SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah President Ruth Watkins will step down from her position in April.
The university made the announcement Tuesday, saying Watkins has accepted a position as president of Strada Impact, a national organization that enhances access, completion and meaningful careers for students.
“We really appreciate all the time she has given to the University of Utah to make us a better place,” said Christian Gardner, the chair of the University of Utah's Board of Trustees.
Dave Woolstenhulme, the Utah Commissioner of Higher Education, shared the sentiment.
“We will very much miss President Watkins," he said.
Watkins, the first female president in school history, was selected by the Utah State Board of Regents in Jan. 2018 and was inaugurated into the office in September of that year. She had previously served as Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Utah.
"I believe the work of Strada Impact is more important today than ever before because completing college and securing employment will be especially crucial for millions of young Americans post-pandemic," said Watkins in a letter to Utah students and faculty. "I am eager to help Strada Impact enact and scale the types of successes we have achieved together here at the U, particularly the strategies we have used to promote student success."
Woolstenhulme said the search for Watkins' replacement will be rigorous.
“The University of Utah is not only over the academic side, but you also have the arm of the medical center as well,” he said. “[We will] turn over every leaf we can to bring in the very best candidates to replace President Watkins.”
In the release announcing Watkins' departure, the school highlighted her signature initiatives were focused on student access, success and degree completion. Donor contributions and research funding increased during Watkins' time in office.
“Ruth Watkins has been an exemplary leader for the University of Utah and for the entire Utah System of Higher Education during her tenure as president,” said Harris H. Simmons, chairman of the Utah Board of Higher Education.
“She has improved the competition rate significantly will be able to build upon any of the successes she has,” Woolstenhulme added.
“Certainly the next president will be able to continue to build upon many of the successes she has,” echoed Gardner.
A search committee will be formed by the end of January as the Utah Board of Higher Education will begin a national search for the new president.