Three Finalists Selected in Search for New U President


Jack Gambassi

The block U on campus on Feb. 2, 2021. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Jack O'Leary, News Writer


On July 21, the University of Utah Presidential Search Committee announced the top three finalists in its search for a new President to replace Ruth Watkins, who resigned in April 2021. The three finalists are Carrie L. Byington from the University of California, Jayathi Y. Murthy from the University of California, Los Angeles and Taylor R. Randall from the U Eccles School of Business.

“Our extensive search has led us to capable and distinguished candidates who will have the opportunity to be considered by the Utah Board of Higher Education as the next president and leader of the University of Utah,” said Harris H. Simmons, Utah Board of Higher Education chair and search committee co-chair.

According to U Communications Director Christopher Nelson, the three finalists were selected from a pool of 11 candidates who all underwent a review and interview process with the 32-member search committee. 

“We encourage all students to continue participating in the presidential search process until the next president of the university is named… We began this search with the needs of the campus community at the forefront of our decisions, and we are confident that the next president of the University of Utah will be one of these three finalists,” Simmons said.

USHE Director of Communications Trisha Dugovic said in a written statement that the search firm WittKieffer was approved by the board to find candidates for the position and that WittKieffer was used in one other presidential search for the U when President David Pershing was ultimately selected in 2012.

“Now that three finalists have been named, public meetings with each of the three candidates will be held on Aug. 4 and on Aug. 5, the Utah Board of Higher Education will interview the finalists in a closed session. It is anticipated that the Board will convene a public meeting following those interviews on the 5th and name a president at that time,” Dugovic said. 

Dugovic said USHE is responsible for conducting the search for and appointing the presidents for all 16 public higher education institutions in the state of Utah and also appoints interim presidents until a new candidate is selected.

The search committee was appointed by Simmons and was composed of faculty, staff, the board of trustees, alumni and the outgoing executive cabinet, as well as three student representatives. 

One student was Merry Joseph, a first-year medical student who recently graduated from the U with undergraduate degrees in biomedical engineering and psychology. 

“I felt as a student, my voice was very valued. I had plenty of opportunities to voice my opinions or feedback on candidates. So, as a student representative, we had equal involvement as any other party on that committee,” Joseph said.

According to Joseph, all student representatives played active roles in the search process with equal access to all relevant materials, discussions and candidate interviews. 

“When I first kind of found out that I got to serve on this committee, I just remember understanding, this was a huge responsibility and I wanted to do my best to kind of be a vessel for our student needs and concerns and what we as students want to see in our future leaders,” Joseph said.

Joseph said one of the most important qualities to her was finding someone who understood the importance of public education and could address student concerns surrounding climate sustainability as well as mental health.

“I just remember feeling incredibly honored and grateful that I was selected. I was involved on campus in the past year as an undergraduate too, so I just was really grateful that I got to serve my student body and represent our voices,” Joseph said.

According to USHE’s presidential leadership profile, some expectations for the presidential candidates include leading the university’s emergence from the pandemic, promoting the value and theme of “One U” and fostering a campus culture that embraces diversity.

Students can submit feedback on presidential search finalists by emailing [email protected] or at a public meeting at 12:30 p.m., on Aug. 4 at the Marriott Library Gould Auditorium.


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