*This is part of a series authored by leaders with varying perspectives on the benefits of USF being "One Unversity Geographically Distributed."
By Eric Eisenberg, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Tampa Campus
Brett Kemker, Regional Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Student Success, Sarasota-Manatee Campus
Paul Kirchman, Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, Sarasota-Manatee Campus
Magali Michael, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, St. Petersburg Campus
The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) is the intellectual heart of every great research university, bearing responsibility for teaching much of undergraduate general education and for conducting instruction and research in every traditional field of study, from the humanities to the social sciences to the natural sciences and mathematics. We are a community of teachers and scholars united in the belief that broadly educated people are the basis of a just, free, and prosperous society.
Moreover, by focusing on the big questions facing all of humanity, we prepare students for successful personal and professional lives. We closely monitor workforce trends to ensure that our graduates can secure meaningful employment in their chosen field and are well-prepared to progress to advanced degrees. And by conducting innovative, interdisciplinary research and scholarship, we advance knowledge in ways that prepare us to address vexing social problems and enhance the quality of life for people and communities.
The decision to consolidate the three USF campuses into one, top-tier, national research university “geographically distributed”, broadens not only our physical but also our intellectual footprint and will be a boon to the College of Arts and Sciences, our faculty and the students we serve.
The most apparent advantage of consolidation for the College is growth and our students’ and communities’ immediate access to talented faculty from across the Tampa Bay region. In some cases, the combination of talents creates enhanced clusters of distinction, notably in the areas of psychology, anthropology, digital media studies, and environmental sciences. In other areas, these combinations of faculty build on existing strengths found at each of the three campuses. As such, consolidation will raise the research profile of the College.
A second advantage of consolidation is the ability to provide more comprehensive support services to faculty and students through the expansion and coordination of our talented staff from all three campuses. CAS staff in Tampa have spent over a decade creating service and support centers for faculty that will scale well in a consolidated unit that will grow and improve through the inclusion of new staff from the branch campuses. Specifically, the CAS Office of Research and Scholarship is eager to provide faculty on the branch campuses with equitable research support services, ensuring that they can meet the rising expectations for scholarly productivity in a consolidated university.
Perhaps the greatest advantage to be realized through consolidation is expanded opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students to take advantage of faculty and programs of study from across all three campuses. CAS leadership looks forward to working collaboratively with Regional Chancellors, Campus Deans, Campus Chairs, and the faculty as a whole to iron out the logistical details required to provide access and facilitate seamless movement throughout the university. In the end, we are confident that this merging of people and cultures will result in a formidable College of Arts and Sciences that is far greater than the sum of its parts.
The grand challenges facing society at this moment in history are interdisciplinary and are not confined to any particular geographical area. The Tampa Bay area is in need of institutions that have both the bold vision and the talent to address vexing issues—such as transportation, food insecurity, affordable housing, and climate change—that affect all of the communities across our service area. Together we can produce the knowledgeable, entrepreneurial, and talented individuals needed for the region to thrive.
Ultimately, perhaps the most lasting effect of consolidation will be that the University of South Florida will serve as an anchor institution, driving economic development and collaborative problem-solving across the entire Tampa Bay region. It will do so both by remaining committed to addressing local challenges and opportunities as well as by taking on a regional role that both includes and transcends local matters. In this way, the consolidation provides an opportunity to bring together representatives in Florida Senate and House of Representatives along with city and county leaders in the greater Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee areas to develop mutually beneficial relations and to work together to champion strategic investments in the university that will benefit the region. The consolidated University of South Florida College of Arts and Sciences is poised to be a leader in these important efforts.