University of South Florida


Tampa Bay business leaders, community partners share excitement in USF’s AAU membership

Through its new membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU), the University of South Florida is now considered in the nation’s top 3 percent of four-year universities. USF’s unprecedented milestone will have a ripple effect across Tampa Bay and the state of Florida. According to the AAU, the world’s brightest faculty, staff and students are historically known to gravitate to AAU universities located in metropolitan areas. Tampa Bay business and community leaders applaud the extraordinary economic benefits that this will bring to the region.

Tampa skyline


St. Petersburg skyline




Bob Rohrlack, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Chamber: “USF already plays a key role working with businesses in our region to help bring and grow thousands of high-paying jobs in our community. As an AAU member, USF Bulls are now even better positioned to help drive economic development in our region, and that benefits the entire community! USF’s trajectory continues to exceed goals and has a huge impact strengthening our local economy.”   

Marcus Greene, chair of the St. Petersburg Economic Development Corp.: “This recognition highlights the role of USF as a pillar of our economy, making our region even more attractive to businesses considering relocation or expansion in Tampa Bay. The university’s excellence is a draw for companies seeking workforce talent and research capabilities.  Innovative offerings, like global research at the College of Marine Science and the Muma College of Business’s Fintech Center of Excellence, provide cutting-edge opportunities for businesses to partner with the university on groundbreaking initiatives.  We are delighted that the Association of American Universities recognizes USF’s achievements and are proud of the university’s exceptional contributions to our community.”

Heather Kasten, president and CEO of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce: “Congratulations to the University of South Florida for joining the prestigious AAU and being recognized for providing a pipeline of quality graduates and creating opportunities for business partnerships in our local area.”

Craig J. Richard, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council: “This is a tremendous achievement that puts USF among the ranks of the country’s most prestigious universities. AAU membership will strengthen our region’s national reputation as a top destination for research and innovation and it will boost our talent attraction and retention efforts and business recruitment activities. Congratulations to President Law and the entire USF family of faculty members, staff, students and alumni!”

Mayor Ken Welch, city of St. Petersburg: "The acceptance of the University of South Florida into the Association of American Universities is a historic and well-deserved designation. As a proud 'Bull,' I'm thrilled that my alma mater is joining the ranks of such esteemed research universities across North America. As mayor, I'm even more excited about what this means for the future of USF and its role in the city of St. Petersburg. Like USF, St. Petersburg's growth is paving the way in delivering impactful, innovative and inclusive progress. I look forward to our continued partnership and commitment to improving the lives of those we serve."

Joe Lopano, CEO of Tampa International Airport: “Congrats on joining the Association of American Universities! This is wonderful news for USF and our entire community. We’re proud of the University’s continued success and celebrate this milestone alongside of you.”

John Couris, president and CEO of Tampa General Hospital: “We are proud to partner every day with USF to provide world-class care across our community and beyond. We know that USF’s inclusion as an AAU member and its recognition as a leading U.S. academic institution will strengthen our collective ability to drive innovation, propel breakthroughs in discovery, and improve the health outcomes for patients here and around the world. We congratulate President Law, the USF Board of Trustees, our colleagues at USF Health, and the entire USF community. As an alum of the USF Muma College of Business, I am one proud bull.”

Archie Collins, president and CEO of Tampa Electric: “Congratulations to USF on the university’s acceptance into the prestigious Association of American Universities. This milestone is a testament to the university’s commitment to research excellence and to student success, which Tampa Electric has seen first-hand throughout a long-standing partnership that is focused on creating cutting-edge solutions for a smarter energy future. We are thrilled that USF is receiving this well-deserved honor, and we look forward to seeing how AAU membership further catalyzes the impact USF has on our region.”

Haresh Patel, executive director of Business Services and Amgen Capability Center site lead: “Congratulations, USF on joining the Association of American Universities. Five years ago, when Amgen put down roots in Tampa, we made a commitment to extend our footprint within the local community, develop a diverse pipeline of talent, and create strategic relationships with ‘research-intensive universities.’ As the Amgen Foundation reimagines how students access and experience science learning, we are proud that our work with the university through the Amgen Biotech Experience will continue to help shape the future of higher education, science and innovation.” 

National Academy of Inventors: “Congratulations to our founding NAI member institution, University of South Florida.”

Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities: “Congratulations to our friends at the University of South Florida becoming the first members of the Florida Consortium to join the Association of American Universities. This is a big deal. #HornsUP."

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor: "Congratulations University of South Florida for being one of the top tier research universities in the country by the Associaton of American Univerities. Keep up the great work. You make us proud. Go Bulls."

U.S. Rep. Laurel Lee: "Congratulations to the University of South Florida for joining the Association of American Universities! This is a tremendous accomplishment for the university’s students and staff to formally be recognized as a top research institute, showcasing USF’s commitment to excellence. USF continues to be a global powerhouse, shaping the future of higher education, science, and innovation for generations to come. Congratulations again – Tampa Bay and the entire state of Florida are proud of you."

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan: “Congratulations to the University of South Florida for joining the Association of American Universities. As a member of the most prestigious higher education association, USF will have more opportunities to pursue groundbreaking research and attract academic talent. Go Bulls!”

Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo: “I’m so proud of the achievements of USF. Their impact in the state is felt in so many ways including through their expanding pipeline of talent and research that is helping grow Florida’s economy. Congratulations to the Bulls community on this well-deserved recognition!” 

Florida House Speaker Paul Renner: “Achieving membership in the AAU is a testament to USF’s longstanding commitment to student success, world-class research and faculty excellence. Joining this prestigious association positions the university to compete for the best talent nationally and accelerates the economic development of the Tampa Bay region and the state of Florida.  This is a very proud moment for our state.” 

Sen. Joe Gruters, Florida Senate: “This is awesome news for USF. Congratulations to everyone who contributed to this effort including USF President Rhea Law, the USF Board of Trustees, the students and all alumni. Proud to be a USF alum.”

Sen. Nick DiCeglie, Florida Senate: “Congratulations to the faculty, staff, and students at the University of South Florida who made this invitation possible. President Rhea Law has done an excellent job leading this university and solidifying USF's status as a premier academic institution.”

Former Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls: “The University of South Florida’s invitation to join the AAU demonstrates the university’s commitment to excellence and its meteoric rise over the past few years. Go Bulls!”

Brian Lamb, chair of the Florida Board of Governors: “For many years, the University of South Florida has changed lives through research, education, and innovation. As a former chair of their board of trustees I’m proud to see USF achieve membership in the prestigious AAU. This historic accomplishment is a tremendous milestone for USF, Tampa Bay, and this great state. Membership in the AAU will provide students and faculty with new academic and research opportunities that seek to address global challenges, creating a transformational impact on generations to come. Congratulations to President Law, Chair Weatherford, and the entire USF community. Go Bulls!”

Ray Rodrigues, chancellor of the State University System of Florida: “Congratulations to the University of South Florida for achieving this significant milestone. USF has been relentless in their pursuit of academic excellence and has been a national leader in student success and research along the way.  The trajectory of higher education in Florida is unparalleled and this accomplishment is a shining example of that achievement.” 

Alan Levine, chair of the Florida Board of Governors Strategic Planning Committee: “We all knew the University of South Florida was elite, but now the elite say USF is elite! This Gator is a proud Bull today!”

Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sport Commission: “HUGE accomplishment! Congratulations to Will Weatherford, President Rhea Law and the countless others over the years who helped make this happen! What a great day for our alma mater!”

Mike Aresco, commissioner of the American Athletic Conference: “I would like to congratulate President Rhea Law and the entire University of South Florida community on the University's acceptance into the prestigious Association of American Universities. This announcement is the culmination of many years of outstanding leadership and innovation that has transformed a relatively young university into a national leader in research and education.”

Paul J. Luna, president and CEO of Helios Education Foundation: “Congratulations to the University of South Florida (USF) for being named to the prestigious Association of American Universities. Helios Education Foundation has been a proud partner of USF for nearly two decades, and we look forward to reaching even greater heights as the university advances innovation and research.” 

Brian Auld, chair of the Tampa Bay Partnership, president of the Tampa Bay Rays and vice chair of the Tampa Bay Rowdies: “Congratulations to President Law and the University of South Florida for this outstanding accomplishment. Membership in the AAU is a distinguished honor that will continue to raise the profile of USF and the Tampa Bay region. Ultimately, this type of national recognition can lead to an increase of residents, businesses, faculty and staff who will consider Florida when searching for a vibrant community in which to live, work and play." 

