Tarleton State University has been part of Fort Worth for 45 years.
When it opened in 1978 on West Myrtle Street, it had eight students. From there, it moved to the Richard S. Shaffer Building on Enderley Place in the 90s and expanded to the Hickman Building on Camp Bowie Boulevard in 2006.
It finally put down permanent roots in 2019 with a new 80-acre campus along the Chisholm Trail in southwest Fort Worth.
Now, in 2023, the campus is entering a new chapter.
On Monday, March 20, Rachel Capua becomes the new Dean of Tarleton Fort Worth. Officially, she is Vice President of External Operations and Dean of Tarleton Fort Worth.
“It is an honor. A huge honor. I’m a community college graduate and former exchange student. Second generation Mexican American and I feel so strongly and passionate about the work we do here,” said Rachel Capua, who was hired after searching across the country.
Capua has four degrees, earned with intent and perseverance: a Fellow of the Humanities from Collin College, a Bachelor of Science from Texas Christian University, a Master of Education from the University of Oklahoma, and a 2019 PhD from Southern Methodist University.
She has worked with transfer students at TCU, the chancellor’s office at Tarrant County College, and most recently, the educational nonprofit Tarrant To and Through (T3).
“I feel like every professional position has prepared me for the next step,” she said. Her numerous diplomas and her ascent to the deanery are significant moments.
She is the granddaughter of a man with a fourth grade education, but nevertheless “instilled this sense of what education does for you. It gave me an opportunity,” she said. “And someone who is a second generation Mexican American, that means so much to me that I hope to be the voice and have this opportunity to share with others that they can do it too.”
This grandfather was from her mother’s side, a single mother who raised two girls and owned her own business.
Capua and her husband Carlo are raising two girls. The girls are adopted children whose adoption will soon be completed.
She was worried that her career move would be devastating to their young daughters, but her husband had no doubt that they could handle it.
“I had reservations. “Can we do all this? Can we handle this position with two girls at the same time, something new, right?” And, he assured me, marriage is about meeting each other, where we are professionally and personally, and that we can do it, and we can do it together,” she said.
Together, she will approach her new role by listening to and working with students, faculty, and staff in Fort Worth and nearly half a dozen outreach campuses.
She will be responsible for the university’s online campus and outreach centers at McLennan Community College in Waco, Navarro College in Midlothian and A&M-RELLIS in Bryan.
And as dean, she will define Tarleton’s role as part of the new research and innovation center of the Texas A&M University system downtown (A&M-Fort Worth). She will work to expand the high school classrooms on the fifth floor of Trinity College in Tarrant County. West Fork Building, continuing both schools’ longstanding commitment to providing affordable, affordable education for students who want more than an associate’s degree.
“I feel very strongly that it is important to act and act with empathy,” she said. “I think at the end of the day it’s about waking up with a mission to support them so they can achieve their dreams and achieve what they want,” she said.
First impressions are favorable.
“I think she’s wonderful. She is cute. She has a plan. She seems to really want to do something for students, faculty and staff,” said graduate student Jamis Marshall.
Capua will also oversee Tarleton’s ambitious plan to open a second building next year. The $66 million project will add more labs and classrooms in anticipation of more students. The population of 2,200 is expected to almost triple by 2030.
Large footprint and high visibility are in line with the vision of Capua, a campus where students can “dream big and achieve more – a place where they feel supported, visible and encouraged to go further, persevere and see things through.”