Weber State University Magazine — Spring 2012
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A Memorable Decade, An Unforgettable President
Amy Hendricks, University Communications

Wearing her signature purple suit, <b>Ann Millner</b> stood in front of the Wattis Business Smith Lecture Hall and gazed into a crowd of 200+ Weber State University faculty and staff. They filled every seat, packed onto stairs, and spilled out doorways. She took a deep breath and began, “When I first became president of Weber State, I told everyone I’d like to serve eight to 10 years.” <br /> <br /> One sentence. That’s all it took. What happened next was a testament to Millner’s leadership and a show of appreciation for her years of dedicated service.<br /> <br /> The crowd let out a collective, audible gasp. Millner looked down for a moment, smiled and continued: “This October marks my 10th year. I’ve asked the Board of Regents to form a search committee to select a new president for Weber State University.” <br /> <br /> Millner didn’t cry during her announcement — “I had to keep telling myself, ‘Buck up, Ann,’” she said later, laughing — but there were moments when her voice broke. Those moments came when she spoke of faculty, staff, students and alumni.<br /> <br /> Quick to give credit to anyone but herself, this time was no different. Millner, who has given 30 years to Weber State — 20 as an educator and administrator and 10 as president — talked about others who have made the institution, in her words, “great, great, great!” <br /> <br /> <b>Yasmen Simonian</b>, dean of WSU’s Dr. Ezekiel R. Dumke College of Health Professions, was emotional during Millner’s announcement. “She’s the epitome of integrity,” Simonian said afterward, tearing up. “Anytime Ann does anything, she looks at it from every direction, even 3-D. It’s very important for an institution to have a president like that.”<br /> <br /> Simonian, a former medical laboratory sciences professor at WSU and 2005 Utah Professor of the Year, said she’s appreciated Millner’s support. “I was so honored to receive the Professor of the Year award and to have won it during Ann’s presidency. It’s been wonderful serving with her.”<br /> <br /> <b>Making a Difference in Students’ Lives</b> <br /> <br /> Asked about university accomplishments that have made her proud, Millner laughed and said, “Where do I begin?” After all, the university has achieved many milestones in the past 10 years. But the biggest success, in her eyes, is the difference that Weber State has made in students’ lives.<br /> <br /> Millner describes Weber State as an outstanding teaching university that has a sincere dedication to personalized learning experiences for students. She is pleased that, today, 90 percent of students participate in engaged learning, such as community- based learning, undergraduate research, internships, study abroad or capstone courses.<br /> <br /> Because of these experiences, Weber State students stand out. And Millner is their loudest cheerleader, attending competitions, research presentations, performances and events.<br /> <br /> “Making a difference in students’ lives is what has driven me every day for the past 10 years,” Millner said, noting that graduation is her favorite event. “To see our students graduate, to see the excitement on their faces, to know that they are now going to go out as alumni and make our community, our world a better place, that is incredible. It’s awe-inspiring to know the effect they’ll also have on their families and for generations to come.”<br /> <br /> In 2008, Weber State received recognition for its community engagement through the prestigious Carnegie classification. The university has also lifted the undergraduate research program to the national stage. WSU students have been selected to present research at the celebrated Posters on the Hill event in Washington, D.C., seven of the past eight years (including 2012). And, this spring the university welcomed more than 3,000 students and faculty mentors from across the country to campus for the prestigious National Conference on Undergraduate Research.<br /> <br /> <b>Growing Weber State </b><br /> <br /> During Millner’s presidential tenure, WSU has seen one of the largest enrollment growths in its history, jumping from 18,000 students in 2002 to 25,000 in 2012.<br /> <br /> To better serve students, WSU has added programs, certificates, associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and dramatically expanded students’ access to higher education through WSU Online, hybrid and technologyenhanced course work, as well as expanded programs for first-generation and disadvantaged students.<br /> <br /> WSU also launched Dream Weber, an innovative program that helps low-income students earn their college degrees.<br /> <br /> In the past decade the Ogden campus has renovated and revitalized several facilities to improve educational resources for students, including Lampros Hall, Shepherd Union, Stewart Library and the Swenson Building. The campus also celebrated the construction of Elizabeth Hall, the Hurst Center and the first two buildings of the new Wildcat Village residence hall complex.