TAYLORSVILLE — Cheers and applause followed the unanimous vote by the Utah Board of Regents Thursday approving Deneece Huftalin as the next president of Salt Lake Community College.
Huftalin, who currently serves as SLCC's interim president and has been a fixture at the school for more than two decades, said her selection as president was like an "unbelieveable dream."
"I will do my best to serve you with great honor and dignity and in a way that makes you proud," she told a near capacity crowd at the school's Taylorsville campus.
Huftalin is SLCC's eighth president, succeeding Cynthia Bioteau who left the school in October to accept a position as president of Florida State College at Jacksonville.
She was selected after an extensive national search that drew more than 50 applicants, including several sitting school presidents, according to Board of Regents Vice Chairman France Davis.
"All of those 50 were qualified," Davis said. "Many of those 50 were well-qualified."
Salt Lake Community College is one of Utah's largest institutions of higher education in terms of both student body and geography. The public college enrolls more than 35,000 students across six major campuses and seven satellite offices and is among the highest associate-degree producing schools in the country.
Utah is currently working toward a goal, commonly known as "66 by 2020," that calls for two-thirds of the state's adult population to hold a post-secondary degree or certificate by the year 2020.
David Buhler, Utah's commissioner of higher education, said SLCC plays a unique role in reaching that goal by offering access to career and technical education to a large number of traditional and nontraditional students.
"This institution will continue to grow," he said. "It needs to fill the needs of the metropolitan area in Salt Lake."
Huftalin described SLCC's role in the Utah System of Higher Education as essential as the state looks to align educational outputs with the needs of the economy.
"If we want to achieve 66 percent by 2020, many of those students are going to find themselves needing certificates or diplomas or access to higher (education) that they might not find in our sister institutions," she said. "So a community college is essential for that, and I love that about our mission."
She described her administrative style as "approachable" and "collaborative" and said she looks forward to playing a part in the school's next chapter.
"I just think we’re going to do wonderful things together as an institution," she said. "We have great faculty, we have great students and staff and I just look forward to working with people together, collectively, to really move us forward and make us a premiere institution."
Buhler said that Huftalin is "absolutely" the right person for the job.
"She is very well qualified and she is so committed to this college," he said. "She will hit the ground running and she’ll start tomorrow."