When Steven Currall becomes president of USF on July 1, he will take over a three-campus system for the third time in his academic career.
“I’ve seen [a multi-campus system] work very well,” he said in an appearance in St. Petersburg on March 21, the day before he was unanimously selected by the Board of Trustees.
“I’ve seen those campuses still retain their own unique footprint and their identity,” he said.
“I want you all to know that I’m very mindful of that, that I’m aware that this campus has its own identity and its own culture. And so we want to honor that. I look forward to learning about that.”
The presidential search committee narrowed a field of 33 applicants down to four on March 18. After a public interview process last week with each of the four candidates, the BoT made a unanimous decision to select Currall, 60.
“I'm looking forward to learning more,” Currall said in a speech on March 22, shortly after getting the job. “There’s much more to learn about the USF community and the Tampa Bay region, and getting to know each of our distinctive campus communities so we can continue moving forward as one university.”
Florida’s Board of Governors, which oversees the State University System, ratified the decision on Thursday, March 28.
“I'm looking forward to rolling my sleeves up and hitting the ground running and getting started doing the good work for the University of South Florida,” Currall said.
The four final candidates were directed by the university not to speak to the press and had little public exposure beyond carefully staged appearances.
A Tampa Bay Times editorial published March 22 referred to the candidates as a "shallow, uninspiring field" and criticized the secrecy surrounding the search, which "did not well serve the university, the region, taxpayers or the candidates."
"It gives Currall a pinched view of his obligations as a public employee in a state with constitutional guarantees of open government," the editorial said.
Since 2006, Currall has worked as provost and vice president at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, a private research university that enrolls less than 12,000 students. Almost 50,800 students enrolled at USF last fall. He has also worked at larger universities, like the University of California-Davis and University College London, United Kingdom.
Throughout the interview process, BoT members talked repeatedly about their goal of USF becoming a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities.
Search consultant Jan Greenwood read information from each of the four candidates before the trustees made their decision. She said Currall has worked in AAUs and non-AAUs, so he sees "where you are and where you’re headed."
After the decision was made, current USF President Judy Genshaft welcomed Currall and his wife, Cheyenne.
Currall will succeed Genshaft, the longest-serving president in USF history. She gifted the Curralls with a green tie and green scarf after a welcoming speech.
Since Genshaft became president in 2000, USF has grown in enrollment and stature as a research institution and powerful player in the state and Tampa Bay region.
In July 2018, USF Tampa joined Florida State University and the University of Florida as “a preeminent state university.”
The designation brings an additional $6.15 million to the university this year and puts pressure on the St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee campuses to raise their admission requirements and retention and graduation rates ahead of consolidation in 2020.
“Big shoes, [an] amazing legacy President Genshaft has created here and lots of momentum, and I just hope that we can continue that and maybe even increase the upward slope of that trajectory as well, to take the university to even greater heights,” Currall said.
Keep up with Tampa Bay news, views, culture, food and fun — subscribe to our newsletters.