The University of South Florida has unveiled its blueprint for the next decade.
The USF Board of Trustees today approved “A Blueprint for a Bold Future: Where Academic Excellence and Opportunity Converge”. The strategic plan sets a focused direction for USF, reinforces the university’s commitment to the communities it serves and establishes strategic initiatives that reflect USF’s many strengths.
“We are unveiling a strategic plan that positions the University of South Florida as the state’s top urban research university, while supporting bold aspirations and prioritizing our commitment to faculty excellence, student success and world-class research,” USF President Steve Currall said.
In his letter introducing the plan, Currall notes that the process of charting the university’s course began with, “and has been continuously guided by,” the adoption of USF’s Principles of Community, which emphasize the university’s commitment to inclusion, civility, freedom of expression, evidence-based deliberations and vigorous debate.
In December 2020, Currall appointed a 19-member USF Strategic Planning Advisory Task Force, composed primarily of faculty members, to help draft the new plan. The task force collected feedback through five virtual town hall listening forums; interviews, meetings and listening tours; internal and external surveys; and a strategic renewal website.
The task force and university leadership devoted nearly 200 hours to gathering input from faculty, staff and students across USF’s three campuses, as well as alumni, donors, business and community leaders and elected officials.
Charles Stanish, professor of anthropology, and Sylvia Thomas, associate professor of electrical engineering, served as task force chairs.
Stanish called the experience “really gratifying,” adding that he is proud of his task force colleagues.
“They came together for the good of the university, no one was parochial,” he said.
A key theme of the plan is USF’s role as an urban research university. It notes that of the nation’s roughly 4,300 colleges and universities, in 2019, only 160 spent $100 million or more on research. According to the National Science Foundation, that represented 91 percent of all academic research conducted in the U.S. in that year.
Of those 160 institutions, 114 are public universities, and of those, only 42 are in an urban setting. In other words, 1 percent of America’s institutions of higher education are public research universities with a main campus set in a metropolitan area with a population of at least 1 million. USF is in that 1 percent.
“Urban research universities, such as USF, are indispensable intellectual engines for addressing the challenges of the future,” Currall writes in his introductory letter.
The new plan highlights seven strategic initiatives: Analytics and Data Science: Integrating USF Digitally; Design, Arts and Performance; Global and National Security; Health, Society and Biomedical Science; Social Justice and Human Rights; Sustainability, Environmental and Oceanographic Sciences; and Biology by Design.
Stanish emphasized the importance of the feedback received by the task force in crafting the initiatives, noting that they “emerged from our consultative process.”
There also are 11 institutional core commitments: Faculty excellence; student success; staff distinction; diversity, equity and inclusion; operational excellence; athletics; research support; institutional infrastructure; the value of the arts; sustainability; and engagement and outreach.
The 49-page document identifies two key aspirations: Advance USF toward membership in the Association of American Universities, composed of 66 leading research universities in North America; and reach the top 25 of public universities in U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking. USF has ranked among the top 50 public universities in the nation in each of the last two years.
USF will seek Florida Board of Governors’ approval of the strategic renewal plan at its Sept. 1 meeting.