SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — University of Utah President Ruth Watkins has announced she is stepping down in April after accepting the position of president of Strada Impact, a national organization based in Indianapolis dedicated to strengthening the pathways between education and employment.

Watkins will head its national research, philanthropy, policy and thought leadership efforts to improve students' access to college, degree completion and career connections.

Watkins made the announcement Tuesday, ending her three-year tenure at the Salt Lake City school where she was the first woman named president of the university.

The Utah Board of Higher Education will begin a national search for a replacement. It also will select an interim president, if Watkins’ successor is not selected before her departure.

“Together, we have achieved truly remarkable progress, building on foundations forged by previous generations at the U. I am so proud of what we have accomplished and eager to share our innovative, collaborative approaches with other institutions around the country," Watkins said.

Her departure came shortly after a lawsuit filed by the family of student-athlete Lauren McCluskey was settled for $13.5 million. McCluskey was killed by her ex-boyfriend on campus in 2018. Her family reached the settlement in October with the university, which acknowledged that it didn’t handle the woman’s case properly.

McCluskey, 21, had contacted university police more than 20 times to report harassment by a man she had dated before she was found fatally shot in a car near on-campus student housing.

Watkins didn’t mention the case in her letter to the campus, though she did briefly acknowledge being proud of the “ongoing work to enhance safety,” including hiring a chief safety officer.

Amy Dunham, Strada Network’s senior vice president of marketing communications, said the organization recruited for the position of president.

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