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Update to the USF Community

Dear USF Community,

As the fall semester and calendar year come to a close, I wish to take an opportunity to thank you for all that you do to advance our great university, as well as share with you some of my recent activities to help move the University of South Florida forward.

First, to each of you who participated in my recent inauguration events, I wish to extend my sincerest gratitude. Cheyenne and I were deeply moved by your warmth and encouragement as the university begins a new era to advance our visibility and stature.

In case you missed it, you can view a recap of the inauguration ceremony and read my inaugural speech.

There are several key areas I would like to focus on in my year-end update. 

  1. Advocacy for the University of South Florida
  2. Athletics Update
  3. Legislative Budget Request
  4. Jabil Innovation Institute
  5. Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute
  6. Principles of Community and Listening Tour
  7. Consolidation Update 

1. Advocacy for the University of South Florida

When I became your president, I emphasized that I would make this job my life’s mission. During the past few months, I have been working to do just that.

Over the past several months, my leadership team and I have been actively working to promote USF’s visibility in the national and global higher education landscape, and our peers are taking notice. 

As one example, USF was recently honored by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), the national association for the leading 237 public research universities in the United States, as the top winner of its 2019 Institutional Award for Global Learning, Research and Engagement.

This prestigious award, which I accepted on behalf of the university during the APLU’s annual meeting in San Diego, distinguishes USF’s global leadership in international education, research and engagement, and sets us apart among our peers. The award is a wonderful reflection of the great work being carried out by USF World and many other units across our university.

I also recently agreed to join the Council on Competitiveness, a group of university presidents and business leaders formed to help bolster America’s investments in talent, technology, innovation and infrastructure. (Read more.)

I was especially pleased that the Council asked me to participate as a Commissioner in the group’s flagship effort, the National Commission on Innovation and Competitiveness Frontiers, a multi-year effort by the Council to overcome critical challenges facing the U.S. innovation engine. The Commission has the support of major U.S. organizations including PepsiCo, Deloitte, Bank of America, FedEx, Gallup, Lockheed Martin, Shell Oil Co. and Verizon, as well as labor leaders.  

Examples of other prominent university presidents who serve as Commissioners are Kent Fuchs of the University of Florida, Michael Crow of Arizona State University, Joan Gabel of the University of Minnesota and Pradeep Khosla of the University of California, San Diego. 

My role as a Commissioner will serve as another platform to advocate for USF’s global leadership in research, innovation and entrepreneurship.

2. Athletics Update

Regarding recent developments from USF Athletics, I wish to re-emphasize my commitment to our athletic programs, as they play such a vital role in cultivating a vibrant campus community, engagement with our alumni and visibility nationally. As I have said, at USF, we are committed to excellence in all aspects of the university.

At the conclusion of our football season, Vice President for Athletics Michael Kelly announced a change in our head coaching leadership and launched a national search to find our next head coach. This week our search culminated with the selection of an outstanding leader, Jeff Scott, one of college football’s most promising coaches. 

I am thrilled to welcome Coach Scott to USF. I have no doubt that his championship-level experience and enthusiasm will elevate our football program to new heights and help lead our student-athletes to even greater achievements, both on and off the field. (Read more.)

There is so much to be excited about at USF Athletics. 

In addition to our football news, I wish to extend my congratulations to our women’s soccer team. It was a historic season, making it to NCAA sweet sixteen. Evelyn Viens earned American Athletic Conference Co-Offensive Player of the Year.  This year’s senior class compiled 117 goals, 64 assists, 298 points and 23,495 minutes played. This was one of USF’s most decorated classes.

Congratulations too to our men’s soccer team, which also achieved participation in the NCAA tournament.

3. Legislative Budget Request

As USF strives to enhance its national reputation, the support of our state leaders is more important than ever.

I am pleased that the Board of Governors, which oversees the State University System of Florida, has endorsed a Legislative Budget Request (LBR) for USF that would bring additional state investments to USF for the purpose of continuing our ascent toward greater heights of excellence. 

Our LBR calls for new, recurring state funding to be directed toward enhancing the educational experience of our undergraduate and graduate students, helping us recruit and retain additional faculty, and strengthening our strategic partnerships involving economic development and societal engagement.

If the LBR is funded, this investment will result in the hiring of a number of new faculty members, which will enhance our research enterprise and reduce our faculty-to-student ratio. Faculty will be hired at the Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee campuses, consistent with our strategic priorities and in a manner that enhances each campus’s distinctive identity.

