During her annual address, USF President Judy Genshaft painted a picture of an up-and-coming university that stands out from the herd. The speech, held Wednesday in the Marshall Student Center Oval Theater, was given to a crowd of a few hundred faculty, staff and students.
Focusing on recent achievements, Genshaft marked her 15th presidential fall address by placing the spotlight on the incoming freshman class. The class of 2019 is the strongest class in the university’s history, as reported by The Oracle, with incoming students boasting an average GPA of 4.08 and two-part SAT score of 1223.
The university has also shown improvement in the area of grants and research, with a university record of $440.5 million awarded in research grants and contracts. This number is up from 2013-2014’s $428,257,788.
Along with this, the university six-year graduation rate has increased from 43 percent in 2008 to 67 percent.
These improvements came during a time Genshaft said was “two years of preparation for USF Tampa’s accreditation review from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).”
“When the SACS team sat down with me to deliver their report, there was not one single criticism; not one recommendation,” she said. “To me, that was the equivalent of an A+, something virtually unheard of in an institution as large and as complex as ours.”
According to Genshaft, 51 students won nationally recognized scholarships this year.
She added the university has been cooperating with local and state governments to increase its standing within the state and the city of Tampa. The Tampa Innovation Alliance, a partnership between private organizations and the local government, has received a $2 million investment from Hillsborough County, which she said USF hopes to use as funding to improve the Temple Terrace area.
“We are driving the Tampa Bay region’s economy to a powerful future, not only as one of its largest employers, but also as a research and talent powerhouse,” she said.
Genshaft also focused on the size of the university, highlighting the Honors College’s position as the largest in the state, as well as bringing attention to the 48,793 students currently enrolled.
Some important on-campus developments also received acknowledgement during the address. USF has plans to create new student housing that will provide 1,100 new beds and Genshaft said the Tampa campus will be tobacco free by this spring.
In an email to The Oracle from University Communications and Marketing, the new smoking policy would ban tobacco use campus wide, including all uses of tobacco, such as e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco.
The new housing project would result in a $133 million Andros Village, replacing the existing Andros dorms built in the ’60s, that features semi-suite and traditional style beds, a health and wellness facility, a pool and an on-campus grocery store.
According to Genshaft, this new housing development still needs approval from the Florida Board of Governors.
“Our continued high-achievement sends a very important message to the people of Florida: Their investment is well-placed in us,” Genshaft said.