Sponsored: Dr. Astrid Tuminez is innovating higher education to meet the workforce demands of tomorrow
Photo by Dave Labrum, shot on location at Clearlink
This article originally appeared in Modern Day Utah Pioneers, a publication sponsored by Clarke Capital.
Shortly after Utah Valley University (UVU) President Astrid S. Tuminez’s viral moment cheering on her Wolverine men’s basketball team in the NIT semifinals, Qualtics Founder and Utah Jazz Owner Ryan Smith quote tweeted espnW exclaiming, “Astrid is a legend!”
Smith was utterly correct in his assessment. Tuminez’s brilliance, determination, and captivating leadership style have made her an icon across multiple industries and continents over the last three decades.
Presently, in her role leading the largest institution of higher education in Utah by enrollment, Tuminez is poised to impact Utah in an unprecedented manner by shaping the future of its workforce and fastest-growing communities.
By 2030, UVU’s service region will have welcomed one out of every three new residents in the state of Utah and one out of every four new jobs since 2018. With 77 percent of UVU students still living in Utah 10 years post-graduation, the education of a UVU student is the education of Utah’s future workforce.
The responsibility of meeting these workforce demands is a Herculean task that Tuminez has approached with resolution and resourcefulness, informed by her own educational and professional journey and her unwavering passion for her institution and students.
Tuminez’s storied educational and career path includes degrees from Brigham Young University, Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as successful stints in private equity, philanthropy, academia and technology. Although she began with an inauspicious start in the slums of the Philippines, a group of Catholic nuns saw Tuminez’s potential as a child—despite being unable to write her own name—and ignited her passion for learning. “I was born so poor, so plain, a nobody. The first thing that helped me was my education. … Confidence begins in the brain.”
This humble beginning and the hard work and success that followed cemented Tuminez’s steadfast belief in the potential of every student. She finds inspiration in UVU’s open-enrollment policy, calling it “a bold and radical proposition” to expand the quantifiable, lifelong impacts of higher education to as many students as possible. With the openness of community college and the rigorous curricula of a four-year university, UVU’s dual-mission model allows those students to discover tracks where they can seamlessly stack credentials from certificates and associate degrees all the way to master’s degrees to meet their current or future employers’ needs.
"Helping UVU’s students get to the finish line, prepared for state-designated four- and five-star jobs, is a critical piece in meeting the needs of employers and positioning students for success in the workplace. During Tuminez’s tenure, UVU has continued to successfully increase the number of students landing high-demand four- and five-star jobs by 72.5 percent from 2017-2021."
These two critical hallmarks of UVU—an open enrollment policy and a dual-mission model—add layers of complexity to Tuminez’s role as she works to meet the various needs of UVU’s diverse student body with exceptional care—the first of her three core values as a leader. UVU provides each student, no matter their ability or background, with the resources and opportunities to meet their varied needs because “it goes beyond exceptional care. It must be followed by exceptional accountability … and exceptional results, helping our students get to the finish line.”
Helping UVU’s students get to the finish line, prepared for state-designated four- and five-star jobs, is a critical piece in meeting the needs of employers and positioning students for success in the workplace. During Tuminez’s tenure, UVU has continued to successfully increase the number of students landing high-demand four- and five-star jobs by 72.5 percent from 2017-2021.
Other efforts include partnering with the business sector, remaining informed of employers’ needs, and offering UVU students engaged learning opportunities and internships that will prepare them to meet those needs. “We have partnered with Silicon Slopes on our MBA, which is delivered jointly with them. We set up the Jobs CEO Council, [where] we are working with 10 of the largest employers in Utah County to try to understand what the missing competencies and skills are when they interview job applicants. We are [also] powering up project-based learning through our Innovation Academy.”
The Innovations Academy is home to such initiatives as e2i, UVU’s Excellence and Innovation Initiative, which is designed to give students real-world problem-solving opportunities in any sector by working on projects that matter with mentors from both inside and outside the university. “The bottom line is that students learn to communicate, collaborate and design a project, … and they will be more prepared for the world of work.”
As UVU strives to build out these exceptionally important projects, as well as fight for additional opportunities to meet Utah’s workforce needs, Tuminez is hopeful that she will continue to be surrounded by community partners who share her vision for preparing UVU students to thrive in high-demand jobs. For example, to help meet Utah’s growing need for engineers, UVU has doubled enrollment in mechanical engineering and tripled in electrical and civil engineering. With generous support from the legislature, donors and community members, UVU broke ground on the new Scott M. Smith College of Engineering and Technology Building in September.
Tuminez is not just committed to helping students secure the jobs of today. She is committed to helping students build the characteristics needed to succeed throughout the many disruptions they will experience over the course of their professional lives. “First, be curious. Ask questions. Explore. Second, put in the hard work and establish a record of results so that you have credibility in your next position. Finally, be resilient. Learn from failure, learn from loss and have a fundamental humility. … Whatever AI brings, whatever climate change brings, these are the characteristics that will help students today forge the next 30-40 years of a career path.”
As a growing number of curious, hardworking and resilient Wolverines join Utah’s workforce ranks, each will have a champion and a cheerleader in Tuminez. She encourages UVU’s students to realize that they deserve to take up space in the world and reminds them to ignore those who might doubt their capability. “Keep being ambitious, keep showing quality, keep showing results.” Ambition, quality and results—three words among many that characterize the distinguished leadership of Tuminez. Legend, indeed.