USC Names Dr. Carol Lynn Folt As Its New President
Following a rocky couple of years marked by scandal after scandal, the University of Southern California is getting a new president.
In an email sent to adjunct faculty and others, Rick Caruso, the chairman of the school's board of trustees, announced that the university has hired Dr. Carol Lynn Folt to serve as the school's next president. She replaces former USC president Max Nikias, who stepped down last May in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against a university gynecologist.
Folt's appointment marks the end of what Caruso described as a seven-month search, during which more than 100 people interviewed for the position. She comes to USC as the school is embroiled in a nationwide scandal involving cheating and bribery for students to gain admission.
In a nod to the university's current state of affairs, Caruso wrote that "[th]ese last nine months have been the most turbulent in the University's 140-year history," and added that input received from the community included calls for a leader whose ethics were unquestionable.
"Your input became our mandate," Caruso wrote, "to find an individual with impeccable moral character and integrity, an intense dedication to transparent and transformative leadership, strong academic credentials, experience managing a large, complex organization including health sciences, commitment to the student experience and shared governance, appreciation for the arts and humanities, recognition of USC's role as a civic and community steward, and a track record of leading strong, successful athletics programs."
Prior to taking the position at USC, Folt served as the chancellor of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill from 2013 to 2019. She is the first female president in USC's history.
Folt will begin her transition under the guidance of the current interim president, Wanda Austin, and will take over officially on June 30.
The full text of the email is as follows:
Dear Fellow Members of the USC Community:
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I am very pleased to announce that the Board has voted unanimously to appoint Dr. Carol Lynn Folt as the 12th President of the University of Southern California.
Dr. Folt will join us this summer from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill where she served as Chancellor from June 2013 to January 2019. She was previously Dean of the Faculty, Provost and interim President at Dartmouth College and an Endowed Professor of Biological Sciences. Dr. Folt's impressive career began here in California where she received her Bachelor's Degree in Aquatic Biology and Master's Degree in Biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara followed by a Doctorate in Ecology from the University of California, Davis.
For the past seven months, the Presidential Search Advisory Committee has been engaged in a comprehensive, global search to identify the most qualified and talented person to lead USC into its next era. The 23-member Presidential Search Advisory Committee, together with our two search firms, conducted a comprehensive discovery for leaders whose professional and personal qualifications aligned with the vision and priorities set forth by the USC community. Over 3,000 students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members participated in eleven in-person listening sessions and via the search website.
Your input became our mandate - to find an individual with impeccable moral character and integrity, an intense dedication to transparent and transformative leadership, strong academic credentials, experience managing a large, complex organization including health sciences, commitment to the student experience and shared governance, appreciation for the arts and humanities, recognition of USC's role as a civic and community steward, and a track record of leading strong, successful athletics programs.
The search advisory committee spent months interviewing more than one hundred of the very best candidates from higher education, business, government, and the non-profit sectors. The committee conducted multiple day-long interviews with the semi-finalists in addition to comprehensive vetting. Through this process, it became evident that Dr. Folt is the leader who most embodies the qualities we seek and is the right person to be our president, both now and for the long term. The committee voted unanimously to recommend her appointment to the Board of Trustees.
I have no doubt that under the enterprising and accomplished leadership of Dr. Folt, USC is set to embark on an exciting, upward, and unprecedented journey along with cultural renewal and positive change. That includes ushering in a new era of excellence, innovation, scholarship, and principled leadership that our community so justly deserves.
I want to put Dr. Folt's selection as our 12th president into one final context. Since its founding in 1880, USC has always looked ahead. USC admitted women in its first class, and the very first valedictorian in 1884 was a woman. This torch of strong, principled women driving USC forward has been graciously carried by interim President Wanda Austin and soon will be proudly passed to Dr. Folt.
Thank you to the members of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee for their diligence and dedication to this monumental process. This is an exceptional group of trustees and faculty leaders who always placed the best interests of our Trojan community first through every step of this process. I also want to express my gratitude to all my fellow trustees for their guidance, wisdom and steadfast commitment to this critically important decision. It is the Board's most important and solemn duty.
The Board and I are also deeply and especially grateful to Dr. Austin for serving as interim President. These last nine months have been the most turbulent in the University's 140-year history. And yet, she has exhibited leadership, courage, selflessness and grace. Dr. Austin embodies the very best of our Trojan spirit. She will continue in her role until June 30th to ensure a seamless transition and will then return to the Board as a fellow Trustee.
Finally, I want to express my sincerest appreciation to our entire USC community for your loyalty and patience through this search process and during the significant challenges we have endured over the past few years. The responsibility of everyone at USC, especially our leadership, is to act with sound judgment, fortitude, and a commitment to always doing what is right. The Board and I are eager to support Dr. Folt as we live up to this responsibility and bring constructive cultural change and a positive, new direction to our great University. We are as prepared, as strong, as courageous, as clear-eyed, as principled as the Trojan warrior and ready to move forward.
Dr. Folt will be communicating with you very soon. In the meantime, please join me in welcoming her into the Trojan family. And, together, let's Fight On!
Rick J. Caruso
Board of Trustees
University of Southern California