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3 finalists announced for new University of Utah president

The University of Utah in Salt Lake City is pictured on July 28, 2020. On Wednesday, three finalists for the president of the University of Utah were announced.

The University of Utah in Salt Lake City is pictured on July 28, 2020. On Wednesday, three finalists for the president of the University of Utah were announced. ( Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)



SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Board of Higher Education announced its three finalists to become president of the University of Utah on Wednesday.

They include:

  • Dr. Carrie L. Byington, executive vice president for the University of California's health enterprise and a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco.
  • Jayathi Y. Murthy, the Ronald and Valerie Sugar dean at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, and a distinguished professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Department.
  • Taylor R. Randall, dean of the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah.

The 32-member search committee selected the finalists after several months of soliciting input through public meetings and in-person interviews.

Ruth V. Watkins stepped down as university president in April after accepting the position of president of Strada Impact. Dr. Michael Good, CEO of U. Health, has served as interim president since then. He did not apply for the presidency position.

"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," Harris H. Simmons, board chairman and search committee co-chairman, said in a statement.

Dr. Carrie L. Byington is one of three finalists to become president of the University of Utah.
Dr. Carrie L. Byington is one of three finalists to become president of the University of Utah. (Photo: University of Utah)

In her current role at the country's largest public academic health care system, according to the board, Byington has led the COVID-19 response. That included "preparing hospitals for surge, protecting 100,000 health care workers, developing testing, supporting the health and safety of 600,000 students and employees on 10 campuses, coordinating the COVID vaccine rollout and partnering with the state of California to provide expertise and capacity for pandemic response," the Board of Higher Education said in the statement.

Byington previously worked at the U. in a number of roles. She was a professor of pediatrics at the U. and as associate vice president of faculty and academic affairs for the U. Health Sciences Center and vice dean for academic affairs and faculty development to the U. School of Medicine.

"As a Mexican-American woman in academic medicine, she has worked throughout her career to end health disparities and increase health equity. She has also worked for a more inclusive academy. In her administrative roles, she has developed and supported faculty mentoring programs and policies and processes for faculty diversity, salary equity and parental leave," the Board of Higher Education said.

Jayathi Murthy is one of three finalists to becomes president of the University of Utah.
Jayathi Murthy is one of three finalists to becomes president of the University of Utah. (Photo: University of Utah)

Officials say Murthy has helped UCLA Samueli grow in technological advancement areas, including engineering in medicine and biology; sustainable and resilient urban systems; artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science; cybersecurity and the future internet; robotics and cyber-physical systems; and advanced materials and manufacturing.

Previously, Murthy taught mechanical engineering as a professor at Arizona State University, Purdue University and Carnegie Mellon University. She was one of the first employees of Fluent, the developer of "the world's most widely used computational fluid dynamics software."

Randall Taylor is one of three finalists to becomes president of the University of Utah.
Randall Taylor is one of three finalists to becomes president of the University of Utah. (Photo: University of Utah)

Randall started working at the U. in 1999 and has served as dean of the Eccles School of Business for 12 years, during which officials say the value of the school "increased dramatically" with the expansion of experiential learning opportunities in "finance to social impact to policy creation." During his time as dean, the Marriner S. Eccles Institute for Economics and Quantitative Analysis, the Sorenson Impact Center, the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute and the Goff Strategic Leadership Center opened.

"Under his leadership, the Eccles school has gained a national reputation as a place of innovation, garnering top 10 entrepreneurship rankings for both undergraduate and graduate programs. Currently, seven of the school's programs are ranked in the top 25," the Board of Higher Education said.

Before becoming dean, Randall was a professor of accounting for 11 years. With his guidance, the University Venture Fund became the largest student-run venture fund in the country, according to the board.

"I'm grateful to the search committee for their time, commitment and hard work in identifying three tremendous leaders as candidates for University of Utah president. Each would be an outstanding choice to lead Utah's flagship university and is well positioned to continue the U.'s upward trajectory," Christian Gardner, search committee co-chairman and chairman of the university's board of trustees, said in the statement.

The finalists will be on the University of Utah campus on Wednesday, Aug. 4 to meet with groups representing faculty, staff, students, trustees and administration, the Board of Higher Education said in a statement. Each finalist will participate in a public meeting that evening, where attendees from the university community and public can ask questions of each candidate.

The following day, the board will interview the finalists in a closed session and will likely select the president that evening.

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