In her new job, Gochnour will aim to develop a universitywide public policy initiative for Utah businesses and community leaders. The initiative will be designed to strengthen public policy products and services that the state's biggest public university develops for use throughout Utah, the university announced Wednesday.
"I've been asked to help foster a stronger partnership between the business community and the University of Utah. The focus will be on public policy research that is relevant and helpful to decision makers," Gochnour said, adding that the components of the initiative are still to be worked out.
"I wish I could be specific. They really are in part hiring me to figure out the possibilities and the means to do it well," she said.
Gochnour will report to university President David Pershing, as well as to business school dean Taylor Randall a "very deliberate step ... to make sure the work I'm doing will be universitywide," she said.
Gochnour ran the chamber's public policy efforts for seven years. From 2008 to 2010, she was the 7,700-member group's chief operating officer.
At the chamber, Gochnour helped create the Downtown Rising movement. She had a leading role in the successful effort to pass a ballot initiative to secure funds to expand the TRAX light rail system and the FrontRunner commuter rail service. She also was instrumental in bringing about the Utah Health Exchange and the Utah Compact, the latter a declaration of principles to guide the statewide discussion on immigration reform.
Gochnour isn't severing her ties to the chamber. She will continue to serve as its chief economist.
"A big part of this is a partnership between the business community and the university, and my senior economist work at the chamber complements a lot of the things that I'm going to be doing at the university," she said.
Before her work at the chamber, Gochnour was an adviser to governors Norm Bangerter, Mike Leavitt and Olene Walker. She served as the media spokesman for Leavitt during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.
Gochnour was an associate administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency and a deputy to Leavitt when he was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the George W. Bush administration.
"Her impressive career speaks for itself, and her deep experience specializing in the Utah economy will prove to be an invaluable asset in laying the foundation for this new universitywide initiative," Pershing said.