Beth Dobkin

Westminster’s New President a Changemaker

Amelia Nielson-Stowell | Photo by Michael Kunde Nov 16, 2018

When Beth Dobkin toured Salt Lake’s Westminster College prior to being hired, it was the college’s tight-knit student body who most impressed her. She sensed them to be good people, intelligent learners and passionate civic servants.

Dobkin, a longtime professor, saw her possible role as president at Westminster as not just administrative but hands-on, interacting with students and developing mentor relationships.

“Coming from all those years in the classroom, that’s something I never want to give up,” Dobkin says. “There’s a lot of excitement for me to be here because Utah is changing. The demographics are changing, new businesses are coming and education is really valued. We can make the best of those changes at Westminster.”

Understanding Student Needs

Dobkin comes to Westminster with an impressive track record. The former provost and vice president of academic affairs at Saint Mary’s College of California, Dobkin helped the college garner its highest graduation rates. Enrollment and retention rates increased under her tutelage, too, because the college focused on creating closer student-faculty connections and improving curriculum.

“All those things that helped with student success at St. Mary’s are already here or possible at Westminster,” Dobkin says. “It seems like a perfect match for what I care about and what Westminster wanted.”

Her ability to tackle major challenges impressed Westminster’s board during their nationwide search for the next college president.

“Dr. Dobkin is a proven changemaker in higher education whose values align perfectly with the things that matter the most to us at Westminster,” says Jeanne Ambruster, board of trustees’ chairwoman.

Building a Stronger Future

Westminster is facing the same tuition-cost challenges as many other higher education institutions. But Dobkin wants to bust the myth that college is out of reach because it’s too expensive. She plans to educate future Westminster students on the value of higher education for lifelong success.

Since the recession, college-educated workers are capturing most new jobs — and earning 56 percent more than high school grads, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Dobkin also plans to further explore the “Power of Place” initiative at Westminster, a belief that a person’s environment shapes their ideology. The practice is familiar to her. During her time at the University of San Diego, she came to understand that beauty in the learning environment can inspire creativity.

“Westminster’s location is incredible as a small campus in a thriving, urban environment and surrounded by natural beauty,” Dobkin says. “Some educational institutions overlook the physical place as an important part of learning.”

Making a Mark on Utah

A newbie to Utah, Dobkin is anxious to explore the state from horseback. She moved to the Salt Lake area with her husband, their two college-bound children and her three horses.

Dobkin begins her tenure during an exciting time for education in Utah. Of Utah’s 10 major public and private colleges, she is the fifth to be led by a female president.

“It might be a milestone, but time will tell,” Dobkin says. “It’s too easy to count numbers and say we’re done. There’s an opportunity here to show the world the power and possibility of expanded leadership that women will bring. I hope to see it happen here in Utah.”

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