TOPEKA — The president of Emporia State University has been selected as the first woman to hold the job of chancellor for Oklahoma’s higher education system.

Allison Garrett, who was hired to lead Emporia State in 2016, becomes the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education’s ninth chancellor in November.

She will lead all 25 public higher education institutions in the state, in concert with the Oklahoma State Regents.

Jeffrey Hickman, chairman of the nine-member higher education board, said a national search led to Garrett when the system had to modernize to meet evolving workforce needs. Transition can occur through operational efficiencies and with expanded collaboration to make sure students “know the dream of a college degree can be a reality,” Hickman said.

Garrett’s ties to Oklahoma, academic leadership and corporate experience will help her “blaze a new trial for higher education,” said Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Sitt.

Before serving as president of ESU, Garrett worked as executive vice president at Abilene Christian University, senior vice president for academic affairs at Oklahoma Christian University and as an associate professor of law at Faulkner University in Alabama. She worked for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and spent more than a decade at Walmart’s corporate offices.

Garrett is from Missouri, but she earned degrees at Oklahoma Christian, University of Tulsa and Georgetown University. Garrett and her husband operate a cattle ranch in northeast Oklahoma.

“Education opens doors and provides pathways for people to change their lives for the better,” Garrett said. “I am honored to serve the people of Oklahoma and to help move this great state forward.”

Cheryl Harrison-Lee, chairwoman of the Kansas Board of Regents, said ESU made strides in student retention, graduation rates and job placement during her time on campus. Garrett is a “high-caliber, outcomes-based leader” who served the Kansas higher education system well, Harrison-Lee said.

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