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Commissioner of Higher Education announces strategic reorganization of System office

Positions to align with newly formed Utah Board of Higher Education

Utah System of Higher Education Commissioner Dave R. Woolstenhulme recently announced a strategic reorganization of his office to better align with the newly formed Utah Board of Higher Education, which held its first meeting on July 1. The new organization of the Office of the Commissioner will more closely align with Board priorities to ultimately achieve a better higher education experience for all students in the state.

This new structure organizes staff into core sectors including technical education, student affairs, academic affairs, workforce development and others.

“The changes within our office stemmed from the recent merger of both public higher education systems in the state and the need to refocus our efforts to make the most impact for our students and communities,” said Dave R. Woolstenhulme, Commissioner of Higher Education. “Through these changes, in partnership with educational partners and leaders across Utah, I am confident that we will be able to address relevant issues within higher education for the benefit of all Utahns.”

See the full updated organizational chart for the USHE Office of the Commissioner.

Below are the office appointments and position overviews for newly created positions and the executive team:

Deputy Commissioner/General Counsel/Board Secretary

Geoffrey Landward was named to serve as the Deputy Commissioner. He will also continue his role as General Counsel and Board Secretary. The Deputy Commissioner works with the Commissioner to provide state-level leadership and direct support and communication to the Board of Higher Education, boards of trustees, institutional presidents, legislative leaders and the community. As General Counsel, Landward also provides legal counsel to the Board and the Commissioner and coordinates legal services among all 16 institutions’ general counsels and the Attorney General’s Office. The General Counsel also develops System policy, administrative rules and legislation.

Senior Advisor for Technical Education

Jared Haines, who joined USHE from the Utah System of Technical Colleges, was named as the Senior Advisor for Technical Education and will assist and advise the Commissioner on technical education projects and issues. The position supports the Commissioner with outward-facing advocacy, institutional

support, legislative support and leadership for technical education throughout USHE.

Associate Commissioner of Technical Education

Kim Ziebarth, who joined USHE from the Utah System of Technical Colleges, was named as the Associate Commissioner of Technical Education to assist the Board in ensuring the quality and outcomes of technical education programs within USHE. She will also work to align programs with industry needs to best support all student populations.

State Diversity and Inclusion Director

Laís Martinez was named State Diversity & Inclusion Director to assist and advise the Commissioner’s office and Board on all equity, diversity and inclusion priorities and initiatives. Martinez will work to ensure that elements of equity, diversity, and inclusion are embedded as imperatives in the mission, vision and strategic plan of the Utah Board of Higher Education; and work with senior staff and the Board to identify, revise or remove the embedded Board policies, procedures and norms that create structural barriers to the access and success of students, faculty and staff who belong to marginalized and oppressed groups.

Associate Commissioner for Workforce Development & Industry Engagement

Jessica Gilmore was named the Associate Commissioner for Workforce Development & Industry Engagement and is responsible for collaborating across regional stakeholders, industry partners, technical colleges and degree-granting institutions to align programs and pathways leading to student completion and meaningful employment. Additionally, the position interfaces with key state government agencies’ leaders and their staff on workforce development, planning and program implementation related to higher education.

Associate Commissioner of Academic Education

Julie Hartley was named the Associate Commissioner of Academic Education. She, along with the Academic Affairs unit, will help the Board ensure the quality of academic programs at degree-granting institutions and, wherever possible, to align degree and certificate programs to allow earned credit to articulate and transfer across the system.

Chief Student Affairs Officer

Spencer Jenkins was named the Chief Student Affairs Officer. In his new role, he will implement Board direction related to student affairs including campus safety, residency, campus free speech, sexual violence prevention and awareness, student mental health and wellness, financial aid, and student body leadership. He will also coordinate with the Commissioner and institution staff on issues related to student access, diversity, equity and inclusion. The position is the lead support to the Board’s Student Affairs Committee and primary liaison with the Chief Student Affairs Officers at USHE institutions. Jenkins will continue working with Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner on state and federal legislative higher education issues pertaining to Board priorities, and coordinating those efforts with institution legislative officers.

Assistant Commissioner of P-20 Partnerships

Melanie Heath was named as the Assistant Commissioner of P-20 Partnerships and will support the Board and Commissioner in ensuring alignment of strategic plans, priorities and initiatives between the Utah System of Higher Education and the Utah State Board of Education. She will also serve as lead liaison from the Commissioner’s office to USBE staff and develop a sustainable plan for statewide college and career readiness activities that enhances equity, access and readiness for Utah high school students transitioning to postsecondary. In her role, Heath will be working with the Boards and staff to develop a sustainable plan for statewide college and career readiness activities that enhances equity, access, and readiness for Utah high school students transitioning to postsecondary. She will also direct the convening of the Education Coordinating Group with the Commissioner and State Superintendent, which includes leading the College Access Network of Utah and additional external partnerships with key community organizations to ensure alignment of work and goals.

Chief Economist

Carrie Mayne was named as USHE Chief Economist. In her role, she provides economic expertise for policy making, program implementation and resource allocation; provides data, analysis and research to ensure postsecondary alignment to state and regional workforce demand; and oversees the work of the USHE Institutional Research unit, which collects postsecondary data and provides research and reports to support the strategic goals of the Board and System.

Chief Financial Officer

Richard Amon was named as the Chief Financial Officer and will oversee the Finance and Facilities unit and staff the Board’s Finance and Facilities Committee. The Finance and Facilities unit provides internal financial and business services to the Commissioner’s office and System leadership and coordination for USHE institutions in the areas of budget, finance, accounting, debt issuance, facilities and purchasing. The unit also assists the Board to create an annual budget request for the Governor and legislature, prioritize institutional building needs, issue bonds and approve institutional tuition and fee adjustments.

Other staff within the Office of the Commissioner were also realigned to further support the work of the executive staff and the Board. See the full updated organizational chart for the USHE Office of the Commissioner.