When Diana Natalicio steps down as president of the University of Texas–El Paso this summer, she will leave behind an impressive legacy. Over the course of her 31 years at the school’s helm, UTEP—long known for its distinctive Bhutanese architecture—has gone from offering 1 doctoral program to 22 and seen its annual research expenditures increase nearly twentyfold. In January the school reached a milestone when it met its long-awaited goal of becoming an R1 doctoral university, a designation attained by less than 5 percent of the nation’s institutes of higher education.
During her time as president, the 79-year-old Natalicio, who is easily recognized by her iconic updo hairstyle, has notched up another notable accomplishment: she has amassed a collection of more than four hundred different UTEP T-shirts, dating from her days as the dean of liberal arts to her final months at the school. To mark her departure, UTEP recently exhibited 392 of the shirts.
Inspired by the exhibit, we chose a small selection of the garments and asked Natalicio to use them to reflect on her time at UTEP.
This interview was edited for clarity and length.