USF's new president makes first appearances at Bay Area campuses

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The University of South Florida has a new president for the first time since 2000.

Dr. Steve Currall, 60, most recently the provost at Southern Methodist University in Texas, became USF's seventh president Monday.

One of his goals is for USF to help transform the region's economy.

"My hope is that USF can be to the Tampa Bay region what Stanford has been to Silicon Valley, creating new jobs, high quality, high paying jobs," said Curall, who spoke at the Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Sarasota-Manatee campuses during his first day on the job.

The state is requiring USF to consolidate its campuses by next year. Currall said he doesn't know what that will look like yet, but he will soon.

"Consolidation is really job-one in the first year," he said.

His academic background may help. Currall has a PhD in organizational behavior from Cornell University. He was selected from 33 applicants for the job, vacated by retiring USF President Judy Genshaft.

Some say she'll be a tough act to follow.

Genshaft helped boost research dollars at USF by hundreds of millions and was instrumental in helping land the new USF medical school in downtown Tampa, which will help anchor the new Water Street development.

Currall says his first year will be a listening tour.

"I just want to learn about the university, roll up my sleeves, and get started," he said. 

Currall met with senior faculty members Monday morning. He said recruiting, rewarding, and retaining faculty is a top priority. He says he wants USF to become a member of the Association of American Universities, which includes 62 of the most distinguished research universities in the nation.

Currall says academics is his top priority, but winning sports teams are right up there.

"It's very important for the fabric of  the university community. It's important for the student experience," he said. 

Currall has a five-year contract with USF, starting at $575,000 annually. Prior to SMU, he was at University of California Davis.

"I hope the combination of my experience at public universities  and private universities will allow me to introduce some innovative ideas," he said.