EPPS professor Rodney Andrews passed away on May 12 due to cardiac arrest, leaving behind a rich legacy as a fellow of the Vibhooti Shukla Professorship of Economics, director of the Texas Schools Project, or TSP, economist and researcher.
A successful and involved member of the UTD community, Andrews’ loss was felt deeply by students and faculty members across campus. Andrews taught classes like labor economics and human resources, economics of education, microeconomic theory and more and was involved in research as the director of the TSP at UTD. He also received various fellowships, such as the Robert Wood Johnson Scholars in Health Policy Research Postdoctoral Fellowship from Harvard University. Jennifer Holmes, dean of the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences said that Andrews’ research involvement in the economics of education and labor, public finance, applied micro econometrics, program evaluation and health economics will be remembered.
“He was a really special colleague,” Holmes said. “He was very committed to opportunity and access and that was manifested in his research on education policy. He was really motivated to see what interventions resulted in better outcomes for students … especially students who came from underprivileged backgrounds. “He really was synonymous with TSP and excellent research on education policy that comes out of UTD. You can’t ask for a better ambassador than Dr. Andrews.”
Having collaborated with researchers across the country at the University of Michigan, Cornell University and other institutions, he was involved with influential work in the area of post-secondary education policy with a focus on improving higher education for students and addressing equity. Associate professor of economics Trey Miller worked closely with Andrews tracking post-secondary enrollment and success throughout the course of the pandemic and researching the influence a faculty member’s race or ethnicity had on students – particularly underrepresented students. Miller explained how deeply Andrews valued their work.
“We developed a number of external grant funding projects together … we have a project on part-time college students and we were working on improving opportunity for them,” Miller said. “He took his passion for helping address gaps in equity and success for underrepresented students to heart and served as a real mentor for UTD students.”
Andrews, being part of a minority group, had a particularly potent influence on students who were African American as well. It is seen throughout his work how important his background was to his research and efforts to give minorities at UTD more academic opportunities. Passionate about his work, Andrews was driven to contribute to the success of students coming from underprivileged backgrounds.
“He understood where they were coming from because he came from challenging circumstances and was extremely successful in his career,” Miller said. “He gave a lot of his time, I think often times beyond human capacity. He was really always present and was somebody who [was] always there and providing advice and support, and was just a kind person. I think partly because of that, he overworked himself, he devoted most of his day to giving to people and then he would spend his nights [working] instead of sleeping … so I would be most likely to get an email response from him at one or two in the morning.”
Andrews was also a beloved family member to his wife and kids. He would try his best to balance work and life — a difficult task with his involvements on top of being a first-generation college graduate said to one of his close friends, Daniel Arce, professor and program head of economics. Arcenoted that him and Andrews had much in common.
“He and I were the first in our families to become [a] professor so outside of our immediate family, most of our family members had no idea what we did for a living,” Arce said. “We would discuss those things and how to convey the meaning of getting a degree, graduate degree, those sorts of things. Our first connection was we’re both fathers of four and there was no doubt in talking about Rodney that his wife and kids came first.”
Being a well-known person on a national level was not as important to Andrews, as he was requested to be on innumerable amounts of committees, yet stayed focused on identifying individuals and helping them succeed.
“We need a world where people can give in the way that Rodney did,” Miller said.
Although UTD has suffered a great loss, Andrews’ memory will continue to live through students whom he has greatly impacted and faculty members who valued him as a close friend. A memorial will be held on Sept. 27 at 1 p.m. in the Founders Atrium. RSVP at email@example.com.