SALT LAKE CITY — A direct descendent of Brigham Young and the former dean of the George Washington School of Law is settling into his new position as the University of Utah president.
Michael Young, 54, began his duties as the school’s 14th president Aug 2.
The California native has strong Utah ties, he’s Mormon and a Brigham Young University graduate. That’s not evening mentioning his direct bloodline to Brigham Young, the revered LDS Church leader and architect of the state of Utah.
Michael Young says he is well aware of the perception that practicing Mormons face a bias from secular-minded staff and students.
“The signal from my office is clear: there is no anti-Mormon bias on this campus, nor is there a pro-Mormon bias,” Young said.
He spent much of the past decade as a champion of religious tolerance and freedom on a global and national scale. Young said the things that bring people together are much more important than “silly and counterproductive” ones used to foster divisiveness.
He said the goal is to make everyone at the university, whatever their beliefs, equally comfortable on campus.
“We are a state institution. We are not for any religion or against any religion,” Young said.
Young says his No. 1 priority is strengthening the university’s core mission, teaching and research. He said he was especially excited about the scope and degree of research and the businesses that have spun from it.
His plan is to enhance the school’s research programs by getting the necessary resources to the leading professors, including buildings, laboratories, and technical and administrative support.
Utah’s health sciences and fine arts departments are “world class” and on par with those at the University of Michigan and the University of Texas, Young says, and the School of Business and philosophy department also are strong.