Dr. Betty Stewart, Provost of UNT Dallas

Dr. Betty Stewart, Provost, Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs of the University of North Texas at Dallas, has a lifetime of learning, teaching and leadership in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). As UNT Dallas continues to expand and invest in its STEM programs, the University’s highest-ranking academic leader and biochemist shapes priorities while having her lab glasses and chemistry books always nearby, if out of sight.

“Our STEM programs are growing while we are currently featuring public health as our premier program because it allows our students to engage in the community while they are studying science,” Dr. Stewart said. “Our Information Technology program will provide another opportunity. Biology, Math and Public Health all provide opportunities in STEM fields for our students, and we have a minor in Chemistry.”

Dr. Stewart is an example of lifelong scientific learning in action. Tucked away in a hidden office cabinet near her desk is a library of books on subjects such as molecular biology and organic compounding. She doesn’t visit classrooms often out of respect for professors, but she’s gratified to see STEM educations and careers get greater emphasis in recent years.

“It has always been important, and now I think it is just being emphasized more because there hasn’t been the continuous growth in the number of people nationally who wanted to be a part of it,” she said. “I think our government leaders recognized in order for us to be competitive in the world – whether through health care, advancing the minds of individuals, basic research and solving everyday questions – we needed to emphasize STEM educations more. This is how you advance the frontiers of knowledge, through science and getting people involved. It’s more important than ever.”

Dr. Stewart was named Provost at UNT Dallas after a nationwide search in February of 2017. She earned her Ph.D. in protein biochemistry and biological sciences from Carnegie-Mellon University, was vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty at Eckerd College in 2010 after serving as dean of the College of Science and Mathematics at Midwestern State University for four years beginning in 2010. Dr. Stewart was recruited back to Midwestern State as provost in 2012.

Dr. Stewart was the first female promoted to the rank of professor of chemistry at Austin College, and served as chair of the chemistry department there from 2000-2006. She left the Sherman, Texas liberal arts college to join Midwestern State, as well as carrying the rank of professor of chemistry at the Wichita Falls, Texas institution. Dr. Stewart received her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Mississippi State University.

The spark for her illustrious career in science and education came as a curious girl watched an experiment at Simmons Elementary School in Hollandale, Miss.

“For me it was in sixth grade,” Dr. Stewart said. “I remember I was in my science class, a teacher was talking about oils and fats, she pulled out a large nut and asked us if there were fats and oils in it. We said no, and she lit it on fire. It just burned and burned. I wondered what caused that, and she was demonstrating how fats were full of energy and showed us how it was being released. I wanted to know how that worked. Something so simple stoked my curiosity. My mother said I was always curious, always asking why. Science is always asking why.”