Utah’s higher education commissioner resigns after an “emergency” board meeting

The board meeting to announce Dave Woolstenhulme’s departure was noticed 29 minutes before it began. He wasn’t present.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Commissioner Dave Woolstenhulme is pictured in this Aug. 23, 2017 photo. Woolstenhulme’s resignation from the Utah System of Higher Education was announced on Wednesday, September 13, 2023.

Utah’s higher education commissioner has resigned, an announcement that came as a surprise Wednesday after a hastily called board meeting and an hour members spent in private session.

Dave Woolstenhulme will step down to “pursue other professional opportunities,” said Amanda Covington, chairwoman of the Utah Board of Higher Education. She did not provide any further information. And Woolstenhulme was not present at the meeting.

A press release about his departure also lacked details.

A board spokesman confirmed that Woolstenhulme would be stepping down “with immediate effect.” His profile page has already been removed from the state’s website.

Woolstenhulme first took on the role of interim commissioner in July 2019 and officially took over the post a year later. In his position, he was the highest-ranking official of Utah’s eight public colleges and universities and the eight technical colleges here – collectively known as the Utah System of Higher Education.

He previously served as vice president of statewide campuses at Utah State University. He also served as Utah’s technical college commissioner from 2016 to 2018.

The public notice of Wednesday’s Utah Board of Higher Education meeting to announce Woolstenhulme’s resignation came just 29 minutes before discussion began at 3 p.m.

Utah law requires a public entity to provide at least 24 hours’ notice. This meeting was not previously scheduled and is referred to as an “emergency meeting” due to the short notice.

The board opened the meeting, which was held virtually, and then immediately moved into a closed conversation to discuss “a person’s character, professional competence, or physical or mental health.” This is permitted under state law.

After an hour, board members returned to public meeting, announced Woolstenhulme’s resignation and thanked him for his service.

They then announced that Geoff Landward, currently deputy commissioner, would take over in the interim. Landward has worked for the Utah System of Higher Education for eight years. His profile page has already been updated to reflect the change.

“Thank you for your trust and I am honored to be able to help in any way I can with this transition,” he said.

(Utah System of Higher Education) Geoff Landward will serve as interim commissioner of higher education in Utah following the announcement of the resignation of Dave Woolstenhulme on Wednesday, September 13, 2023.

The board said it would conduct a nationwide search for a permanent replacement.

The Commissioner of Higher Education works closely with the presidents of all public universities and colleges in Utah to achieve goals such as increasing graduation rates and improving access to education.

The commissioner’s position is similar to that of superintendent for a K-12 school district. The Board of Higher Education, like a school board, oversees the commissioner and can hire or fire someone in that position. Board members also direct the commissioner to work on specific projects or initiatives.

The board’s short press release on Wednesday included a brief statement from Woolstenhulme at the end.

He said, “It has been a privilege to work with Utah’s talented higher education community and those who impact student outcomes. I am proud of our shared successes, including the recent merger of two systems. We have incredible leaders at each of our institutions who are fully committed to their respective missions. I am grateful for my time both at the institutional level and in the Commissioner’s Office.”

Woolstenhulme also previously directed the Uintah Basin Applied Technology College and taught for Utah State University at the Uintah Basin Campus in eastern Utah.

To date there has been no public discussion of Woolstenhulme’s performance within the board. However, his departure comes amid some upheaval within higher education in the state.

USU President Noelle Cockett resigned in July after previously announcing she would leave the school. Records obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune through a public records request showed then-members of the Board of Higher Education pushed for their resignations as concerns grew over the northern Utah school’s handling of sexual assault cases.

None of those Board of Higher Education members remain in their positions after the board was overhauled by Utah lawmakers during the last legislative session. The current 10 members were selected for service by Gov. Spencer Cox. This summer they took their places.

Recently, the Utah System of Higher Education merged with the Utah System of Technical Colleges to form an organization that oversees all post-secondary pathways for students.

The state’s eight public colleges and universities serve 195,000 students. And the eight technical colleges have 20,000. This means that the system manages a total of 215,000 students.

Justin Scaccy

InternetCloning is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – admin@internetcloning.com. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button