Dear members of the USF community,
I am thrilled to join you as the seventh president of the University of South Florida!
The presidency is a position of stewardship and service -- service to you; to this outstanding university’s evolution as a global research institution; to the growing economic impact of the Tampa Bay region; and to the ideals of higher education that the USF community holds dear. Thank you for your confidence.
I write to share with you my vision and plans on several topics:
During its relatively short institutional history of about 60 years, USF’s ascent in the higher education landscape has been remarkable:
- The university ranks 25th among public universities in the nation in total research expenditures.
- USF received the 2019 American Council on Education Award for Institutional Transformation for its student success initiative to elevate student retention and graduation rates, which resulted in USF’s six-year graduation rate rising from 51 to 73 percent during the period from 2010 to 2018.
- USF ranks 7th among public universities in the nation and 16th among all universities worldwide in creating new patents.
- USF is one of only three universities in Florida, and the first located in a metropolitan area, to achieve “Preeminence” based on the performance metrics set by the State Legislature and monitored by the Florida Board of Governors.
- USF was recently awarded a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, our country’s most prestigious academic honor society.
This is but only a sample of the university’s many accolades.
Of all of the mileposts it has achieved, the most extraordinary feature of USF is the rate at which it is reaching those milestones. For example, during the past six years, USF has exhibited greater gains in U.S. News & World Report rankings than any public or private university. Indeed, it’s USF’s trajectory that is so compelling.
That upward trajectory is due in large part to its agility as a young and enterprising university, coupled with the fact that we are embedded in a vibrant metropolitan community within the progressive and entrepreneurial state of Florida. I am confident that USF can become to the Tampa Bay region what Stanford has been to Silicon Valley: an innovative, intellectual engine that will power the region’s most audacious aspirations.
USF has so much momentum because of President Genshaft’s – as well as the broader university’s – persistent focus on strategic goals during the past several decades. Those goals include driving student success, research productivity, economic development and global visibility.
My mission is to build on this momentum, fostering a campus environment where we will relentlessly push forward. My singular objective for our university during the remainder of my career will be, together with each of you, to advance the trajectory of USF to become an overall top 25 public university in the United States. Our ultimate objective is to reach eligibility in the Association of American Universities, the 62 top research universities in North America.
One of my first priorities will be to embark on a listening tour across each of our campuses and locations so I can better understand our shared values, competitive differentiators and strategic opportunities. I am eager to get to know you and hear your ideas. I will visit academic, administrative and athletic units on all our campuses, as well as the biomedical research and clinical units that comprise USF Health. Faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of USF will all be included.
I will immerse myself in our surrounding communities so the university can forge an even stronger reciprocal relationship with the region we serve. I will spend time talking to key higher education leaders around the country, including at the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Close consultation with SACSCOC will be vital to our efforts to consolidate our three campuses into a single accredited unit by the summer of 2020.
Fundamental to my listening process will be consultations with Board of Trustees Chair Jordan Zimmerman, Vice Chair Les Muma and each of the other trustees. I also will be in close contact with members of the State University System Board of Governors, Chancellor Marshall Criser, Governor DeSantis, and leaders of city, state and federal government.
The intent of my listening tour is to more deeply understand the unique features of the Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee campuses. In two of my previous university leadership positions, I oversaw multiple campuses. Thus, I fully comprehend the importance of understanding and promoting the differentiated features of each campus, how they contribute to their specific geographical regions, and how they can be aligned to advance the strategic vision of a unified university.
I am also committed to working hand-in-hand with the Faculty Senates and the United Faculty of Florida (UFF). As the lifeblood of our university, our faculty colleagues engage in research and creative work, teach, and deliver service to our communities – all of which is vital to our mission. The leadership of the Faculty Senate and the UFF have already warmly welcomed me. I am eager to engage with both organizations to forge an even stronger partnership for advancing USF.
There are many conversations that will take place during my first year. Indeed, my listening tour will last longer than 100 days; it will remain a central focus of my first year as your president.
