Gov. Cox’s picks to oversee Utah higher education approved by Senate

The Senate approved nine of Cox’s 10 nominees to the Utah Board of Higher Education.

Nine Utah business and community leaders nominated to govern higher education aced their final test Wednesday after the Senate officially confirmed them to the Utah Board of Higher Education.

Gov. Spencer Cox in late May announced his 10 nominees for the board, who were vetted by a Senate committee last week. However, nominee Cydni Tetro, CEO of Brandless, was traveling that day and will likely be confirmed by the full Senate at a later time, according to a news release.

During the vetting process, lawmakers grilled the appointees about topics that included their views on affirmative action, and whether they would support moving away from focusing on race or “disaffected groups” of students to focusing 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 pick for the student board member, Holly Talbot, who attends Uintah Basin Technical College and Utah State University.

In addition to Talbot, the appointees are:

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

  • Steve Neeleman, former surgeon and the 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 for 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 Latter-day Saints

  • Danny Ipson, CFO and managing member at DATS Trucking/Overland Petroleum;

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

  • Jon Cox, the principal at prominent lobbying firm Utah Public Affairs and a distant cousin of Gov. 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 great hands with our newly confirmed board,” Dave Woolstenhulme, commissioner of higher education, said in a news release. “I look forward to working with them to create innovative new solutions for Utah college students.”

This year, the board will see some drastic changes.

Under SB146, signed into law by Cox in March, the board is shrinking from 18 members to 10, which includes the student member. None of the members of the existing board were nominated by Cox to the new board.

The group will be tasked with setting strategy for the state’s public universities and technical colleges.

The appointees will take office on July 1 and because the law requires staggered six-year terms, Cox will decide which are assigned initial terms of two, four or six years. The terms have not yet been determined but will be before the end of June, according to Cox’s office.