The USF community had the opportunity to interact with the two candidates seeking to become the university’s eighth president – the final step before both of them interview with the Board of Trustees.
Rhea Law and Jeffrey Talley spent an hour on each campus Monday answering questions submitted through the USF Presidential Search website and from the audience.
The presidential candidates discussed their philosophies on a range of issues, such as dedicating more resources to research, enhancing the student experience and building support for a new on-campus stadium. They discussed consolidation and the need for each campus to have its own identity.
Talley addressed diversity, equity and inclusion by sharing his experiences serving as a lieutenant general in the military where he promoted women and people of color to leadership positions. Law shared how her law firm grew from her serving as the only female attorney to being one of the most diverse law firms in the state.
With the impending retirement of Provost Ralph Wilcox, both said that if president, they would conduct a national search for a world-class scholar – someone with the experience who can continue USF’s trajectory as America’s fastest-rising university. The candidates explained the significance of attracting new funding sources beyond the Florida Legislature through avenues such as corporate partnerships and philanthropy.
“We have to work on that endowment, and we have to work on other things, like endowed professorships, competitive salaries for faculty/staff and better student experiences. It’s those basic blocks and tackles that national universities do,” Talley said. “The biggest thing overall that I’ve seen that gets to that national ranking is the endowment. Give the gift that keeps on giving.”
“It’s not just about money, it’s about how we deal with our finances,” Law said. “We need to make sure that we have a balanced budget, and while we’re balancing it we need to look for opportunities and synergies and other ways to reduce costs so we can make investments in the infrastructure we need for innovation, we need the lab space, we need the support for research, we need support for our students and this is only going to come if we have a very clear, transparent and predictable budgeting process.”
The candidates also discussed their viewpoints on environmental sustainability – Law sharing her expertise in environmental law, Talley his background in environmental engineering. They also explained their thought process in maintaining diversity of thought in an increasingly politicized climate and outlined their previous experiences working with unions.
Following the campus visits, participants had the opportunity to share feedback online through the USF Presidential Search website, which will be reviewed by the USF Board of Trustees prior to interviewing the candidates at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, March 22, in Traditions Hall, at the Gibbons Alumni Center on the Tampa campus. The Board will evaluate the candidates and may then name the next president, subject to confirmation by the Florida Board of Governors.