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Khator’s first day of school

The University of Houston rolled out the red carpet to welcome its newest celebrity Monday as USF Provost Renu Khator was officially confirmed as president and chancellor of the University of Houston system.

As music played and local regents sung her praises, Khator was introduced to many at her new university for the first time, UH officials said.

“(Khator) is nearing rock-star status,” said UH Student Government Association President David Rosen. “I haven’t met a single person that wasn’t impressed by her.”

Khator will take her position as president in December, leaving USF after more than four years as provost and 22 years on campus.

The similarities between USF and UH made Khator an attractive candidate for the position, said UH spokesman Eric Gerber.

Much like USF, UH is a research university situated near a major metropolitan area with a large student body. The university prides itself on its diversity and has a student body of around 35,000, Rosen said

He said the main difference between the two campuses is growth. Though UH is older, USF has experienced more growth recently. USF’s Tampa campus alone now houses more than 38,000 students.

“I believe several of the people on the search advisory committee saw many similarities between USF and UH and thought she’d be a very good fit,” Rosen said. “She’s established a track record as someone who can encourage faculty and reach the community and the Legislature to increase research.”

As president, Khator will be responsible for workforce development, faculty engagement and improving UH’s burgeoning research foundation, Gerber said.

Before leaving Houston, Khator is scheduled to meet with Texas’ governor and key state legislators.

Though her absence will be felt by many in the USF administration, Khator’s closest colleagues are excited for her, said Vice Provost Ralph Wilcox.

“It has been exciting to see a valued colleague and good friend offered such a position,” Wilcox said. “Now we have to take a deep breath and prepare for the future.”

The University will announce Khator’s interim replacement Wednesday, said USF spokesman Ken Gullette. USF has not yet convened a committee to search for a permanent replacement, he said, adding that filling the position produces a unique set of challenges in Florida.

“I think there’s sometimes a perception among people from other states that there are funding challenges … that make it more challenging for them to see how they’re going to positively move their departments forward down the road,” Gullette said. “It’s just a matter of finding the right person with the right attitude and the right qualifications to move forward.”