Because of the synergistic relationship with the region we serve, the state’s future investments will create a multiplier effect that will benefit our state and our communities for years to come.

4. Jabil Innovation Institute

As we work hand-in-hand with our partners in the State Legislature and with the Board of Governors, we are also cultivating exciting partnerships with the business community.

I was delighted to recently announce to the USF community a $1 million gift to USF from Jabil, one of our region’s largest and most prominent companies. The first-year gift of $800,000 and research funding of $200,000 will create a new USF Jabil Institute.

The Institute will provide opportunities for our students to gain experience with an industry-leading company, as well as leverage USF’s research and faculty strengths in developing practical solutions to real-world challenges. We look forward to forging a deeper relationship with Jabil and its CEO Mark Mondello (a USF alumnus) to build an exemplar of industry-academic partnership that is both innovative and sustainable. (Read more.

5. Morsani College of Medicine Ribbon-Cutting

After five years of planning and construction, I am pleased to announce that our new USF Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute in downtown Tampa, in the Water Street district, is set to officially open with a ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled for January 2020.

Equipped with state-of-the-art technology and innovative teaching and research spaces, the Morsani building is in close proximity to our main teaching hospital, Tampa General Hospital. 

The facility will help us attract even more top-tier students and cardiovascular researchers and will energize our vision to lure more biotechnology, biomedical and pharmaceutical firms to the Tampa Bay region. The building will support a stronger and more vibrant regional economy, sparking at least $2.35 in local economic activity for every $1 in NIH funding we receive. (Read more.)

The building will also be home to our Taneja College of Pharmacy, which in August was named with a historic $10 million gift from the Taneja family. This landmark gift was the largest philanthropic gift to a pharmacy school in the state of Florida. The gift will help Dean Kevin Sneed and the entire College community strengthen our already successful pharmacy program and further elevate the College’s national reputation for innovation.

6. Principles of Community and Listening Tour

My team and I are deeply committed to further reinforcing USF’s already inclusive community, which embraces a diversity of backgrounds and points of view. 

During late October I announced the formation of a university task force on USF’s Principles of Community. This diverse group of faculty, staff and students will draft a list of principles that will further cement our inclusive community.

The task force, chaired by Dean Charles Adams, recently held its first few meetings and is already generating valuable ideas and perspectives. 

We will soon be reaching out to you to solicit your feedback and ideas, as well. Please stay tuned for more information on upcoming town hall sessions on each of our three campuses in January, as well as a web-based feedback mechanism that will be launched within the next month.

I look forward to receiving the work of the task force by February 28th, at which point I will share its recommendations with the wider USF community. This work will serve as a foundation for the broader strategic renewal process, which will further articulate our shared strategy, mission, vision and goals for ONE USF: Geographically Distributed.

On the subject of strategic renewal, a key element of the process is my “listening tour” to hear the views, ideas and aspirations of members of the university community. I’ve already met with many of our colleagues from around the university, at each of our three campuses. 

During the new year I will continue my tour with dozens more visits to academic and administrative units, which are now scheduled through the spring of 2020.

7. Consolidation Update

We have been making great strides in the effort to consolidate USF as ONE USF: Geographically Distributed.

During its meeting on December 3, the USF Board of Trustees voiced its strong endorsement of the alignment of USF’s principles of consolidation and our substantive change prospectus document, which articulates how we will consolidate. During spring of 2020, the prospectus will be submitted to our accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Hundreds of members of the USF community have contributed to the prospectus document. I wish to thank each of you for your continued willingness to collaborate as we build a new future together. As we continue to work toward consolidation, I am fully confident that our shared spirit of cooperation will ensure a successful outcome.

As we begin to realize the positive benefits of uniting our three campuses, we have an exciting opportunity to share the story of a reimagined USF with our wider community. In order to do so, we have launched a new blog series on the USF website, which is dedicated to conveying the possibilities involving consolidation’s impact on the university. Each blog is co-authored by university leaders from each of our campuses, sharing their unique perspectives on our united university’s impact. Read these blogs here: 

Once again, I wish to convey my deepest appreciation to each of you for your commitment to our extraordinary university. I look forward to seeing you during the course of my ongoing listening tour visits. In the meantime, I welcome you to follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to stay up-to-date on my activities to promote our great university.

Cheyenne and I wish you and your families a restful and joyful holiday season.  

Steven C. Currall
President and Professor

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