University of Maine at Augusta President Allyson Handley is leaving the university for a job in California, university officials announced Monday.

Handley has accepted a job at National University in San Diego, which is California’s second largest private nonprofit university, according to its website.

Handley came to UMA in 2008 and was the university’s first woman president. Prior to that, she worked as a senior policy adviser for economic initiatives at the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, and had previous experience as a college president in Kentucky and California.

Handley said it was a difficult decision to leave but she took the new job for three main reasons: she is excited about her new job at National University, where she worked for much of the 1990s, as the first executive director of a new initiative developing national programs for non-profit organization leaders; because working in California will make it much easier to see her children and grandchildren, all of whom live in California and; because she feels UMA has a strong leadership team in place, and excellent future ahead of it.

“Building the team — that will be my legacy,” Handley said of UMA’s leadership.

During her 6½ years at the university, UMA formed partnerships to create new programs in architecture, aviation and nursing, enhanced its support of veterans, acquired the Gannett building which now hosts UMA programs in downtown Augusta. It also built a new dental hygiene clinic on the affiliated Bangor campus, strengthened on-line and distance education and established an advancement and alumni office.

She said her only regret is not being able to see a currently underway capital campaign, tied to UMA’s upcoming 50th anniversary in 2015, to completion.

Handley, a native of Canada who became a U.S. citizen in 2000, holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Western Ontario, a master’s degree in education focusing on learning disabilities and a doctorate in education concentrating on human communication and its disorders, both from The Johns Hopkins University.

She replaced university president Richard Randall.

Handley will leave UMA next month.

This story will be updated.