Time passes quickly, so it may be hard for many to remember what Utah Valley University was like when Matthew Holland took over as president in 2008.
For some perspective, the school had gained university status only one year earlier. Before that, it had been known primarily as a community college and vocational school, and that reputation lingered in the community even though it had been transitioning to a four-year institution for a while.
Today, it is Utah’s largest public university, with a senior class 51 percent larger than it was back then and a total enrollment now of more than 37,000 students. It offers 44 certificate programs, 62 associate degrees, 84 bachelor’s degrees, three graduate certificates and eight master’s degrees.
Holland, who announced this week he is stepping down to answer a call to serve as a mission president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was the mastermind behind that change.
Not that UVU wouldn’t have grown without Holland or anyone else at the helm. Utah County, with a population of about 600,000 and growing, has a significant need for a state university to complement the privately owned Brigham Young University, with its enrollment of about 33,000.
But it was Holland’s vision for the school that guided the way it grew. He insisted that the school continue to serve both as a two-year institution for those students who needed a traditional associate degree or vocational training, even as it continued to expand its offerings of four-year and graduate degrees.
That dual mission has not been easy to maintain, especially amid an enrollment growth typical of an institution that accepts virtually all comers. But Holland’s success at it recently drew the attention of academics in Britain, where that nation’s pending withdrawal from the European Union has led to worries about a sudden shortage of vocational workers. Last summer he traveled to Oxford and visited leaders in Parliament to discuss this, among other things.
The people of Utah County are served by both a vigorous vocational institution as well as a public institution of higher education, and Holland deserves credit for understanding this and filling the need.
Other signs of advancement during Holland’s tenure include an almost tripling of the school’s endowment, from $33 million to $93 million, as well as $101.6 million in fundraising over the last eight years. He also has reduced the percentage of adjunct professors in favor of more academically qualified, salaried faculty members.
In short, his leadership has been steady, consistent and driven by a sound overall vision. Holland has left a mark on UVU that has transformed the school and likely will last for generations. We hope that vision will continue to guide his successors.