Judith Albino, a 47-year-old mother of two, admitted Tuesday that some on-the-job training will be required in her tough new role as president of the University of Colorado's four-campus system.

Despite limited administrative experience and just 11 months in Boulder, the self-assured Albino embraced the formidable challenge of overseeing a system with an annual $700 million-plus budget."I'm certainly still learning," said Albino, who officially becomes CU's first female president Thursday in a confirmation vote by the board of regents. "It's like being thrown in and having to swim. That's the best way to learn."

Albino's surprise selection was made public during a news conference in her new office. "It approaches overwhelming," she said. "But it seems at this point in my life as a natural progression."

CU's vice president for academic affairs since last May, Albino downplayed her gender, saying, "It's enough to think about the challenge of trying to provide leadership for a university of this stature.

"There will be people who want to know how a woman president responds to issues," she said. "I hope that it's one step that will be followed by many others."

She joins Donna Shalala, president of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Hanna Gray, president of the University of Chicago, in an elite threesome of women in the top echelon of post-secondary education.

Albino was a stunning choice for the $127,000-a-year job, surfacing as top candidate only after five original finalists were dumped by the board of regents after a costly, eight-month national search.