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Janet Napolitano Resigning As Homeland Security Secretary To Head University Of California System

A sudden change in the midst of a major national immigration debate.

Last updated on July 12, 2013, at 10:29 a.m. ET

Posted on July 12, 2013, at 10:29 a.m. ET

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

A senior administration official confirmed to BuzzFeed Friday that Janet Napolitano is leaving the Obama administration to head up the University of California system.

"I thank President Obama for the chance to serve our nation during this important chapter in our history," Napolitano said in a statement. "I know the Department of Homeland Security will continue to perform its important duties with the honor and cous that the American public expects."

Napolitano's nomination as UC president was an incredibly secretive process, per the Los Angeles Times, which broke the news Friday morning.

"While some may consider her to be an unconventional choice, Secretary Napolitano is without a doubt the right person at the right time to lead this incredible university," Sherry Lansing, the regent and former film industry executive who headed the search committee, said in a statement being released Friday. "She will bring fresh eyes and a new sensibility — not only to UC, but to all of California. She will stand as a vigorous advocate for faculty, students and staff at a time when great changes in our state, and across the globe, are presenting as many opportunities as challenges."

The UC system has 230,000 students and 191,000 faculty and staff.

Napolitano, 55, will be UC's first female president. She previously served as the governor of Arizona, before being poached by the Obama administration in 2009, before her second term ended.

As governor, education was one of her foremost priorities. She increased state funding for education and literary initiatives and implemented voluntary full-day kindergarten and teacher-training programs.

Napolitano's full statement:

For more than four years I have had the privilege of serving President Obama and his Administration as the Secretary of Homeland Security. The opportunity to work with the dedicated men and women of the Department of Homeland Security, who serve on the frontlines of our nation's efforts to protect our communities and families from harm, has been the highlight of my professional career. We have worked together to minimize threats of all kinds to the American public. The Department has improved the safety of travelers; implemented smart steps that make our immigration system more fair and focused while deploying record resources to protect our nation's borders; worked with states to build resiliency and make our nation's emergency and disaster response capabilities more robust; and partnered with the private sector to improve our cybersecurity. After four plus years of focusing on these challenges, I will be nominated as the next President of the University of California to play a role in educating our nation's next generation of leaders. I thank President Obama for the chance to serve our nation during this important chapter in our history, and I know the Department of Homeland Security will continue to perform its important duties with the honor and focus that the American public expects.

President Obama's statement:

I want to thank Secretary Napolitano for her outstanding work on behalf of the American people over the last four years. At the Department of Homeland Security, Janet's portfolio has included some of the toughest challenges facing our country. She's worked around the clock to respond to natural disasters, from the Joplin tornado to Hurricane Sandy, helping Americans recover and rebuild. Since day one, Janet has led my administration's effort to secure our borders, deploying a historic number of resources, while also taking steps to make our immigration system fairer and more consistent with our values. And the American people are safer and more secure thanks to Janet's leadership in protecting our homeland against terrorist attacks. I've come to rely on Janet's judgment and advice, but I've also come to value her friendship. And as she begins a new chapter in a remarkable career of public service, I wish her the best of luck.