives, including the Wells Fargo International Scholarship for Study Abroad for low-income, in-state students; the Dean’s Collaborative Interdisciplinary Summer Research Award for International Engagement; and the Summer International Internships for students in India, Brazil, and Ghana.
Moreover, Tillis chaired Dartmouth College’s Department of African and African American Studies and served as the inaugural director of the Latin American and Latino Studies Program at Purdue University, where he received the 2007 Faculty Scholar Award.
Houston mayor Sylvester Turner declared March 7, 2017, as “Dr. Antonio D. Tillis Day.” In 2018, Tillis was selected as one of 30 national participants for the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference hosted by the U.S. Secretary of Defense.
A noted scholar in the field of Afro-Hispanic studies, Tillis is the coeditor of several books, including Trayvon Martin in “US”: An American Tragedy (Peter Lang, 2015), The Afro-Hispanic Reader and Anthology (Randal Publishing, 2018), and Critical Perspectives on Afro-Latin American Literature (Routledge, 2012). He has served as editor of the journal Publication of the Afro-Latin/American Research Association, as coeditor of the Afro-Hispanic Review, and as associate editor of the International Journal of Comparative Literature and Translation Studies.
In 2009, he received a Fulbright Fellowship to Brazil. He has presented his scholarship at lectures and conferences across the United States and around the world.
“It is an honor to be given the opportunity to lead an institution as engaged, diverse, and student-centered as Rutgers University–Camden,” he said. “This is an outstanding university that clearly demonstrates its commitment to public values and to building upon its tradition as a place of access for first-generation college students seeking a world-class Rutgers degree, and the opportunities that come with that degree.
“I am a first-generation college student. I understand what drives Rutgers–Camden students. It’s not just about them – their success also is about the elevation of their families and their communities,” he said. “I look forward to working with these students to help them take full advantage of the opportunities before them and to make sure that they are supported.
“It is especially important that Rutgers–Camden students learn with, and are mentored by, a truly impressive faculty who consistently are at the vanguard of generating new ideas to improve our society,” added Tillis. “I am very excited to work with the academic enterprise to cultivate the support it needs to thrive as a research institution, which will provide our students with unparalleled learning opportunity while firmly defining both Camden and southern New Jersey as a nexus for innovation.”
“I am very excited to welcome Dr. Antonio Tillis to the Rutgers-Camden community,” said Frank Hundley, chair of the Rutgers University–Camden Board of Directors and a member of the Rutgers University Board of Governors. “Dr. Tillis is a scholar who brings a wealth of knowledge, talent, and excitement to our campus and will take Rutgers’ presence in South Jersey and the Philadelphia region to unprecedented heights.”
Tillis has served on numerous boards, including Houston Habitat for Humanity, the Houston Arts Alliance, the International African American Museum in Charleston and the Hemispheric Institute for Performance Studies. He is a founding board member of the International Institute of Critical Pedagogy and Transformative Leadership.
Tillis holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Vanderbilt University and a master’s degree in Spanish literature from Howard University. He earned his Ph.D. in Latin American literature (with an Afro-Hispanic emphasis) from the University of Missouri at Columbia.