TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - The University of South Florida has announced their choice for university president.
A 15-member search committee conducted their final interviews with their top four candidates Friday morning. By 4 p.m., they named Dr. Steve Currall as president-elect.
Currall is the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Southern Methodist University.
"I've got a lot of background in both public and private universities and I'm very committed to student success and research visibility, global visibility of USF," Currall said following the announcement, adding he is looking forward to continue leading the university to new heights.
"It's really an amazing confluence of momentum on student success, diversity and inclusion, research footprint, USF Health, great region, growing economy, a lot of people moving to Florida and the Tampa Bay region and we just think all of that is just converting and coalescing around a role for USF to really be the region's global research university."
Currall acknowledged he faces a major challenge from day one: USF must consolidate its three individually operated campuses under one umbrella by the July 1, 2020.
"I think it's a great opportunity for the three campuses to work in synergy and collaboration, so I'm looking forward to working with my colleagues on how to organize ourselves into an even greater university," he said.
The finalists included two candidates with prior experience as university chancellors. Dr. Deba Dutta and Dr. Jeffrey Vitter each recently served their respective schools as chancellor, and both resigned suddenly under unknown circumstances.
Dutta, a Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Rutgers, became the school’s chancellor in 2017 before stepping down a year later.
Vitter is currently a Distinguished Professor of Computer & Information Science at the University of Mississippi, where he too resigned early from his role as chancellor.
Dr. Wanda Blanchett also hails from Rutgers University, where she is the Interim Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.
“They all have AAU experiences. They all have had leadership positions where they’ve had to lead complex organizations and they all have that extra sparkle in there I and desire to take this next step,” said search committee chair Les Muma.
Muma explained their biggest goal was to find a president who will help the University of South Florida retain its preeminent status. The university fought hard to gain the distinction, finally earning the honor last year. Beyond retaining preeminent status, USF search committee members said they wanted someone who can help the university crack into the prestigious Association of American Universities.
“AAU status would elevate the image of the university. We’ve got a great image. We’ve come a long way. To be AAU would be the icing on the cake,” said Muma.
Currall will become the seventh in the university’s history, replacing Judy Genschaft who’s served as the university’s president since 2000. Genshaft will retire in July.