Alison Barlow, executive director of the St. Petersburg Innovation District: "Achieving AAU status creates a waterfall effect for USF. Increasing the research portfolio attracts top-caliber faculty and labels existing faculty as experts in their fields. That creates exciting new opportunities for high-performing students, which builds our workforce pipeline. It's a huge win for everyone in our area." 

Jason Mathis, CEO of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership: "This is a huge point of pride for our entire community. We already know that USF is a leading research institution. Being invited to be part of this respected academic group sends a powerful message to entrepreneurs who want to grow their business in St. Pete or the larger region."

Alice Bessette, executive director of Leadership Tampa Bay: “Congratulations to the University of South Florida for this incredible accomplishment. Leadership Tampa Bay is thrilled to have such a valuable partnership with the University of South Florida and look forward to continued collaboration!”

Marlene Spalten, president and CEO of Community Foundation Tampa Bay: “USF rightly belongs among elite US Universities. Our community is exceedingly proud of the university’s academic excellence, its students and alumni, and its faculty and administration! Congratulations!” 

David Pizzo, market president (West Florida) of Florida Blue: “This is an incredible achievement for the University of South Florida and entire Tampa Bay community. We are tremendously proud of Florida Blue’s long-standing partnership with the University, this esteemed AAU designation is well deserved. Congratulations to President Rhea Law, the board of trustees, faculty and staff, and entire student body, Go Bulls.” 

President Emerita Judy Genshaft: "I am overjoyed that the University of South Florida is now a member of the esteemed Association of American Universities. This is a journey that USF has traveled for more than 15 years, and I always knew that the university would one day achieve this extraordinary milestone. I extend my sincere congratulations to President Law and the rest of the USF community on this well-deserved honor."

Carol and Frank Morsani: “We have loved watching the University of South Florida grow its size, reputation, influence and excellence in all areas for the last 45 years,” said Carol and Frank Morsani. The couple made their first gift to USF in 1978 and support every facet of the university community from the USF Health College of Medicine that bears their name to student scholarships, business leadership, and the lead gift for the on-campus stadium. “This recognition from the AAU puts USF exactly where it belongs as a proud member of our nation’s most renowned universities.”

Rick Piccolo, president and CEO of the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, chair of the USF Sarasota-Manatee Campus Board and member of the USF Board of Trustees: “Congratulations to the USF community on this extraordinary achievement! Throughout the years, our university has served as a catalyst for regional growth, driving economic development, and fostering meaningful partnerships with businesses and organizations. This is a proud moment that extends to all of USF and their alumni, partners and communities. Go Bulls!” 

Lisa Krouse, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County: “It is quite an honor to have USF join the AAU. It is clear that our community will benefit greatly from being a part of the group of distinguished universities, particularly other leading research universities. Congratulations USF! Go Bulls!”

Melissa Seixas, chair of the USF St. Petersburg Campus Board and member of the USF Board of Trustees: "As a proud alumna, I am thrilled that USF has been invited to join AAU. This is truly a testament to the hard work and dedication of the entire USF community. AAU membership opens up so many exciting possibilities for our entire region and I can't wait to see what the future brings."

The Bernard Osher Foundation: “University of South Florida’s admission to the AAU is a testament to USF’s embodiment of their vision and values: depth of faculty talent, innovative scholarship, and commitment to engaging students of all ages. The Bernard Osher Foundation celebrates this achievement and the opportunities it will bring to the campus community, Osher Reentry Scholars, and the members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at USF.”

Sharon Hillstrom, president and CEO of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation: “Congratulations to USF on being invited to join the nation’s top research universities as a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities!  The University of South Florida is a key driver for successful economic development in our region. Achieving this milestone elevates the profile of higher education in our community and will serve as a catalyst for enhancing and sustaining our ability to attract top notch talent. Go Bulls!”

Brittany Lamont, president and CEO of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance: “Higher Education is an economic engine in our region. We are so fortunate to have a highly respected institution like the University of South Florida producing top quality talent for our local employers.” 

Robert A. Krause, CEO of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation: “We are thrilled to see our grantee partner, the University of South Florida, receive this well-deserved accomplishment. Their commitment to academic excellence, research and equipping students to be tomorrow’s leaders – combined with membership in the AAU – will have an even greater impact on the future of higher education, employment and economic development in Florida. Congratulations to the USF community on this historic milestone.”

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