U President Ruth Watkins Announces Plans to Resign in April 2021


University of Utah President Ruth Watkins (Courtesy of Communications Department)

By Natalie Colby, Editor-in-Chief


The president of the University of Utah, Ruth Watkins, announced on Jan. 12 that she plans to resign in April 2021, as she has accepted the position as president of Strada Impact.  

Strada is an education network that seeks to strengthen the pathways between education and employment. 

In a press release sent out Tuesday morning, Strada Education Network President and CEO William D. Hansen said that Watkins “student-centered approach will help scale Strada Impact’s work across the country to improve lives through postsecondary education and work.”

Watkins assumed the position as president of the U in January 2018 and students have called for her resignation on several occasions after the murder of track star Lauren McCluskey on the U campus in October 2018. 

In a letter sent out to the campus community, Watkins said she is leaving the U after eight years with a “grateful heart.” 

“Please know that no matter where I go, a Utah woman I will always be, and Bob and I will be proudly cheering you on in every good thing you do,” Watkins said.

U Communications Director Chris Nelson said Watkins’s decision to leave the U was motivated entirely by her own decision and new position at Strada Impact. 

“I think her leaving was to really pursue her passion, and really focus on some key issues for higher ed,” Nelson said. 

The president is chosen by the Utah Board of Higher Education, and Nelson said they will be appointing a search committee by the end of January to start the process of finding the U’s 17th president. 

The committee will be made up of students, staff, community members, members of the board of trustees and the Utah Board of Higher Education. 

Nelson said that there will likely be administrative changes with a new president, but he expects most of the group to carry on at the U. 

“I think one of the legacies of President Watkins leadership, quite honestly, she’s brought in some really talented nationally respected leaders,” Nelson said. “She’ll leave the university in April, with a really strong team in place, and I think any new president coming to the university will recognize that, and probably continue with that team.”

Moving forward, Nelson believes President Watkins is leaving the U in a strong position. 

“Everyone is focused on continuing to move forward and continuing to be the best university we can be, the safest university we can be,” he said.

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