The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education announced today the selection of national higher education and business leader Allison D. Garrett as the next chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education. Garrett will take office as Oklahoma’s ninth chancellor on Nov. 8, 2021, succeeding Chancellor Glen D. Johnson, who has served in the office since January 2007. She will be the first woman to hold the position of Chancellor.

“Selecting a Chancellor is a rare and important responsibility, and one this board has taken very seriously,” said State Regents’ Chairman Jeffrey W. Hickman. “After completing a comprehensive national search, we are confident Chancellor-Elect Garrett is the right person to lead all of Oklahoma’s higher education institutions and centers into the future as we remain focused on modernizing our system and meeting our state’s evolving workforce needs through expanded collaborations and additional operational efficiencies to ensure all Oklahoma students and families know the dream of a college degree can be a reality.”

President of Emporia State University (ESU) in Emporia, Kansas, Garrett brings a wealth of experience in both higher education and the corporate sector. She worked for more than a decade at the Walmart Inc. corporate offices, holding the positions of vice president and general counsel for the corporate division and vice president of benefits compliance and planning. She also serves as vice chair of the NCAA Board of Governors and as chair of the NCAA Division II Presidents’ Council.

“At a time when workforce development is a top concern across the state, Allison Garrett’s strong Oklahoma ties, leadership, and corporate experience will blaze a new trail for higher education in Oklahoma and equip future generations with the skills they need to work and succeed right here in our state,” said Governor Kevin Stitt. “I look forward to all of her success in this new role.”

Prior to serving as president of ESU, Garrett served as executive vice president of Abilene Christian University, senior vice president for academic affairs at Oklahoma Christian University, and as an associate professor of law at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama. A native of Neosho, Missouri, Garrett holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Oklahoma Christian University, a juris doctorate from the University of Tulsa College of Law and a Master of Laws in securities regulation from Georgetown University. Upon graduation from law school, she went into private practice before taking a position with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“Education opens doors and provides pathways for people to change their lives for the better,” said Garrett. “I am honored to serve the people of Oklahoma and to help move this great state forward. It will be my privilege to work with the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, investors in higher education and higher education institutions in Oklahoma. Together, we can change lives and provide opportunities for Oklahomans.”

Under Garrett’s leadership since 2016, ESU developed momentum in several key areas, including completion of its largest capital campaign; transformation of the campus with new building projects; increased enrollment, retention of first-year students, and graduation; and development of new academic programs to address the needs of state and regional business and industry.

“President Garrett has served Emporia State and the Kansas public higher education system well,” said Kansas Board of Regents Chair Cheryl Harrison-Lee. “In hiring President Garrett, Oklahoma is getting a high-caliber, outcomes-based leader whose strategic vision helped Emporia State achieve record results in many significant metrics.”

ESU made significant advancements under Garrett’s leadership. Some of the records set during her presidency include several all-time records, including highest retention rates, highest four- and six-year graduation rates, largest graduating classes, and highest graduate school enrollment. The Garrett years also included the top fundraising year on record and four of the top five in ESU history. The university’s U.S. News rankings improved, and ESU is the only public university in Kansas to make the top 100 in social mobility, a measure of success in graduating Pell-eligible students. ESU has recorded the lowest student debt of all public Kansas Board of Regents institutions for five consecutive years, and the university has a 96% (four-year average) score for career outcomes for its graduates.

“President Garrett is a proven innovator with an excellent understanding of how to navigate the challenges in higher education’s evolving landscape,” said Kansas Board of Regents President and CEO Blake Flanders. “I will miss working with her in Kansas, but look forward to continued collaboration and partnership with her on issues that impact both of our states and higher education nationally.”

Johnson, who was recently named Chancellor Emeritus, will retire as Chancellor when Garrett assumes the role on Nov. 8.

“I join the State Regents in welcoming Chancellor-Elect Garrett back to Oklahoma, and I look forward to a smooth transition,” said Johnson. “Her leadership and expertise as a university president and in the corporate sector will greatly benefit the work of the State Regents and our public colleges and universities in serving students, increasing college degree completion, and advocating for the vital importance of public higher education to Oklahoma’s economy.”

To fill the position of chancellor, the State Regents selected the firm Buffkin/Baker from a competitive bid process to assist in conducting a national search. Working with Buffkin/Baker, the State Regents developed the position profile that outlined the qualifications sought in the next person to lead Oklahoma public higher education. Throughout the extensive national search, Garrett rose to the top due to her innovative leadership and her extensive higher education and business experiences, which have led to outstanding results for the institutions she has served.

Garrett and her husband, former judge Chip Garrett, a Nowata native, continue to operate a cattle ranch in northeast Oklahoma. They have three children.

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education is a nine-member constitutional board that coordinates all 25 public higher education institutions in Oklahoma. The board prescribes academic standards of higher education, determines functions and courses of study at state colleges and universities, grants degrees, makes budget requests to the Legislature, allocates funding for each college and university, recommends proposed fees within limits set by the Legislature, and manages numerous scholarships and special programs. State regents are appointed by the governor for nine-year terms.

Chairman Hickman, Fairview, is the immediate past Oklahoma Speaker of the House. Former Oklahoma Attorney General Michael C. Turpen, Oklahoma City, is vice chairman. Retired Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven W. Taylor, McAlester, serves as secretary of the board, and former State Representative Dennis Casey, Morrison, is assistant secretary. The other State Regents comprising the board are Jay Helm, Tulsa; Ann Holloway, Ardmore; Joseph L. Parker, Jr., Tulsa; Jack Sherry, Holdenville; and Courtney Warmington, Edmond.