This Utah college president is the latest to step down after years of turnover in higher education

Bradley Cook has accepted a position to lead the American University of Bahrain.

(Snow College) Pictured is Snow College President Bradley J. Cook.

The president of Snow College in central Utah is stepping down to head a university in the Middle East.

Bradley Cook, who has been at the helm of the small school in Ephraim for three years, announced his decision Monday. He has accepted a position leading the American University of Bahrain, a school in the Kingdom of Bahrain near Saudi Arabia.

“I am eager to help [the American University of Bahrain] establish and scale the types of accomplishments we have achieved together here at Snow College, particularly strategies around student growth and success,” Cook said in a letter to students and faculty.

It’s not a totally unusual step for the administrator, who grew up in Saudi Arabia and has worked in Egypt, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. He also previously served as president of the Abu Dhabi Women’s College in the U.A.E. (as well as a vice president at then-Utah Valley State College). Cook has also worked as a history professor and specializes in Islamic and Middle East studies.

He will leave Snow College in July. And the search for his replacement will start immediately, headed by the Utah Board of Higher Education.

His departure is the latest in years of upheaval among the leaders of the eight public colleges and universities in Utah. He was appointed to the position at Snow College in November 2018.

Since then, there have been five other turnovers among the presidents at the other schools. That includes two president appointments at the University of Utah — Ruth Watkins and now Taylor Randall.

Astrid Tuminez was selected to lead Utah Valley University in 2018. Brad Mortensen was picked to head Weber State University in 2019. And the president of Southern Utah University stepped down last summer; a permanent replacement for him has not yet been named.

Cook’s time as president of Snow College, though, has been distinctly marked by tumult. He took the helm shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic. And he led the school through the national search for a student who disappeared from her dorm room last winter.

The 19-year-old was later found alive, and a man has been charged with her kidnapping. The case is still pending in court.

In academics, Cook aimed to transfer how the small, rural school operated. Under his leadership, enrollment grew substantially, surpassing 6,000 students for the first time.

He also increased graduation rates and directed more funding to underserved students. And Cook created a technical college division at the school. Snow, a traditionally two-year college with campuses in Ephraim and Richfield, now offers two bachelor’s degrees, as well as several new online programs.

“President Cook went above and beyond in his role to serve Snow College and its community during his tenure with the Utah System of Higher Education,” said Harris H. Simmons, chair of the Utah Board of Higher Education, in a statement Monday. “The American University of Bahrain is acquiring a most capable leader who led Snow in many great achievements and will be missed among his friends, colleagues and students across Utah.”

Cook said in his letter that he wants to take what he learned at Snow College and take the “innovative, collaborative approaches” to students across the Middle East.

The president leaves a school he also attended and that “felt like home.” But he said he’s going to a place that has also competed in his heart for that title.

When he was first appointed to lead the school, he said: “This college took me in and helped me see there were some possibilities.”