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How USF Landed Steven Currall As President

Mar 25, 2019

Later this week, the Florida Board of Governors will meet to approve Steven Currall as the president of the University of South Florida.

The USF Board of Trustees selected Currall to serve as the school’s seventh president in a unanimous vote Friday.

WUSF’s Lisa Peakes talked to University Beat’s Mark Schreiner about the man who’s currently the Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs at Southern Methodist University in Texas.

“He checks off all the boxes,” said Schreiner, referring to the 28-point list of desired qualifications that USF trustees and the search committee had for the new president.

“Currall started as a university fundraiser at 23-years-old, so that’s a big thing, raising money. He served as a primary investigator on a number of research projects, so he has the research box,” said Schreiner.

“The main thing that they were looking for,as well from whoever the president was, and the traits that the four finalists shared was one, they had worked at a university that’s a member of the Association of American Universities, AAU, which is a goal of USF,” said Schreiner. “The other thing: multi-campus university experience.”

Currall, 60, meets both requirements: time at AAU members University of California, Davis; University of Chicago; Rice University and Cornell University; and leadership positions at the multi-campus schools University of California system and SMU, where he’s been Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs since 2016.

After Friday's announcement, the university released a video featuring Currall: 

Schreiner spoke about the six-month-long search process USF undertook that began when current President Judy Genshaft announced her retirement in September.

A 15-member search committee made up of trustees, faculty, a student and other people with ties to USF was formed, and a search firm, Greenwood/Asher & Associates, was hired to handle much of the recruiting and logistics.

“The search firm did a bulk of the work in terms of first identifying potential candidates, taking referrals for potential candidates and also accepting applicants,” said Schreiner. “You had people on this list (of potential candidates) who either didn’t know they were on the list or didn’t return phone calls from the search firm.”

“Other people on that list didn’t want to apply. You don’t want to apply because, what happens because of Florida’s Sunshine Law and the transparency involved there, their names would be released publicly if they did apply. Sometimes you don’t want your current employer to know that you’re looking for another job,” said Schreiner.

Just over 30 people ended up applying for the job, which the search committee cut down to four finalists: Currall; Wanda Blanchett, Interim Provost/Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Rutgers University – New Brunswick; Debasish "Deba" Dutta, former Chancellor at Rutgers University – New Brunswick; and Jeffrey Vitter, former Chancellor at the University of Mississippi.

The finalists came to town and sat down for interviews with the search committee last Wednesday; visited USF Tampa, USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee for conversations in front of the campus communities Thursday; and did one final interview with the USF Board of Trustees Friday morning before the vote.

A majority of the trustees had Currall as their choice during a preliminary conversation after hearing from the finalists. By the time the board held their formal vote, it was unanimous.

Currall is expected to be offered a five-year contract.

Greenwood/Asher & Associates still has to complete a thorough background check of Currall. Jan Greenwood told trustees on Friday that a preliminary background check didn’t show issues. She expects Currall’s deeper review will be complete by the time the Governors meet with Currall Thursday.

Genshaft is retiring July 1 after a 19-year tenure at USF.