Governor Cox’s selection to oversee higher education in Utah has been approved by the Senate

The Senate approved nine of Cox’s ten nominees for the Utah Board of Higher Education.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Aaron Skonnard, right, listens to presentations from other nominees before the Senate Approval Committee on Education on June 5, 2023. Skonnard and eight other nominees for the Utah Board of Higher Education were confirmed by the Utah Senate Thursday.

Nine Utah business and community leaders nominated to lead higher education passed their final exam Wednesday after the Senate officially endorsed them to the Utah Board of Higher Education.

Gov. Spencer Cox announced his ten nominees for the board in late May, which were reviewed by a Senate committee last week. However, Brandless CEO nominee Cydni Tetro was out that day and will likely be confirmed by the full Senate at a later date, according to a press release.

During the review process, lawmakers polled the nominees on issues that included their views on affirmative action and whether they would support a move away from a focus on race or “disaffected groups” of students and toward a focus on individual students.

[Read more: “Cultural wars,” AI and the needs of Utah employers dominate the vetting of higher education board nominees]

The Senate also confirmed Cox’s choice for student council member Holly Talbot, who attends Uintah Basin Technical College and Utah State University.

In addition to Talbot, those appointed include:

  • Tina Larson, President and COO at Recursion, a biotech company.

  • Steve Neeleman, former surgeon and founder of HealthEquity, a financial technology and business services company.

  • Aaron Skonnard, co-founder and CEO of online training company Pluralsight.

  • Amanda Covington, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer of the influential Larry H. Miller Company.

  • Sharon Eubank, Director of Latter-day Saint Charities Worldwide and former First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

  • Danny Ipson, CFO and executive director at DATS Trucking/Overland Petroleum;

  • Javier Chavez Jr., attorney and founder of the Cerveza Zólupez Beer Company in Ogden

  • Jon Cox, director of prominent lobbying firm Utah Public Affairs and distant cousin of Governor Cox.

[Read more: Gov. Cox wants these 10 Utahns to strategize the future of higher education in Utah]

“We are confident that higher education in the state of Utah will continue to be in good hands with our newly confirmed board,” said Dave Woolstenhulme, Commissioner for Higher Education, in a press release. “I look forward to working with them to develop innovative new solutions for Utah college students.”

This year there will be some drastic changes on the board.

Under SB146, enacted by Cox in March, the board will be reduced from 18 to 10 members, including the student member. None of the members of the existing board were nominated by Cox for the new board.

The group is tasked with setting policy for the state’s public universities and colleges.

The appointments will take office on July 1. Since the law requires six-year staggered terms, Cox will decide which will receive two-, four-, and six-year terms first. Terms have not yet been finalized but will be finalized before the end of June, according to Cox’s office.

Justin Scaccy

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