University of South Florida trustees on Tuesday selected interim leader Rhea Law to become the school’s eighth president.
Law, an attorney who has longstanding ties to the university, has been interim president since August, after former President Steven Currall stepped down two years into the job.
Saying that becoming president would be “the privilege of my life,” Law laid out some of her goals Tuesday during an interview with trustees.
“I think because of where we're located in a metropolitan area, we have a leg up on all of our other state universities. And we have the ability to make a difference here that might not be possible any other place,” Law said.
Specifics about Law’s contract, including her compensation, were being negotiated. The trustees approved a compensation range of between $764,311 and $1,177,394.
The initial contract will last up to five years and will need approval from the state university system’s Board of Governors.
Law is paid a $575,000 base salary in her current role, the same amount that Currall received.
Law said interacting with students and faculty was a highlight of her experience as interim president — an experience that included challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Going forward, Law said, one issue will be competing for talent in an increasingly competitive environment.
“The first challenge that I see is really supporting our faculty, staff and students. And I mean this in the way that, it’s more than just providing funding for salaries and support. It’s those things that actually encourage and (put) them in a place where they can be their very best self,” Law said. “And we need to be creative about how we do this. There is a huge war for talent out there.”
Law also is eyeing the recruitment of a new provost and said she wants to increase research that will give the university “alternative revenue streams” to recruit faculty and “support these things that are important to us.”
Law threw her support behind USF building a new on-campus football stadium, The USF football team has played games in Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, since 1998.
“It’s time that we have a stadium on our campus that our students can access, that we can create as a gathering place. To get not only our students on campus but our alums that are coming from all over the place to be excited about games,” Law said, adding that athletics are “the front door to a university.”
Trustees interviewed one other finalist for the position. Jeffrey Talley, an Army veteran who also has experience in academia and the private sector, was praised as an “impressive” candidate by trustees.
Alberto Pimentel, who leads the firm that assisted USF in its search, said that Law and Talley came highly recommended.
“Both received not only high marks, not only for their leadership skills, but … for their ability to engage people wherever they may be and every walk of life,” Pimentel said. “Two very different, but very solid candidates.”
Michael Griffin, vice chairman of the USF trustees, said Law’s experience leading the university and her history with the school were part of what won her the job. Law is a graduate of USF who also previously served as a trustee.
“Rhea Law, I believe, deserves to be our next president. And candidly, (she) has earned the opportunity through her transformative work in this role over the last seven and a half months,” Griffin said.
Four other state universities — the University of Florida, the University of North Florida, Florida International University and Florida Gulf Coast University — are in various stages of looking for new presidents.