New University of Utah President Taylor R. Randall outlined an ambitious plan for growth — measured by numbers, but also by community impact — in his inaugural address this week.
The talk, titled “Re-Imagine U: Inspiration, Innovation, and Impact,” builds on the U’s core principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion; security; health and wellbeing; academic freedom; and sustainability.
Randall shared his vision for how the university could become a top 10 public university with equal societal impact. Steps to achieve this include: revolutionizing the student experience and increasing the number of students to 40,000, an increase of almost 20%; reach $1 billion in annual research funding within seven years; and striving to improve the lives of 3.3 million Utahns, with a presence in all 29 counties of the state.
“I have witnessed the power of what higher education can do over generations. And I’ve seen the power of what the University of Utah can do for individuals and families, including mine,” Randall said. “By becoming a top 10 public university with unparalleled societal impact, we will inspire a new generation of students, find new and faster ways to innovate, improve, and touch the lives of every Utahn, and, in doing so, to change the world around us.”
To achieve these goals, Randall said, the university will first need to Inspire students. To transform the student experience, university leaders will launch “Utah Fresh,” a new program that will connect 80% of incoming freshmen with live learning communities and undergraduate research opportunities.
Randall also announced plans for the Epicenter Sorenson-Gay. The 755-bed multidisciplinary, multi-use, multidisciplinary building located in the center of campus will provide student housing and be home to two co-located centers, the Sorenson Impact Center and the Center for Business Health and Prosperity. . The project has received donations of $10 million each from donors Jim Sorenson and Bob and Lynette Gay, as well as the approval of nearly $120 million in bonding authority from Utah lawmakers in 2021 and 2022. Development of additional student housing is key to making the U a campus destination with a “college town,” the president added.
“How to reinvent an education and even a future for this generation of students? By creating an optimism that empowers them to use their imagination to transform their future,” he said. “For students making the choice between attending U and any other institution, I want there to be no comparison. We want this campus to be 1,534 acres of “you can do it all here”.
“We want prospective students to have immediate FOMO (fear of missing out) upon discovering the fabulous freshman experiences we offer at U,” Randall added. “We want prospective students to be so afraid of missing out that they’ll line up to come here – and we want to do that on a massive scale.”
While the University of Utah’s research history is well documented, spanning from the development of the first successful artificial heart to the LUKE arm—Randall always hopes to propel research discoveries and advances even further. In 2021, around 3,000 academic research projects generated just over $640 million in external grants. To increase research funding to $1 billion per year over the next seven years, Randall has committed $100 million in university funding to help researchers at the U innovate to create new discoveries.
“We need to do more research, and our research needs to get to markets faster,” he said. “I call it speeding up our ‘clock speed’ by increasing the speed of our engagement to accelerate knowledge transfer.”
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Randall said, he will focus on impact—helping to transform the lives of Utah’s 3.3 million people, wherever they live, in all 29 counties. The president said that achieving this goal requires rewriting the “pact” the university has with the community around it. The President noted that the U is home to the State Arboretum (Red Butte Garden), Museum of Natural History of Utah, Art Museum of Utah, Pioneer Theater Company, Utah Presents ( and is the “home floor” of the Utah Symphony, Utah Opera, Ballet West and more).
“The U will extend its impact far beyond the hill it sits on. Traditionally, research universities have focused on teaching their students about academic inquiry conducted on their campuses. We want to reverse that tradition by turning faculty research into action,” Randall said. “We want to embed the U even deeper into the community we serve. We want to cultivate community bonds, build trust, uproot injustices and transform the future of this incredible state we live in.
To this end, the President announced the new Presidential Public Impact Scholars, a program to recognize the research application work of outstanding faculty members. The first class of scholars will be recognized at the 2022 launch on May 5.
At the same time, Randall noted, the university will expand its reach west and south of the Salt Lake Valley, with a new $400 million project. hospital and educational complex in West Valley City and a campus in Herriman, shared with Salt Lake Community College. By 2025, the Herriman Campus will house 7,000 students. West Valley City Hospital is expected to open in late 2026 or early 2027.
Finally, the President underlined the power of education to transform lives. He is the first alumnus to serve as president of the institution in 50 years. His father and grandfather were university professors.