UVa Provost Thomas Katsouleas named as UConn president


The UConn Board of Trustees meets in the Wilbur Cross Library to announce Thomas Katsouleas as the new President of UConn. Katsouleas, executive Vice President and provost at the University of Virginia, will replace current UConn President Susan Herbst. (Judah Shingleton/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut Board of Trustees voted unanimously to appoint University of Virginia Provost Thomas Katsouleas as the sixteenth president of UConn Tuesday morning, succeeding president Susan Herbst after nearly a year-long search and 215 applicants for the position.

The board, which included Gov. Ned Lamont in attendance, endorsed Katsouleas for his extensive background in academics, including his time as the dean of Duke University’s School of Engineering, on top of his provost position.

“We believe Tom… has a deep understanding of how a research university works,” board chairman Thomas Krueger said. “Tom is clearly the right candidate at the right time.”

Lamont, who met with Katsouleas two weeks ago, praised Katsouleas and said he looked forward to working with him through the state.

“These searches are tricky, but we got it right,” Lamont said. “I talked to folks at Duke. I talked to folks at UVa. It was an easy choice.”

Katsouleas said he was “honored and humbled” to be chosen for the position, and during his time as president, he plans to boost UConn as both a state university and a research institution, and work with the state government to balance UConn’s flagging budget.

“I know Connecticut is a little cash-strapped,” Katsouleas said. “[But] I want to make sure the priorities of UConn are aligned with the state of Connecticut…I want to move UConn into the center of a national conversation about undergraduate education.”

To do this, Katsouleas said he plans to incorporate new revenue streams, boost off-campus relations with businesses, invest in research infrastructure and hire new faculty.

Relations with students will also be a priority to Katsouleas, who said he plans to continue his tradition of holding weekly office hours in a coffee shop, which he did at previous schools.

“Something I look forward to is walking into the coffee house, and bumping into people and talking to people,” Katsouleas said. “Talk to me. I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.”

Undergraduate trustee Nandan Tumu said during the board meeting that he thinks Katsouleas will foster a good relationship between students and the administration.

“He has a track record of listening to students and their concerns,” Tumu said. “I’m sure [the students] will welcome him.”

Graduate trustee Samuel Surowitz echoed this sentiment after the meeting, noting Katsouleas’ friendliness and administrative skills.

“I think Tom has a significant background within higher education. He has some goals that will gain revenue, including increasing our professional master’s programs,” Surowitz said. “I think he has an ability to connect with students and faculty on a personal level, and combine institutional and personal life at UConn.”

With the goal of increase in research funding, Katsouleas said “the student experience” will remain a priority, and “tuition increases would be the last resort.” As well, he said he plans on working with students and receiving input from students and faculty, and increasing transparency in executive decision-making.

“The more transparency, the better,” Katsouleas said. “You make better collective decisions with more eyes.”

Katsouleas later added that he plans on hearing out students on issues around campus, including infrastructure and parking.

“I’m interested in listening and solving the problems we can solve,” Katsouleas said. “I’ll give students the opportunity [to be listened to.]”

At the start of the press conference, Krueger gifted Katsouleas with a basketball shirt with with his name printed on it, which Katsouleas took and joked, “I notice it’s a basketball jersey and not a football jersey.”

Despite the quip, Katsouleas said afterwards that he plans to continue to invest in UConn’s football and sports programs, despite the current $40 million deficit. (http://dailycampus.com/stories/2019/1/29/money-remains-uconn-athletics-biggest-loss)

“I am committed to football,” Katsouleas said at a press conference following the announcement. “I think it’s part of UConn’s national identity. I don’t think the savings from cutting it are as big as we think they are.”

Katsouleas will take the office as president on Aug. 1, 2019.

Marlese Lessing is the news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at marlese.lessing@uconn.edu. She tweets @marlese_lessing.

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