Gov. Spencer Cox has appointed the following members to serve on the Utah Board of Higher Education: Grace Acosta, Richard Wheeler, Xitlalli Villanueva, and Heather Johnson. The governor’s nominations are subject to confirmation by the Utah Senate.
The Utah Board of Higher Education oversees the Utah System of Higher Education, which includes eight public colleges and universities and eight technical colleges. The 18-member board sets policy, reviews degrees and programs, hires and evaluates institutional presidents, and submits an annual budget request to the governor and Legislature, among other responsibilities.
“Each member of this cohort of exceptional Utahns has a deep respect for learning and a track record of success,” said Gov. Cox. “I’m grateful to each of them for their willingness to take on this new responsibility and look forward to their wise management of Utah’s colleges and universities.”
Acosta is a partner at Trujillo Acosta Law in West Jordan. She has served as president of the Utah Minority Bar Association, an ex-officio member of the Utah Bar Commission, and a Utah Bar Commissioner. Acosta is a former law clerk to Judge William A. Thorne of the Utah Court of Appeals and is a former law clerk to the Honorable John F. Wright of the Nebraska Supreme Court. Acosta graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in both psychology and English and received her J.D. from the University of Nebraska, graduating with academic honors.
Wheeler is a retired community servant and current business owner of SynerComm Training and Development. He served for more than 32 years at Snow College as vice president for student services, VP for academic affairs, VP for advancement and college relations, and faculty member and director of government affairs throughout, as well as interim president twice. Most recently he served as mission resident in Arizona Gilbert Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Wheeler graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s of art degree in communication and a master’s of arts degree in organizational and interpersonal communication.
Xitlalli Villanueva- Student Member
Villanueva is currently a student at Weber State University College of Science and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences in Ogden, majoring in microbiology and sociology with a minor in chemical technician, and is expecting to graduate in 2023. She currently works as a medical assistant at Rocky Mountain Dermatology and is fluent in English and Spanish, receiving two very competitive grants through Weber State University to fund her research.
Heather Johnson- Student Member
Johnson is a current student at Dixie Tech and a mother of five children. She attended school in Finland for a year after graduating high school and then went on to complete both an associate and a bachelor’s degree. She recently had the opportunity to further her education as a returning student more than 20 years later. She finished her studies in architectural drafting and design with special focus in computer aided drafting at Dixie Applied Technology College in St. George. She is currently working as a high school volleyball and basketball official.