USF is a university in motion. It attracts the courageous, the bold, the dreamers: those who believe that the future holds opportunities yet to be realized. Even more exciting than what USF has accomplished is the extraordinary promise of what it will accomplish in the future. USF has a compelling strategic direction. Now, our task is to renew and enhance that vision.
USF is a university where excellence and opportunity converge. By “excellence,” we refer to the quality and stature of the university. We will strive each day to reach higher levels of performance in our scholarship, artistic activities, teaching, learning, athletics, and service to the Tampa Bay region, Florida, the United States and the world. Our faculty have been recognized as members of the National Academies, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and as fellows and members of many other esteemed academic societies. Each member of our faculty is vital to the overall mission of the university.
Our administration and staff members are integral to the effective functioning of our operations and facilities. Our students contribute energy, curiosity and enthusiasm to our campus environment. And our alumni, donors and supporters across the country are helping us make a broad impact on society at large.
We recognize that advancing the “stature” of the university involves telling our compelling story to others in the higher education, business, governmental and non-profit communities. It is not enough to simply strive for and reach excellence; we must ensure that others know about our achievements and how we compare to other universities.
In addition to our commitment to excellence, as one of the great public universities in the world, USF also represents opportunity. At its core, USF is an intellectual community where faculty, staff and students inspire each other to reach even greater heights. We provide a welcoming and safe community for students who are first in their families to attend college, those from a broad range of socio-economic backgrounds, those who have overcome adversity, and those with the resilience to embark on a path of continuous improvement. Our university is comprised of a fascinating fabric of individuals with different perspectives that inform each person’s individuality.
The USF community is comprised of trailblazers. Take for example, Britney Deas, the first African-American woman to be elected as the president of the USF Student Government Association. Growing up in a Haitian family in Miami, Britney was raised by her mother and grandmother. She believes in the value of education and a strong work ethic, and at USF she has found an environment where she can bring her ideas to life and realize her potential. Britney serves as a role model, not only for our undergraduate students, but for all of us.
So, how will we build on existing strategic planning and further renew our strategic plan for USF to foster even greater academic quality and stature?
By building on what I refer to as the “architecture” of academic excellence. This architecture has four main pillars:
- The quality of undergraduate students and their educational experience
- Faculty, research and creative impact
- The quality of graduate students and their educational experience
- Strategic partnerships involving societal engagement and service, and fulfilling our catalytic role as an engine of regional economic development, health and prosperity.
The bedrock of our strategic renewal is a commitment to community principles that reinforce inclusion, civility, open expression, evidence-based deliberations and vigorous debate. These dynamics are crucial to our success in forging a new future for USF.
Therefore, I am announcing today that I will form a task force comprised of a broad cross-section of university stakeholders to craft a document that captures USF’s “Principles of Community.” Many universities have such documents, which, in my experience, can become a mechanism to reinforce a campus climate of mutual support among faculty, staff and students. The principles will also guide the process of deliberation for USF’s strategic renewal. By September 15, I will announce the members of the task force and their charge for producing USF’s Principles of Community.
The members of my leadership team comprise a terrific group of seasoned professionals who are dedicated to fueling USF’s success in research, creative activities, student success and responsible fiscal management.
Today, I am announcing that I will launch a national search for a new Senior Vice President for Advancement and CEO of the USF Foundation. As many of you know, during March of this year, Joel Momberg announced his plans to retire on October 31st. Because of Joel’s leadership, USF has made incredible strides in fundraising. He leaves an impressive legacy, and I am grateful he has agreed to help us find a driven leader who can help take USF to even greater heights.
As we move into this next chapter for USF, I wish to emphasize that this university belongs to all of us. The success USF has achieved is due to the creativity, ingenuity and determination of the entire university community. As your president, I will help envision the strategic direction of the university; I will aim to inspire you to strive for excellence in your roles; and I will serve as a tireless advocate for our further prominence in academic endeavors, on the athletic field/court and across the community, as well as in securing greater resources and philanthropic support for the university.
I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together!
I look forward to meeting you soon. In the meantime, please share any ideas, questions or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.