New U of U president shares his goals, plans for the university

Aug 23, 2021, 12:07 AM | Updated: 5:33 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Classes begin Monday at the University of Utah, and with this new school year comes a new president.

KSL’s Deanie Wimmer sat down with Dr. Taylor Randall.

Randall has a long career history and family history at the U., but it’s the future that has him excited, with goals to take the university to the next level.

“You’re a third-generation U. professor,” Deanie said to Randall. “Tell me your reaction when you learned you’d now be the President of the U.”

“First, was excitement because I love this institution and it’s, it’s my passion job,” he replied. “But, of course, there’s a little bit of a lump in your threat, knowing what’s happened in the past, and also the potential for the future.”

“Think of an experience that you had as a student here on this campus that led you to the corner office,” said Deanie.

“I had an English professor my freshman year that took me under his wing. He actually gave me an F on my first writing assignment,” Randall replied. “He had me rewrite that a number of times and I improved for the process.”

Randall went on to say, “It was that single experience that got me thinking about becoming an educator because I saw for the first time the power an individual can have on the life of a student.”

“You’re described as having a relentless focus on students,” said Deanie.

“I have a philosophy that education should be hard, but it also should just be fun, and if you can combine those two things, you create magic,” said Randall. “I think we can create the most exciting educational environment that you’ll see in the United States.”

(University of Utah)

“You still hike with students?” Deanie asked Randall.

He responded, “I do. During the pandemic, we had to find creative ways to interact, and so I organized bike rides. I’m a golfer; there are a few students that wanted to go golfing and also took hikes.”

A primary goal of Randall’s is to continue the work of his predecessor, Ruth Watkins, to make higher education accessible.

“A number of years ago, I asked for a list of students that didn’t show up on campus,” he said. “I asked for 100, and I started calling them, I called them myself, and it was actually heartbreaking some of the stories I heard.”

He will also have to continue the work of improving campus safety after the tragic shooting of student Lauren McCluskey.

“Do you feel those issues are behind you?” Deanie asked him.

“You can’t put that behind you entirely because you’ve got to learn from it, and we’ve improved a lot, but we’ve got a long way to go,” said Randall.

“Do you feel like, with students, that’s going to be the hardest barrier or obstacle to overcome?” asked Deanie.

“I think that’s right. I think we’ve got to be genuine in the way we approach students,” said Randall.

As former Dean of the Business School, he:

  • Increased scholarships from $800,000 to $15 million
  • School revenues grew from $27 million to $135 million
  • Eight of the school’s programs became Top 5 in the nation

He’ll work to replicate that and focus on making everyone on campus feel welcome.

“The theory is here, as you create a community that is welcoming and creates a sense of belonging for individuals, that we will be able to see progress in all areas,” replied Randall.

“What’s the best perk of being the president?” Deanie asked Randall.

“I’ve probably been on the job too short, but I will tell you I have the best parking I’ve ever had,” he said laughing.

He probably has great seats at the football games, too, but for all the family tradition that bleeds red, his youngest daughter will start college at BYU.

Talk about a house divided.

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New U of U president shares his goals, plans for the university