Since 1968, the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures (ITC) has provided a forum for the stories of Texas and Texans through educational and public programming, special events and exhibitions. In 2021, UTSA embarked on a robust community engagement process, the ITC Centennial 2068: Community Stakeholder Visioning process, to envision the next 50 years of the ITC and its continued place as a cultural resource for all Texans.
To leverage the momentum from the ITC Centennial 2068: Community Stakeholder Visioning process, cultural anthropologist and journalist Cecilia Ballí has joined UTSA to advance strategic planning and creative visioning for the institute and lay the groundwork during the national search for a new associate vice provost (AVP) who will lead the ITC.
“I am delighted that Dr. Ballí will lend her experience and expertise to UTSA’s Institute of Texan Cultures,” said Kimberly Andrews Espy, provost and ITC Centennial 2068 chair. “As we continue to advance the ITC and its programming, consistent with the Museum of the Future articulated through the Community Stakeholder Visioning Process, she will be instrumental in progressing toward the realization of the community’s vision, ensuring that the ITC remains a valued resource well into the future.”
As a part of her charge, Ballí will develop a conceptual framework to help position the ITC as a leader in statewide discussions on issues of the cultures of Texas, including a concept statement and programming vision, a storytelling and communications plan, a competitive analysis and a community engagement report. Additionally, she will identify future-oriented opportunities for changing how the public uses, thinks and talks about the institute.
“Using an ethnographic approach, I will spend most of my time on the ground, observing, asking questions and listening deeply to ITC stakeholders, from scholars and students to community members to allies and potential partners,” she said. “Culture is one of Texas’ biggest assets and where the most dynamic exchanges and dialogues are happening. It’s a very exciting time to help the ITC and UTSA harness these opportunities to develop a world-class institute.”
UTSA Libraries Vice Provost and University Librarian Dean Hendrix said, “Ballí’s work is a vital component to the future of the ITC,” he said. “It will immediately facilitate the new ITC AVP’s transition into the position. The new plan will address museum administration, programming, and the roles of students, faculty, and community to engage more deeply with the ITC, and will serve as a framework for the museum’s future.”
Working with Koya Partners, a nationally renowned search firm, the university anticipates announcing the finalist for the AVP position in early summer of 2023.
Ballí is also appointed as a professor of practice in the UTSA College of Liberal and Fine Arts. She is the founder and principal of Culture Concepts, a research and communications consultancy focused on ethnographic and qualitative research, cultural analysis, storytelling, and narrative change. She holds a B.A. in American Studies and Spanish from Stanford University and a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Rice University.
As a cultural anthropologist, she most recently served as a visiting scholar at the University of Houston’s Center for Mexican American Studies, where she taught qualitative research methods. She was previously an assistant professor of anthropology in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands Program at the University of Texas at Austin.
She has written about Latinos and the U.S.-Mexico border region as a narrative journalist for over 20 years. She has published stories in The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s Magazine, Texas Monthly and the Columbia Journalism Review. She began her reporting career at the San Antonio Express-News.