OREM — Astrid S. Tuminez, who was raised in poverty in the Philippines and went on to earn graduate degrees at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been selected the next president of Utah Valley University.
The Utah State Board of Regents voted unanimously Friday to select Tuminez, regional director for corporate, external and legal affairs in Southeast Asia for Microsoft, as the university's seventh president. She is the first woman to hold the position.
"I'm dazed and amazed, and I want to thank all of you," Tuminez said following the vote.
Tuminez was a first-generation college student, who along with her six siblings, was raised by their 15-year-old older sister after their mother left when she was 5. She emigrated to the United States in 1982 and later became a U.S. citizen.
Being selected a university president "is in some ways overwhelming, but my life was completely transformed by education," she explained.
"I was raised in the slums of the Philippines and I was 5 years old when Catholic nuns offered me and my siblings a chance to go to school. So that changed the entire trajectory of my life, and that's what makes it so exciting for me to be in a university like UVU.
"This is a university that believes in the innate dreams and capacities of people and to build on that, to help each person make their own way but give them the skills and competencies so their chances of succeeding in life and having a good life are a bit better."
Tuminez was previously vice dean of research and assistant dean of executive education at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. While in those roles she trained more than 2,000 government officials and private-sector professionals in leadership and organizational change.
Her previous positions include senior consultant to the U.S. Institute of Peace, director of research at AIG Global Investment, and program officer at Carnegie Corp. of New York. She previously ran the Moscow office of the Harvard Project on Strengthening Democratic Institutions.
Tuminez said a friend in Utah told her about the opening at UVU.
"I was really intrigued by type of education that is being done here, the dual mission, which I thought was bold and experimental and also, really the right kind of approach in the 21st century. It addresses inclusion in a big way at a time when the world and societies are polarized and socio-economic differences are becoming bigger and bigger," she said.
Utah Valley University serves more than 37,200 students and is the largest public university in Utah. It is one of the few in the nation that offers a dual-mission model that combines the rigor of a teaching university with the accessible vocational programs of a community college
Daniel W. Campbell, chairman of the board of regents, said Tuminez’s experience, vision, and dedication to student success will ensure that UVU continues to thrive in the coming years.
“Dr. Tuminez has proven to be a dynamic leader across academic, nonprofit, public policy and corporate sectors. Throughout her storied career, she has focused on bridging gaps in education and opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives, which seamlessly aligns with UVU’s institutional mission and core themes,” Campbell said.
David L. Buhler, Utah's commissioner of higher education, said Tuminez rose to the top in the search for the next president of UVU.
“She articulated a clear and compelling vision for UVU, and she understands the value of collaboration within Utah’s system of public colleges and universities,” he said.
Among the eight colleges and universities that comprise the Utah System of Higher Education, three others are led by women: University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins, who was appointed in January; Noelle E. Cockett, president of Utah State University; and Deneece G. Huftalin, president of Salt Lake Community College.
Tuminez is the fourth.
"I think that speaks volumes about how far we've come. We've worked very hard. We've prepared ourselves and the preparation is very important. I think the opportunities are there. We have to be prepared. We have to be inspired and fearless and then step up when the opportunity comes. It's really, really important. It's not the work of one or two or three or four women. It's the work of all of us," she said.
Tuminez is married and has three children. She speaks English, Filipino/Tagalog, Ilongo, Russian and French fluently and has a working knowledge of Spanish, according to her curriculum vitae.
Tuminez's selection culminates a nationwide search for a successor to Matthew S. Holland, who was appointed president in 2009, the first president of the institution after it achieved university status in 2008.
Holland is stepping down because he has been called as a mission president by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to serve in the North Carolina Raleigh Mission starting in July.
Tuminez noted that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church, was president of BYU when she earned her bachelor's degree in 1986, graduating as valedictorian, according to her vitae.
"I think I saw you (Matthew Holland) as a young man on campus," she said.
Tuminez vowed to honor what Holland has built at UVU "and build on it to help that legacy moved forward."