Utah State University President Noelle E. Cockett announced on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, that she will step down as USU’s top leader on July 1, 2023. Cockett will continue as a tenured member of the USU faculty after her presidency comes to a close.
In a letter to the USU community, Cockett said she was grateful for the chance to lead USU over the last six years and expressed her appreciation for the hard work of employees and supporters.
“The decades I have been at USU have convinced me that all of our amazing institutional accomplishments have been possible because of the hard work and commitment of each one of you and those who preceded you as university faculty, staff, and supporters,” Cockett said in a letter to employees on Tuesday.
The Utah Board of Higher Education has purview over the appointment of presidents within the Utah System of Higher Education. They will begin a national search for USU’s 17th president immediately and will provide more information when it is available.
“On behalf of the Utah Board of Higher Education, I would like to thank President Noelle Cockett for her years of valuable service at Utah State University,” said Lisa Michele Church, board of higher education chair.
“President Cockett’s tenure included great advancements for the university, its statewide campuses and the community in the areas of research; diversity, equity and inclusion; and educational excellence. We appreciate her tireless advocacy for transformative projects such as the Janet Quinney Lawson Institute for Land, Water and Air and the USU College of Veterinary Medicine. We wish President Cockett every success in her future endeavors.”
Cockett’s career at USU began in 1990 as a research faculty member in the Department of Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Science. She served as dean of the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences from 2002 to 2013 and vice president for USU Extension from 2006 to 2013. From 2009 to 2013, she directed the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station. In 2013, Cockett was appointed executive vice president and provost, and in 2017, she became USU’s 16th president and the first woman to lead the university.
“President Cockett has been a tremendous leader, both as president and in her other administrative roles,” said USU Board of Trustees Chair Kent Alder.
“Noelle’s dedication to the Aggie family and USU’s land-grant mission comes across loud and clear in everything she does. She has positioned Utah State University to take on even greater challenges in the years ahead. The Board of Trustees is very grateful for her service to the campus community.”
Under Cockett’s presidency, USU:
- Became just one of 146 research universities to earn the R1 Carnegie classification for excellence in research.
- Obtained state funding and approval for Utah’s only college of veterinary medicine.
- Received the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, the highest level of recognition for community engagement.
- Oversaw the creation of the Janet Quinney Lawson Institute for Land, Water and Air to connect USU experts with state and national decision makers.
- Signed an agreement with land-grant and HBCU Fort Valley State University to collaborate on research, education programming and student support.
- Consistently ranked in the top 10 among public universities in the nation by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and service.
- Created a new USU Division for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and hired its inaugural vice president.
- Secured state and private funding for the Mehdi Heravi Global Teaching and Learning Center and created the Heravi Peace Ins titute.
- Celebrated the opening of a new campus in Moab, the first net-zero energy facility in the USU system.
- Completed and opened the 103,000-square-foot life sciences building.
- Saw a record-breaking $110 million fundraising year and launched the Create Your Aggie Impact Campaign.
- Celebrated 25 years of excellence in online education.
- Increased student completion of certificates and degrees by 16%, a growth of more than 3% per year.
- Launched the Utah State Promise grant program that covers the remaining tuition and fees for Pell grant recipients.
- Established the I-System Institute for Transdisciplinary Studies to support student and community health and well-being.
Cockett also celebrated USU’s largest first-year class and a 16% increase in first-generation first-year students in fall 2022, initiated the university’s first multi-year strategic plan, and successfully led the university through the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to her administrative successes, Cockett has built a distinguished career in sheep genomics research, maintaining an active research program. Her research has centered on the identification of genetic regions associated with economically important traits in sheep, as well as the development of resources that advance research on the sheep genome. She has served as the United States coordinator for sheep genome mapping since 1993 and is an active member of the International Sheep Genomics Consortium.