Utah State University President finalists have been announced

The candidates include a former university president, a research director and an internal candidate.

(Utah State University) Finalist candidates for Utah State University President, from left: Kenneth White, Elizabeth Cantwell, and Rodney Bennett.

Utah State University announced Monday that a selection committee has recommended three finalists as the school’s new president after current president Noelle Cockett announced in November that she would be stepping down.

The three finalists are Rodney Bennett, a past president of the University of Southern Mississippi; Elizabeth “Betsy” Cantwell, senior vice president of research and innovation at the University of Arizona; and Kenneth “Ken” White, USU Dean of the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences, among other roles.

USU has scheduled a public meeting for May 17 where all three finalists will meet with the university community, including faculty, staff, students, curators and administrators.

Bennett will speak from 2-2:45 p.m., Cantwell from 3-3:45 p.m. and White from 4-4:45 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Eccles Conference Center on the Logan Utah campus.

[Read more: Utah State University President Noelle Cockett resigns]

The university began its search in December when the Utah Board of Higher Education assembled a 19-member committee of community members and stakeholders.

“The Utah Board of Higher Education is extremely grateful to the USU Presidential Search Committee for its diligent and independent review of candidates and their qualifications to direct this world-class research university,” said Lisa Michele Church, Chair of the Utah Board of Higher Education, in a press release.

“They considered all the feedback from USU faculty, staff, students and community members,” she added. “Our board looks forward to interviewing the three presidential finalists.”

Bennett was President of the University of Southern Mississippi for nearly 10 years. According to the publication, Bennett was “the first African-American president of a predominantly white higher institution in Mississippi.”

Bennett “developed a vision for the University of Southern Mississippi to become the model for public higher education nationwide,” which includes nearly $300 million in diversity and inclusion initiatives and capital improvements, the press release said.

“Bennett has a strong commitment to leadership and community engagement,” he added. “As President, he chaired the Board of Directors of the Sports Conference and represented the Conference as a charter member of the Board of Directors of the College Football Playoff National Championship.”

In her current role, Cantwell was responsible for an $825 million annual research portfolio as well as the University of Arizona Tech Park, a 1,268-acre research park, the release said.

In addition to serving as Dean at USU, White is currently Vice President of the Utah State University Extension and Director of the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station, part of a network of researchers and institutions dedicated to agriculture and natural resources.

White was also formerly the head of the Department of Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences at the university, where he has also been a faculty member since 1991.

“White has generated over $17.3 million in extracurricular funding during his time at USU to support research in animal reproduction and embryonic development,” the press release reads.

Find out more about the finalists in biographies on the USU website.

Justin Scaccy

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