And then there were seven: UCF narrows university president search
Photo courtesy University of Central Florida.

UCF University of Central Florida
Seven academic executives selected while Ken Lawson missed the cut.

The University of Central Florida has quickly narrowed its search for a new president from the 45 people who applied for the job to seven who are currently in leadership positions at other universities from California to Connecticut.

Among those out in the first round of deliberations by UCF’s presidential search committee is Ken Lawson, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. His application was revealed Tuesday morning shortly before the search committee sat down to evaluate the 45 applications and narrow the field of candidates.

In are: Barbara Boyan, engineering dean at Virginia Commonwealth University; David Brenner, vice chancellor for health sciences at the University of California San Diego; Amr Elnashai, vice president and vice chancellor for research and technology transfer at the University of Houston; Vistasp Karbhari, president of the University of Texas at Arlington; Richard Larson, executive vice chancellor and vice chancellor for research at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center; Cato Laurencin, chief executive officer of the Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering at the University of Connecticut; and Javier Reyes, Vice President for StartUp West Virginia, at West Virginia University.

Those candidates will be interviewed in person during a Thursday meeting of the search committee scheduled to start at 7:30 a.m. in the UCF Student Union.

“This whole process has been very eye-opening, producing high-quality candidates who are equipped to build a future at UCF that addresses our opportunities and our challenges,” said Beverly Seay, who chairs the Search Committee and the UCF Board of Trustees. “It will be a valuable exercise for us to bring these individuals to campus and to learn from them. I encourage our campus community to take advantage of the opportunity to hear from this group of leaders with very different backgrounds and perspectives.”

UCF has been under Interim President Thad Seymour‘s leadership since previous President Dale Whittaker resigned in February 2019 amid investigations into the university’s spending scandal. Whittaker had served just eight months and resigned largely because of controversies that had dated to the tenure of his predecessor, President John Hitt, who had served for 26 years before retiring in 2018. Seymour took himself out of the running for the permanent presidency.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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