<br /> <br /> Even before becoming president, Millner, alongside other key players from WSU’s leadership team, worked closely with state and local lawmakers to create the Davis campus in Layton. The first building at Weber State University Davis opened in 2003. Funding for a second building was approved in 2011.<br /> <br /> “[The Davis campus] is a ‘close-tohome’ educational opportunity for the citizens of Davis County,” said state Sen. <b>Jerry Stevenson</b>, past chair of WSU’s Board of Trustees. “It's also a great feather in the cap of Hill Air Force Base. It's rare to have a base of that size and a campus of that size that close.” <br /> <br /> Millner’s leadership has always impressed Stevenson, who said she has earned tremendous respect from the governor’s office, the lieutenant governor’s office and the Utah Legislature. “Every cause needs a champion, and there is no bigger champion for Weber State than Ann Millner. She’s logical. She’s methodical. She doesn’t back down when she knows she’s doing the right thing for Weber State. For all those reasons, she is well respected at the Capitol.” <br /> <br /> <b>Engaging the Community</b><br /> <br /> Weber State’s involvement in the educational, economic, social and cultural well-being of the community is another hallmark of the university.<br /> <br /> During Millner’s tenure, WSU has championed economic development in the region. In 2006, WSU was selected to house the Northern Utah Technology Innovation Center for the Utah Science, Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative. The center connects the expertise of faculty with the needs of local businesses, entrepreneurs and agencies interested in developing and launching new products.<br /> <br /> To support the aerospace and defense industry of Northern Utah, WSU convened the Aerospace Cluster Acceleration Project in 2010, and as part of that project created the Utah Center for Aeronautical Innovation & Design (UCAID). The center serves the nation’s aviation and aerospace industries by conducting contracted applied scientific and engineering research for aviation industry partners and their clients.<br /> <br /> In the past decade, WSU has also expanded cultural offerings and staged artistic events for the community to enjoy, while providing outreach programs, such as Science in the Parks and Arts in the Park, to area youth.<br /> <br /> <b>Mac Christensen</b>, a former member of WSU’s Board of Trustees, said in addition to the student body, faculty and staff, the community has been one of Millner’s number one concerns. “She’s shown great, great judgment in so many different things, and she has a gentle, sweet way that makes everyone want to give 110 percent. We have been blessed to have her as our president at Weber State.” <br /> <br /> <b>Remembering a Loyal President</b><br /> <br /> WSU Provost <b>Michael Vaughan</b> has worked with Millner since her arrival at Weber State in 1982. He knows it’s going to be hard to replace her. “She’s very patient. She looks at multiple sides of every issue. She has always been willing to do whatever needs to be done to accomplish an objective, to succeed in achieving a goal,” he said.<br /> <br /> One of Vaughan’s favorite memories of Millner isn’t really just one; it’s a memory of all the times she’s talked about the institution in important meetings.<br /> <br /> “Anybody who could have heard her speak about Weber State would be proud. She is effective, and I believe most people view her as that. She’s been very loyal and has never put herself first.” And that was evident during the final moments of Millner’s announcement to faculty and staff. After receiving a two-minute standing ovation, she stood silently, and then in her usual fashion, pointed back to the crowd as if to say, “These are your accomplishments, not mine.” <br /> <br /> <b>Learning, Access and Community</b><br /> These are WSU’s core values, adopted in 2011 by the University Planning Council, and formally incorporated into the university’s mission in 2012. “These values are what make Weber State special. In my 10 years as president, I'm proud to say I've seen them demonstrated often,” Millner explained.<br /> <br /> <b>Weber State: A National Model for Dual-Mission Universities</b><br /> For more than five decades, Weber State has successfully pursued a dual mission.<br /> <br /> One of the hallmarks of a dual-mission university is the educational pathway it creates for students, Millner explained. For example, students can earn certificates or associate’s degrees, move into the workplace, and easily re-enroll at Weber State to earn their bachelor’s, even master’s degrees. And they can do this under one roof, without physically transferring from a community college to a university.<br /> <br /> Now, nearing the end of her presidency, Millner believes WSU is poised to be recognized as the national model for dualmission universities.<br /> <br /> “Due to economic conditions, technology, societal changes and shifting needs, this is the model for the future. What sets Weber State apart is we’ve done it for 50 years and done it well. It’s embedded in the fabric of this institution, and we’ve knitted that fabric together in such a way that it’s seamless for students and a great value to this state.”<br /> <br /> <br /> <br />