The USF Board of Trustees (BOT) unanimously selected Dr. Steven Currall to serve as the seventh system president after days of in-person interviews and a months-long search.
Currall, 60, will take office July 1, after current President Judy Genshaft retires following a 19-year tenure.
But who is our next system president?
Currall’s most recent position was as the provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at Southern Methodist University. His experience in higher education, however, has a global reach. He also had leadership roles at the University of California-Davis, the University College of London, the London Business School and others.
However, Currall does not come alone.
His wife, Dr. Cheyenne Currall, is an established professional in her own right.
She currently serves as the vice president and executive advisor for Global Advancement at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
“My wife and I are excited to be moving to Tampa later this summer and we are eager to roll up our sleeves and get to work on further advancing the extraordinary success of USF,” Currall said.
Currall noted that while he was waiting for the call to hear whether or not he received the position, he was relatively calm and is “looking forward to taking a little bit of a breather.” But, after he received the news that he was the candidate selected, he felt “elation, joy and excitement” about a starting the next chapter in his life.
When discussing some of the main points USF deals with as an institution on a day-to-day basis, Currall joked with the BOT members interviewing him Friday, while also giving them a glimpse into his childhood.
“My mother was a higher-education administrator at a medical school in Missouri, so I grew up around medical schools,” Currall said. “My father was a social worker, so I actually, as a small child, was running around a mental hospital. I am not going to take that any farther.”
He went on to address the importance that medicine plays at USF, as well as some other interesting majors like cybersecurity.
“I am very comfortable in an academic biomedical setting and I really believe in the mission of academic biomedicine that marries research innovation and discovery with clinical delivery,” Currall said. “That is such an exciting aspect of USF.”
Currall did not study either during his schooling though.
He first earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Baylor University in 1982. Then, in 1985 he earned his master’s in social psychology from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He then completed his education with a doctoral degree in organizational behavior from Cornell University in 1990.
To be officially confirmed, Currall will go before Florida’s Board of Governors (BOG) on Thursday for an interview process of its own.
Perhaps the message of his work ethic is something he will convey to the BOG, as he did to the BOT on Friday.
“I have no problem with work ethic,” Currall said. “When I wake up in the morning, five minutes after waking up I am working. If I am awake, I will be working for USF.”
Again, Currall allowed for some of his personality to come through while answering the BOT’s interview questions, suggesting he may even be working for USF in his dreams.
“Maybe even when I am not awake sometimes I’ll be working,” Currall joked.
Giving a glimpse into what his first few months as system president may be like, Currall said he plans to go on a “listening tour.”
“One of the things I (will) be doing a lot of is getting out of my office and getting and seeing the academic units and the administrative units, getting to St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee and listening,” Currall said. “I did a listening tour before my current position and that was received very well by the community. It allowed me to get to know them and to make better decisions because I had much more of a tangible-nuanced sense of the units and the locations.”
Before concluding his comments Friday, Currall said that not only did he want the role of system president, but that it would likely be his last job.
He also added the importance of noting the difference between being confident and conceited and realizing the importance of having a strong team around him to lead the university.
“I strive to be self-confident, but not self-important,” Currall said. “I am inclusive, I focus on building a team… Building a team is very, very important. I am inclusive in my leadership style. I ask a lot of questions and I listen and I strive to listen carefully.”
Likewise, Currall said in an interview with The Oracle following the announcement, that a diverse student population is important as well.
“We are going to redouble our efforts in terms of diversity and inclusion and make sure that this is an environment that welcomes everyone, regardless of background, into the USF community,” Currall said.