Dear Members of the USF Community,
I would like to share with you some important news about my leadership team. Ralph Wilcox, executive vice president and provost, has informed me of his intentions to step aside from his role next year, due to a desire to spend more time with his family – which he has certainly earned. I am grateful that Dr. Wilcox has agreed to remain in his role as provost and assist in the transition for as long as is needed. The search for a new provost will begin in the spring with the goal of selecting Dr. Wilcox’s successor shortly after a new university president is hired. At the end of his tenure, Dr. Wilcox plans to remain with the university as a professor, where he will continue to support USF’s bold future.
Dr. Wilcox has called the University of South Florida his professional home for nearly two decades and has served as provost for 15 years at an unrelenting pace, continuously pushing USF toward higher levels of excellence.
We are deeply grateful to Provost Wilcox for his many contributions to USF’s outstanding momentum. Under Provost Wilcox’s leadership, USF’s academic enterprise has earned widespread recognition across the state, the nation and globally. His comprehensive approach to student success has made an impact on hundreds of thousands of students over the past decade. Under Dr. Wilcox’s leadership, USF has:
- Increased access, opportunity and diversity – from 61% white student enrollment in fall 2011 to 47% in 2021;
- Increased the academic profile of incoming freshmen – from 3.86/1188 in fall 2011 to 4.18/1297 in fall 2021 – with the number of National Merit Scholars climbing to an all-time high of 62 in 2021;
- Significantly improved the freshman retention rate – from 85% in 2010-11 to 90% in 2020-21 – and nearly eliminated the achievement gap for students of color and socioeconomic status;
- Increased the four-year FTIC graduation rate – from 36% for the 2007-11 cohort to 62% for the 2017-21 cohort;
- Improved the six-year FTIC graduation rate – from 52% for the 2005-2011 cohort to 74% for the 2015-21 cohort;
- Improved the Florida College System AA transfer student two-year graduation rate – from 34% for the 2008-10 cohort to 48% for the 2018-20 cohort;
- Increased graduate degrees awarded annually – from 3,013 in AY 2010-11 to an all-time high of 4,271 in AY 2020-21;
- Decreased average cost (of tuition, fees and books minus financial aid) for completion of a four-year degree from $14,490 in AY 2013-14 to $1,810 in AY 2019-20 – even as the undergraduate in-state full-time tuition has not changed from $6,410 over the past nine years, and graduate in-state full-time tuition has not changed from $10,428 over the past nine years;
- Led the state in percentage of undergraduate and graduate degrees awarded in state-defined “areas of strategic emphasis” – preparing a pipeline of talented graduates for employment in high-demand, high-skilled and high-paying jobs in Florida’s economy;
- And increased the number of USF students winning competitive national scholarships – from three in AY 2010-11 to 55 in AY 2020-21.
I wish to sincerely thank Dr. Wilcox for his leadership, commitment and tireless contributions to ensure USF’s continued rise in stature among the nation’s top public universities over the past decade. Today, USF is the Fastest-Rising University in the Nation, public or private – climbing in U.S. News & World Report rankings from 101st to 46th among public universities – and continues to climb in the top-50 of American public universities in the Times Higher Education World Rankings.
I am grateful for Dr. Wilcox’s commitment to the mission and vision of this university. Dr. Wilcox was critical to USF’s designation as a Florida Emerging Preeminent Research University in 2016 and, two years later, USF’s designation as the third – and only metropolitan – Preeminent Research University. It has been an honor and privilege to support the many accomplishments of Dr. Wilcox in my time as president.
Importantly, he has always kept student success at the forefront. As one exemplar of this commitment, Dr. Wilcox created the highly successful Provost’s Scholars Program. This professional development and global engagement program allows high-performing undergraduate students to graduate at least one year ahead of their peers, accelerating their bachelor’s degree program to be completed in three years. The program helps scholars stay career-focused and ready for post-graduation plans by completing three pillar experiences: study abroad or study away, research or professional development, and leadership or service. Since it began in 2011, nearly 400 students have participated.
Moreover, Dr. Wilcox and his team were instrumental in the university’s success in responding to COVID-19 – ensuring academic continuity and adaptability during these trying times, while placing priority on access for students, faculty and staff and their continued success. Under Dr. Wilcox’s leadership, critical operations, including teaching and learning, moved ahead without significant disruption.
I wish to sincerely thank Dr. Wilcox for his extraordinary dedication to student success and academic excellence at USF. We wish him the best in the next chapter of his intellectual and professional journey.
Rhea F. Law