Liz Tovar, Ph.D

Executive Officer & Associate Vice President, Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Senior Associate Athletics Director Student-Athlete Academic Services

Tovar bio as of 4.10.21

Dr. Liz Tovar was named Executive Officer and Associate Vice President of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Division on February 1, 2021. The position reports to the president and provost and will serve on the President's Cabinet. Tovar has served as interim associate vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion since August 2020. The dual report to the provost and president will ensure a direct connection to the university's academic mission.

In her permanent role, Tovar will oversee the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion while also serving as associate athletics director overseeing Student-Athlete Academic Services and continuing her role as a member of the UI Athletics senior management team. The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Division comprises the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE), the Center for Inclusive Academic Excellence (CIAE), and the Inclusive Education and Strategic Initiatives (IESI) unit.

Tovar Speaking

"I am honored to lead and be a part of such important work and change on our campus," says Tovar. "I look forward to continuing to break down silos and to build relationships across the entire university."

Upon taking the full-time position, Dr. Tovar launched the universities' "Journey to Unity," a messaging initiative to increase listening, discussion, and DEI storytelling. Tovar also began listening to the campus community. Over six weeks, Dr. Tovar held 12-hour-long listening sessions with over 80 students, faculty, and staff members to gauge the university's current climate. Six themes consistently surfaced from these sessions and have become areas of action for the coming year:

  • Training
  • Accountability
  • Understanding of free speech and diversity
  • Engagement of senior leadership
  • Increase our ability to listen, tell our stories and communicate
  • Build a welcoming community to recruit and retain a diverse university

Dr. Tovar began a career in academic services in 1998 at the University of Kansas (KU) in Lawrence, Kansas, where she also received undergraduate, master's, and doctoral degrees in psychology, clinical psychology, and educational leadership and policy studies, respectively. Before joining Iowa in 2013, Tovar managed student services and advised student-athletes in academic, personal, and professional development at KU, The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, and Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois. At Iowa, Tovar supervises daily operations within academic services and manages academic and personal support services for approximately 550 student-athletes across all 21 UI sports programs.

"This strong connection between athletics and the university will be a trailblazing model in higher education. It is an example that members of our Hawkeye community can provide leadership in multiple areas," says Tovar. "Constructing a broad, welcoming, and connected structure is crucial to our success as it will allow us to deploy best practices throughout our community seamlessly."

Under Dr. Tovar's leadership in athletics, Iowa student-athletes continue to graduate at an all-time high of 90 percent, the second-highest in the Big Ten Conference and the highest among Iowa's four Division I institutions. Dr. Tovar launched the Hawkeye Life Program, centering student-athlete growth on six pillars of excellence: leadership, community engagement, academic success, career development, health & well-being, and diversity & inclusion. Tovar was an integral member of the $6MM renovation of the Gerdin Athletic Learning Center. With over 28,000 square feet of space, the building is the home for overseeing Hawkeye student-athletes educational development and progress toward graduation.

At the University of Kansas, Dr. Tovar began her career as a student hourly employee and later served as a graduate assistant in academic services. She became a full-time staff member at Kansas in 2005, where she conducted academic advisement for the KU football program. She worked with several sports programs at Ohio State, including the OSU football program, with student-athletes in academic, personal, and professional development while also providing supervision and mentorship of department graduate assistants and interns. At Northern Illinois, Tovar provided academic resource support for over 400 student-athletes participating in 17 sports. She served as supervisor for 25 full and part-time staff members and as the athletic department liaison to the Office of Judicial Affairs and Student Conduct. Tovar's teaching experiences include Skills for Undergraduate Success at Northern Illinois, Positive Transitions for Intercollegiate Student-Athletes at Ohio State, and Career Decision-Making for College Students at Kansas. 

Dr. Tovar is married to Steve Tovar.

Authored by Liz Tovar, Ph.D

Note from Liz on the intersection of Freedom of Expression and DEI

Friday, April 7, 2023
The Intersection between Freedom of Expression and DEI.

April 2023 Note from Liz

Monday, April 3, 2023
April Note from Dr. Liz Tovar to our Campus charting a path forward for DEI at Iowa.

Note from Liz on Trans Day of Visibility

Friday, March 31, 2023
On this Trans Day of Visibility, the University of Iowa and the Division of DEI want everyone in our LGBTQ+ community to know that during these challenging times, you matter to us!