President ‘Biff’ set to bolster university

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Now that the search for a president of Dixie State University is over, President Richard “Biff” Williams is at the helm and is eager to lead the school in a direction of student community and academic growth.

Williams came to DSU from Indiana State University as the founding dean of the college of nursing, health and human services. In just five years he helped start 16 new programs at the institution.

“Having someone with tremendously successful prior experience is huge for us,” said Dean of Students Del Beatty. “An out of state view will be helpful for us.”

Williams heard about the opening position for president from a former alumnus of DSU whom he had hired in Indiana. Williams was already familiar with the progress of DSU transitioning to a university.

“My in-laws live here in town,” Williams said. “Being in [higher education], any time I go to a new city and there’s an institution of higher education, I always go exploring, seeking for good and new ideas.”

Williams applied after the former alumnus told him that he would “be a great fit for the school, for the community [and] the state of Utah.” He made it from a pool of more than 40 candidates down to three. 

 “Leading up to the decision, I wanted it really bad,” Williams said. “I had a lot of anxiety.”

Williams had just finished a tour of the university with former President Stephen Nadauld when he got the call informing him that he was chosen for the position.

“We really put our heart and soul into the interview process,” he said. “It was an exciting time for me and my family.”

After receiving the good news, he and his wife and five children made the quick and hectic move across the country to St. George in less than a month. 

Now settled, Williams is making big plans to improve and develop DSU. He is already meeting with building boards to plan for more student housing for as early as the next 18 to 24 months. He is also communicating with the city to help advance the area around DSU for better pedestrian access to campus.

“There are a lot of big moves,” Williams said. “I think my highest priority right now is to get a strategic plan in place … for us to move forward [and] really have a direction. I think that the first big move is to have this strategic plan so we know who we are, where we’re going and what we want to accomplish.”

Students can expect to “continue a forward momentum in university growth,” Williams said. He has already reached out to Ambassadors and student government to be sure he is involved with reaching out to the student body.

“I think the student opinion is probably one of the most important opinions that we have because it’s the students that we are serving,” Williams said. “One idea I’ve had is that I would like to have monthly, random selection breakfasts. I just meet with students and seek their opinion, especially when I don’t know the students and I have people randomly selected. You never know what you are going to get. It’s really fun, actually.”

Williams has big ideas, but he also seeks input from others.

“It can’t be my vision,” he said. “It can’t be my mission. It has to be ours. And that’s the approach that I’m taking with this.”

Beatty has worked with eight university presidents during his career and said that he has enjoyed working with all of them.

“Each president brings their own unique perspective, and I am really looking forward to working under the direction and guidance of President Williams,” Beatty said. “I feel he has a great vision for our institution, his family is on board and it is bound to be a fantastic year.”

Much of Williams’ plans to grow DSU are surrounded by the idea of student community and involvement.

“We’re going to hit it hard,” Williams said. “We’re going to work together. One day, people are going to wake up and say, ‘Where did this come from?’ Then we can hit them even harder and even better. I’m a little competitive.”