(a) Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, a tenured professional at a state institution of higher education who is absent from duties at the institution to accept employment in a nonelected governmental capacity is afforded the benefits of academic tenure, rank and position as if he or she had remained continuously in the position retained and held at the institution immediately preceding the absence if the following conditions are met:
(1) The absence is approved by the president of the state institution of higher education by which the professional is employed;
(2) The leave of absence does not exceed two years; or
(3) If the leave of absence extends for more than two years, the president requests approval from the governing board for the absence in writing each year and the board approves each request up to eight full years.
(b) An individual who remains in governmental employment with leave granted in accordance with this section forfeits all rights to academic tenure, rank and position formerly held at the employing institution at the end of the eighth year of government employment.