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The board of governors of Florida’s state university system voted today to confirm Dr. Martha Saunders as the University of West Florida’s sixth president.

Saunders will assume leadership of the university on January 1, succeeding Dr. Judy Bense, who has served as UWF’s president since 2008.

In September, UWF’s Board of Trustees selected Saunders, who currently serves as UWF’s provost and executive vice president, over State Sen. Don Gaetz of Niceville, the one-time favorite. That appointment was subject to the State Board of Governors’ approval.

This will be Saunders’ third time leading a university. She previously served as the chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater from 2005 to 2007 and president at the University of Southern Mississippi from 2007 to 2012.

Since 2013, Saunders has served as UWF’s provost, and accepted additional responsibilities as the university’s executive vice president in 2014. In her current role,  she functions as the university’s chief academic officer and vice president for the Division of Academic Affairs, as well as the school’s chief operating officer with oversight over all university divisions. Saunders was previously a faculty member and administrator at UWF from 1984-2002.

Saunders holds a bachelor’s degree in French from the University of Southern Mississippi, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a doctorate in communication theory and research from Florida State University.

She began her career at UWF in 1984 as a professor in the Department of Communication Arts, where she then became coordinator of the Public Relations Program. Saunders also served as director of the University Honors Program and associate dean of the College of Arts and Social Sciences from 1996 to 1999. In 2000, she was named dean of the UWF College of Arts and Sciences.

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