Two women and one man were named finalists in the search for the 17th president of the University of Utah on Wednesday.

They are:

  • 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.
  • Taylor R. Randall, dean of the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah.

The presidential search committee winnowed the finalists to 11 candidates, two of whom dropped out. Nine applicants were interviewed.

The finalists, two with University of Utah ties, will be in Salt Lake City Aug. 4 and 5 to participate in a series of on-campus meetings, public forums, including interviews with the university board of trustees on Aug. 4.

The following day, the Utah Board of Higher Education will interview the finalists and likely convene a meeting to select the new president. The board has the sole authority to hire and fire college and university presidents.

Candidates for University of Utah president have been narrowed to 11

Here’s more about the finalists:

  • Byington earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Texas A&M University and a medical degree at the Baylor College of Medicine, both with honors. She completed a residency in pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, where she was a neonatal chief resident, and a fellowship in infectious diseases at University of California, San Francisco.

In her role as executive vice president for the University of California’s health enterprise, Byington leads the nation’s largest public academic health care system. In this capacity, she has led the COVID-19 response for the UC system.

Prior to her leadership and faculty positions with the University of California, Byington served simultaneously as vice chancellor for health services to the Texas A&M System and senior vice president for health sciences and dean of the College of Medicine at Texas A&M University.

Earlier in her career, she was a professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah and served as associate vice president of faculty and academic affairs for the University of Utah Health Sciences Center and vice dean for academic affairs and faculty development to the University of Utah 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.  

  • Murthy, in her role as dean of UCLA’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, oversees about 190 faculty members and more than 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students. She is also a distinguished professor in the mechanical and aerospace department.

Under Murthy’s leadership, UCLA’s school of engineering has focused on growth in engineering in medicine and biology; sustainable and resilient urban systems; artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science; cybersecurity and the future internet; robotics and cyberphysical systems; as well as advanced materials and manufacturing. 

She also taught at Purdue University from 2001 to 2011, holding the Robert V. Adams chair from 2008-11. Before joining Purdue, she was a professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. Murthy began her career at Arizona State University, where she was an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering from 1984 to 1988.

Murthy was one of the earliest employees of New Hampshire-based Fluent Inc., the developer and vendor of the world’s most widely used computational fluid dynamics software, FLUENT.

She earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Minnesota, a master’s degree from Washington State University and a bachelor’s of technology from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, where she was named a distinguished alumna in 2012.

  • Randall joined the University of Utah in 1999 and has served as dean of the David Eccles School of Business for 12 years. Under his leadership, the Eccles School of Business has gained a national reputation as a place of innovation, garnering top 10 entrepreneurship rankings for both undergraduate and graduate programs. Seven of the school’s programs are ranked in the top 25.

During his time as dean, experiential learning opportunities have expanded along with the institutes and centers that offer experience to students in fields ranging from finance to social impact to policy creation.

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 all have opened under Randall’s direction. 

Before assuming the role of dean, Randall served as a professor of accounting for 11 years, earning accolades throughout his teaching career. He has received awards for the best teacher in the MBA, Executive MBA and undergraduate programs as well as the Brady Superior Teaching Award, which is a career achievement award.

Randall, who earned an undergraduate degree with honor in accounting from the U., earned an MBA and doctorate in operations and information management from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

President Ruth Watkins, selected the university’s 16th president in 2018, stepped down in April after accepting the position of president of Strada Impact. Strada is a national social impact organization that works to strengthen pathways between education and employment.

Dr. Michael Good, CEO of University of Utah Health and executive dean of the School of Medicine, has been serving as interim president. He did not apply for the position.

Watkins was named president after a nine-month search conducted after then-President Dave Pershing announced in 2017 he would retire from the presidency to return to teaching and research. Pershing remained in the position until Watkins took charge in the spring of 2018.

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Pershing announced his retirement in the aftermath of a high-profile rift between University of Utah Health and the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Watkins’ presidency was marked with several accomplishments, among them admission to the prestigious Association of American Universities.

Other top priorities included diversity, student mental health, and wellness and safety.

Many of the safety reforms were implemented following the on-campus slaying of student-athlete Lauren McCluskey, who was fatally shot outside of her dorm in 2018 by a man she had dated. McCluskey’s parents sued the university and in November 2020 reached a $13.5 million settlement of their two lawsuits.

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