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Dean Frankie Santos Laanan

Dr. Frankie Santos Laanan is the Dean of the College of Education. He is also a Professor in the Departments of Education, Culture, & Society and Educational Leadership and Policy. Prior to this role, Laanan was appointed as the college’s inaugural Associate Dean for Faculty and Student Affairs (July 2021). Before coming to the University of Utah, he was Department Head of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Technology Studies at The University of Alabama and Professor of Higher Education Administration.

Dr. Laanan is currently Principal Investigator (PI) of a Spencer Foundation Grant (Ingram State Technical College: Exploratory Case Study of Incarcerated Adults in Career and Technical Education). He has participated in the University of Utah’s Higher Education System Strengthening Activity (HESSA), a $19 million project funded by United States Agency for International Development to improve Pakistan’s colleges and universities to address the country’s mismatched skills and workplace needs. Laanan is affiliated with the New Leadership Academy (NLA), a nationally recognized leadership development program to help leaders meet the complex challenges associated with equity, diversity, and inclusion in higher education. He is a frequent presenter and facilitator for different NLA sessions at the state and national levels.

Laanan was born and raised on the island of Guam. A Pacific Islander scholar and first-generation college student, he is passionate about engaging in educational research to investigate critical questions about college access and the success of students with differing viewpoints. He is also committed to translating research into practice and policy to affect transformational change in colleges and universities. He earned his B.A. in Political Science, M.A., and Ph.D. in Higher Education and Organizational Change from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He believes in education as a tool for social good and has dedicated his career to advancing educational access and ensuring equal opportunities through evidence-based policies and procedures.


Laanan is an educational scholar whose research focuses on the impact college has at the individual and societal levels. He has conducted research and published work with a focus on postsecondary educational opportunities for first-generation, low-income, and historically underrepresented students. His publications address educational and career aspirations, adjustment and transition to college, post-college earnings, and higher education policy related to college access, transfer and articulation, career and technical education, STEM pathways for women and minority groups, and accountability.

Throughout his career, Laanan has secured and managed a grant portfolio of over $3.5 million, and he has been involved with research projects totaling nearly $6 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF).


Below are Dean Santos Laanan's most recent publications.

Zhang Y.L. & Laanan, F. S., & Adamuti-Trache, M. (2018). What Matters to Students’ Satisfaction: A Comparative Study between Vertical and Horizontal Transfer Students at 4-year Universities. Community College Journal of Research and Practice. Vol. 42(12), 878-892. Published, 12/02/2018. Available at:

Smith, D. J. & Laanan, F. S. (2017). Choosing a STEM major.. (pp. 75-88). ABC-CLIO, LLC Greenwood. Published, 01/2017. Available at:

Laanan, F. S. & Jain, D. (2017). Advancing a new critical framework for transfer student research: Implications for institutional research. (pp. 9-21). New Directions for Institutional Research, no. 170. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Published, 01/2017. Available at:

Utah Council of Education Deans

As the Dean of the University of Utah's College of Education, Dr. Laanan also serves on the Utah Council of Education Deans (UCED). UCED consists of every dean from every college of education in Utah along with representatives from the Utah State Board of Education and other education-related organizations. UCED works to ensure Utah has the highly-trained, licensed school personnel needed now and in the future.

Learn more about the UCED and the field of education.


Last Updated: 6/18/24