SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – President Ruth Watkins of The University of Utah is leaving after eight years.

In a Tuesday tweet, Watkins says “it is with mixed emotions and a heart filled with gratitude for all of you that I let you know I will be leaving the U in April to serve as president of Strada Impact.”

Strada Impact is part of the Strada Education Network, an organization that nationally enhances access, completion, and meaningful careers for students, Watkins explains.

“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,” she tweets.

Watkins was selected as the U’s 1st president in 2018, becoming the first woman to lead the U in its 168-year history. Before becoming president, Watkins served as senior vice president for academic affairs, a position she assumed in 2013.

Before coming to Utah, Watkins spent 20 years at the University of Illinois-Champaign in leadership and faculty roles.

“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,” says Harris H. Simmons, chairman of the Utah Board of Higher Education. “Among other accomplishments, under her leadership the university’s students achieved a dramatic increase in degree completion, total research grants increased significantly, and the U was admitted to the prestigious Association of American Universities. We will greatly miss President Watkins’ authentic, intelligent and personable leadership. At the same time, we wish her great success in her new role.”

According to the U, Watkins will step down from her position in April 2021. The Utah Board of Higher Education will immediately begin a national search for a new president.

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