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UW President Michael young and Regent Herb Simon walk from the press conference to their next destination.

University of Washington president-designate Michael K. Young visited the UW for the first time yesterday since being announced as the UW’s Board of Regents pick for the next UW president.

Young has started establishing himself in the university community by meeting with various people within the administration and departments, along with those whose decisions affect the university. He recently attended the Legislature’s special session in Olympia and said he also plans to meet with Gov. Chris Gregoire, members of the state Legislature. The soon-to-be president will also continue to make the rounds with UW faculty and student leaders during the next few days.

During a meeting with students-leaders yesterday, ASUW President Madeleine McKenna said Young took questions from about 30 to 40 student leaders regarding a wide spectrum of topics, including local tuition-setting authority and providing resources for student-parents.

“He’s really down to earth [and] honest,” she said. “Just seeing him interact with people, I can see he does a good job of relating to diverse constituencies.”

During a press conference yesterday morning, Young spoke about his enthusiasm for the UW’s future — despite coming in during the tough economic situation the university faces. The former University of Utah president also acknowledged his gratitude to be offered the position.

“It is an enormous privilege to be here,” he said. “This [position] is the most exciting opportunity and challenge in higher education.”

The news conference was aired live on UWTV and on UWTV’s website. It was held in order for Young to address the local press as a whole for the first time since the announcement. There were about 35 attendees, including members of the UW Board of Regents; UW faculty and staff; and journalists from KOMO 4 News, KING 5 News and The Seattle Times, who also had the opportunity to ask questions.

Board of Regents Chair Herb Simon introduced Young at the conference and reiterated that the board had “unanimous enthusiasm” when they voted to offer Young the next position as the president of the university and begin discussing a contract with him.

“This is certainly a monumental day for the University of Washington,” Simon said.

The regents voted April 26 with a unanimous decision to offer Young the position as UW president after the Presidential Search Committee — headed by UW Law Dean and James W. Mifflin Professor of Law Kellye Testy — presented the regents with their top candidates. Young’s contract with the university is still being discussed and will be finalized within the next few weeks.

Throughout his time in higher education, Young said he has consistently valued and been open to students’ needs and has always maintained an open-door policy for students to discuss any matter they desire with him. At the University of Utah, Young said he had contact with students and student leaders at least every other week. He said he plans to continue to be available to students at the UW.

“At the University of Utah, we involved students a lot. … I intend that to be an important part of going forward,” Young said. “Virtually all of us work here at the university because of those students. I consider [students] to be the primary agenda.”

Student regent Frances Youn said she spoke to numerous students from the University of Utah and they verified Young’s commitment to students and said he acts on their concerns and wishes. For example, Youn said that a student told her that many at Utah wanted to create a union building on campus, similar to the UW’s HUB, and Young aided them in gaining funding and making their aspiration a reality.

“Hands down, they said he would be a wonderful fit for the university,” she said. “I couldn’t be more thrilled.”

McKenna said that Young’s open-door policy is encouraging to her, and she said she hopes he engages students by including them in discussions about important decisions regarding the UW.

“I know he’s very collaborative in his style,” she said. “Student leaders [need] to help shape what that interaction with him looks like.”

Although the university is waiting to hear the state’s official budget to hear exact numbers on reductions in funding to the UW, Young said one of the reasons why he wanted to come to the university is because those who are part of the UW community are committed to supporting higher education.

“There’s a sense of enthusiasm and momentum … people are worried, but there is a sense of commitment and a sense of excitement,” he said about figuring out solutions for the university’s budget.

In response to what he plans to do with the decrease in state funding, Young said he is concerned about what the university will do next year, but that he hopes “to continue [the UW’s] core missions, but with different funding streams” and a partnership with the Legislature is key to finding the answers.

Young added that he has a broader concern for public higher education throughout the nation, as many institutions are facing budget cuts from their state legislatures. However, he said he believes that the research that occurs at the UW within various schools and colleges, such as computer science and business, has the aptitude to create solutions for the lack of state aid for higher education.

“The role of public universities in educating America is absolutely essential,” he said. “The University of Washington can be a national and global leader in thinking about this, [if] we can align and marshal these resources. … The capacity to think it through here is greater than anywhere else in the country.”

As for the UW’s decision to decrease acceptance of in-state students, Young said that a balance of residents and out-of-state students needs to be found. Yet, he said he does not know what balance would work at the moment. There needs to be “continual concern and reflection” about the UW expanding the state’s workforce, and also the university’s commitment to residents and students, he said.

Young also said he is excited about the UW’s future and what the university can bring to people at a local, state and national level.

“I love the idea of being able to work to get the great research the university does out to the people,” he said, “[by] taking the research and translating it into something” that changes people’s lives.

During the press conference, Young’s potential salary was also addressed. If former UW President Mark Emmert had stayed at the university, he would have made more than $900,000 in base pay annually. Young said he would accept a compensation that is less than his predecessor.

“It’s more than inevitable that I’ll accept less,” he said.

Emmert left the UW to accept the position as president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association in October 2010. After his departure, Provost Phyllis Wise stepped in as interim president. Wise will return to her position as UW provost when Young begins his term.

Young previously held the position of president at the University of Utah where his accomplishments include establishing the university as a research institution, expanding international education, helping the school join the Pac-12, and creating 7,500 jobs for companies that were created from university research.

“[He had] a remarkable track record of accomplishment for the University of Utah,” Simon said.

Although Young said it was difficult to leave Utah, he enjoyed his experience there and said he looks forward to what the UW has to offer.

“I loved my time at Utah,” he said. “But I felt like, for me personally, the opportunity for a different kind of challenge is really exciting. I’m proud to be in purple, it is an enormous honor to be here.”

Reach reporter Daron Anderson at news@dailyuw.com.

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