NACOGDOCHES, Texas –– Stephen F. Austin State University has named Mary Ann Rojas the inaugural executive director of the Center for Applied Research and Rural Innovation.

A native of rural West Texas and graduate of Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Rojas comes to Nacogdoches with over 20 years of executive experience in government, nonprofit and for-profit organizations, and brings along a wealth of experience in education, training and workforce development. Rojas has served as an executive director of workforce development organizations in Missouri and Texas.

“I am very pleased to welcome Mary Ann Rojas to our SFA team,” said Dr. Lorenzo Smith, provost and executive vice president of academic affairs. “Her fluency in Spanish and executive experience with engaging rural communities in both Missouri and Texas allows her to seamlessly transition into the position. CARRI will be in great hands under her leadership.”

Smith also touted Rojas’ experience and successes of securing and managing grant awards, which will meet immediate needs of attaining resources for CARRI.

Throughout her career, Rojas has advocated for under-resourced populations and allocated available resources to address local needs. In 2020, Rojas created and implemented “Rural, Set, Go!” an innovative outreach project for Workforce Solutions in East Texas aimed at engaging with rural communities to provide education and workforce training resulting in economic mobility for its residents.

Named in 2019 by the Springfield Business Journal as one of the most influential women in the Ozarks, Rojas was recognized for creating programs and services that positively impacted thousands of individuals. The recognition also honored her work with community development organizations, higher education institutions and industry partners to create relevant workforce solutions.

Under her leadership, her teams have implemented several signature award-winning projects that have brought recognition and commendation to their respective organizations, including recognition on the national stage.

Rojas will begin the position on July 1.

SFA established CARRI in fall 2021 to engage faculty, staff and students in research projects that support academic programs and boost regional economic development.