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University of Utah President Taylor Randall unveils ambitious plan in inaugural address

Taylor Randall was inaugurated as the U’s 17th president Wednesday.
Courtesy University of Utah
Taylor Randall was inaugurated as the U’s 17th president Wednesday.

During his inaugural address Wednesday, the University of Utah’s 17th president Taylor Randall said he has big plans for the state’s flagship school, including helping it become a top 10 ranked public university, raising $1 billion in research funding and growing the student body by about 16%.

The former dean of the business school and U alum said he wanted the university to expand its reach to all 29 counties in the state and continue to drive innovative research, but at a faster and greater scale. An additional $100 million, he said, would be committed to increase the pace of new discoveries over the next seven years.

“The time to reimagine our university is right now,” Randall said, noting Utah’s rapidly expanding population and economic growth in recent years. “We are no longer on the periphery. We are at the center of it all.”

Part of his reimagining includes transforming the student experience. Randall said the current generation of college students have come of age at a time of massive change and upheaval. They’ve lived through the aftermath of 9/11, the 2008 recession and survived a global pandemic.

They’ve also grown up with technology which has changed the way they access information and communicate. As a result, they approach their education “deliberately,” he said, and envision a future “that's unfettered by the structures and obstacles of prior generations.”

Beginning in their freshman year, Randall said students will have access to labs and study abroad opportunities to get hands-on experience with faculty and research.

He also announced the creation of a new building on campus, the Sorenson-Gay Epicenter. Modeled after Lassonde Studios, a live-work space geared towards entrepreneurship, the new building will house two research centers and enough beds for 755 students so they can “live and breathe” social problems.

Randall has been serving as president since August. He beat out two out-of-state candidates, but was criticized by some students for being an “internal hire.”

Still, he received a standing ovation from the audience at the U’s Kingsbury Hall, which included students and faculty, state and local leaders and philanthropists.

Chair of Utah Board of Higher Education Harris Simmons said Randall was chosen for his “unparalleled drive and demonstrated ability to reach the very highest aspirations.”

Gov. Spencer Cox said he knew Randall was the right choice to lead the university when he saw him sweeping the floor during halftime at a women’s basketball game. He said that showed a humility that will serve him well in the role.

The stakes are high though, he said. He called the university the state’s most underutilized resource and said the opportunity to change and impact the lives of Utahns across this state is greater than ever.

“Unleashing the brainpower of the professors and, more importantly, unleashing the possibilities of the students will change the course of Utah's history,” Cox said.

Jon reports on quality of life issues, education and the economy
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