President Judy Genshaft took the stage of the Marshall Student Center (MSC) Oval Theater amid thunderous applause to deliver her fall address Wednesday afternoon.
With over 700 students and faculty in attendance and still more watching the event online, according to USF spokesman Adam Freeman, Genshaft sought to highlight USF’s growing status in the Tampa Bay community and beyond.
Her speech spoke of the achievements of current students. According to Genshaft, the 2016 freshman class has the highest average standardized test scores and GPA in the history of the university.
“USF (is) attracting high-quality students more than ever before,” she said.
The Morsani College of Medicine enrolled its largest class this semester. More than 6,000 students applied for the 183 spots in the College, according to Genshaft. The accepted students have an average score of 34 on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
Genshaft said USF’s is the highest average MCAT score of all Florida institutions, public or private.
Additionally, she said, the university also received a record $458,506,047 in research funding this year.
Genshaft said that USF is in the top 25 American public research universities and that USF is at the forefront of technology innovation and new medical drugs and products. She put it in the top 6 percent of national universities that convert research into results.
“(USF is) raising the bar of student achievement,” Genshaft said.
Also noteworthy, she added, is USF's declaration as an emerging "pre-eminent" state research university. The distinction was earned from the Board of Governors in July. She explained that this status makes the university eligible for millions more dollars in state funding.
These dollars will allow for “state-of-the-art facilities, better rewards for faculty and staff, and better resources for students,” Genshaft said.
She believes pre-eminent status will also allow USF to become nationally recognized and to recruit and retain the best students, faculty and staff.
“The USF System has never been stronger,” Genshaft said. “Our sense of purpose has never been clearer. Now is the time to focus on the future, and now is the time to claim our destiny.”
USF is the youngest university currently eligible for pre-eminent status.
The university was established 60 years ago, but it is already a “leading higher education system,” Genshaft said.
For all of the excitement about pre-eminence, Genshaft said “pre-eminence is about a mindset, not just metrics.”
“The search for new knowledge and truth is always paramount,” she said. “But so, too, is our obligation to foster diversity and promote free and civil discourse, especially on difficult topics and in challenging times.”
Genshaft said that USF’s growth would not occur without students’ personal and professional growth.
“As we uplift our university, we uplift each other,” she said.