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University of Utah Could Have A New President In Less Than A Week

Erik Neumann / KUER
The Park building on the University of Utah campus.

It’s been eight-and-a-half months since David Pershing announced he would shorten his term as president of the University of Utah. On Friday representatives announced that the U’s search committee has three candidates to replace him. 

The state Board of Regents is now considering three presidential finalists.

Nicholas P. Jones is the executive vice president and provost of Penn State. He comes from a civil engineering background. Thomas Katsouleas is the executive vice president and provost of the University of Virginia. His background is in electrical and computer engineering. And Ruth Watkins is the senior vice president for academic affairs here at the University of Utah. Her background is in child language.

A prepared statement from the university describes all three as “highly qualified candidates.”

Taft Price is an assistant professor in the U’s business school and was a member of the board of trustees from 2011 to 2016. About 30,000 students attend the U, but Price says the university has an outsized role in Utah’s economy, because of the number of employees it trains and the skills they receive.

"The relationship that this university has to the regular citizens of the state is huge. And the president is kind of the one who sets and agenda and leads the interaction between the university and the broader community," Price says. 

Price says the president’s priorities will also influence the all of the individual colleges on the U’s campus.

All three finalists will be at the University on January 17to meet with students, faculty and staff. The Board of Regents could select a president as soon as Thursday, January 18.

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