March 9 Update: One of the three finalists, Vistasp Kharbari, notified UCF that he has withdrawn from the search.

UCF’s Presidential Search Committee chose three finalists from a pool of seven who were interviewed on campus Thursday.

The candidates who were interviewed during a day-long session represented a great depth of academic scholarship, research and achievement, and also are world-renowned in their disciplines and strong academic leaders. Those interviewed include candidates with membership in the prestigious National Academy of Medicine and National Academy of Engineering, and affiliation with institutions in the Association of American Universities, which represents the country’s leading research universities.

“I believe the committee selected finalists who bring impressive experience and understand the university – our challenges and opportunities.” — Beverly Seay, UCF Board of Trustees chair

The Search Committee asked questions of candidates about strategic planning; shared governance; diversity and inclusion; athletics; and building relationships with students, government leaders, businesses, donors and the community.

“I was thrilled with the quality and the talent of the candidates we interviewed today,” said UCF Board of Trustees Chair Beverly Seay, who also chairs the Search Committee. “I believe the committee selected finalists who bring impressive experience and understand the university – our challenges and opportunities.”

The three candidates selected by the Search Committee to move forward in the process are:

David Brenner has served as Vice Chancellor, Health Sciences, at the University of California San Diego for the past 13 years. In this role, he leads the School of Medicine, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and UCSD Health. He earned his M.D. from the Yale University School of Medicine, and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine. Brenner also is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Medicine and an adjunct professor in the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Brenner also was dean of UCSD’s College of Medicine from 2007 through 2018. A distinguished physician-scientist and leader in the field of gastroenterological research, Dr. Brenner first joined UC San Diego Health in 1985 as a gastroenterology fellow, later joining the School of Medicine faculty and serving as a physician at Veterans Affairs (VA) San Diego Healthcare System. Brenner has a proven record of success with philanthropy, including working with businessman and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford to create the T. Denny Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion last year at UCSD focused on transforming the education and well-being of current and future doctors.

Cato Laurencin is University Professor; Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; Professor of Materials Science and Engineering; Professor of Biomedical Engineering; Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Endowed Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery; Chief Executive Officer, The Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering, University of Connecticut; Director, The Raymond and Beverly Sackler Center for Biomedical, Biological, Physical and Engineering Sciences; and a member National Academy of Medicine and National Academy of Engineering. Dr. Laurencin earned his bachelor’s in chemical engineering from Princeton University, his Ph.D. in biochemical engineering/biotechnology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his M.D., Magna Cum Laude, from Harvard Medical School. Internationally, he is an elected Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the India National Academy of Engineering and the India National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Laurencin is an Academician and Member (Foreign) of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. He has been named one of the 100 Engineers of the Modern Era by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Dr. Laurencin is a member of the editorial boards of 25 journals, and is the Editor-in-Chief of Regenerative Engineering and Translational Medicine.

Vistasp Karbhari (withdrew on March 9) has been president of the University of Texas at Arlington since 2013. He also serves as a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and the Department of Civil Engineering. He earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree with a specialization in structures from the University of Poona in India, and a Ph.D. with a dissertation in composite materials from the University of Delaware. During his more than 25 years in higher education, he has received numerous awards for research, teaching and innovation. As president, he has advanced UTA’s national and international profile while strengthening research and teaching. Under his leadership, UTA has achieved Carnegie R-1 status, was named a Hispanic-Serving Institution, and is ranked as the top educational institution in the State of Texas for Veterans and Adult Learners, in addition to having nationally ranked programs in each of UTA’s schools and colleges.

“Our decision was difficult. Trustees are going to have a very difficult decision,” said Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Jenkins, a Search Committee member.

The campus community will have the opportunity to provide feedback on each of the finalists.

The Search Committee left open the possibility of considering additional candidates. If that were to happen, they would meet after spring break. Finalists will visit the campus after spring break for open forums and other meetings. The campus community will have the opportunity to provide feedback on each of the finalists.

The Board of Trustees will vote on the selection of the president. Then, the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the state’s public universities, will vote on whether to confirm the selected candidate.

“I am looking forward to this next phase of UCF’s history, and I hope that our entire university takes part when we bring the finalists to campus to meet with our community and the Board of Trustees,” Seay said.