The search for a new University of Utah president is down to three people, including two out-of-state candidates and a senior administrator at the Salt Lake City campus.
A presidential search committee released its finalists Friday, teeing up a round of private interviews and a vote by the state’s Board of Regents next week to replace outgoing U. President David Pershing.
The candidates are Nicholas Jones, an executive vice president at Pennsylvania State University; Thomas Katsouleas, executive vice president of the University of Virginia; and Ruth Watkins, the U.’s senior vice president for academic affairs.
“The University of Utah Presidential Search Committee has narrowed the applicant pool to these three highly qualified candidates and is honored to recommend them to the Board of Regents for its consideration in selecting a new leader for the university,” Harris Simmons, search committee co-chairman, said in a written statement.
Pershing, who announced in May that he would step down as president, has led the Salt Lake City-based university since 2012. After a new president is selected, Pershing will remain on campus as a member of the faculty, U. spokesman Chris Nelson said.
“He plans to go back to engineering,” Nelson said.
The three finalists’ names emerged after months of work by a 25-member presidential search committee, including input at public meetings and in-person interviews.
Watkins, if selected, would be the first female president in the 168-year history of Utah’s flagship university, although Jerilyn McIntyre, now a U. professor emeritus of communication served as interim U. president twice, once for two months in 1991 and a second time, for all of 1997. Watkins holds a master’s and a doctorate in child language from the University of Kansas and previously worked as a faculty member at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Jones currently oversees research, educational programs, budget and strategic planning at Penn State and, like Watkins, previously worked at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Jones earned a master’s and a doctorate in civil engineering from California Institute of Technology, and an undergraduate degree in civil engineering from the University of Auckland.
Katsouleas, of the University of Virginia, directs the academic administration of UVA’s 11 schools, library, art museums and foreign study programs. He previously worked as dean of Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering and taught at the University of Southern California. He holds a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate in physics from the University of California, Los Angeles.
All three finalists are expected to visit the U. campus Wednesday for private meetings with representatives of the school’s faculty, staff, students and administrators. On Thursday, the Board of Regents will conducted a final round of interviews in closed meetings.
After those interviews, the regents are expected to convene a public meeting, initially set for Thursday at 5:30 p.m., to select a new president.
Spencer Jenkins, spokesman for the Utah System of Higher Education, said that while a vote is likely next week, the regents may vote to delay their selection or reject all three of the search committee’s finalists.
“They may decide to go a different direction,” Jenkins said, “but it’s all pointing to [a selection] at this point.”
David Burton, search committee co-chairman and head of the U.’ s board of trustees, said in a prepared statement: “We thank the university’s trustees, faculty, students and staff, along with the community as a whole, for their valuable participation in this process.”