New VP brings change to St. Pete campus

Gary A. Olson, professor of English and director for the University of South Florida graduate program in rhetoric and composition, was appointed interim associate vice president of the USF St. Petersburg campus Dec. 20.

Olson, who has published 19 books and more than 80 academic essays and articles, has accepted the position with new plans to change the St. Pete campus to a semi-autonomous school. Olson, whose latest book is titled Justifying Belief: Stanley Fish and the Work of Rhetoric, is also a scholar with a Ph.D. in literary criticism, an M.A. in 19th-century British literature and a B.A. in English literature and history.

“We’re in the process now of creating three distinct colleges: Education, Business and Arts and Sciences,” Olson said.

The new vice president also mentioned the school is looking for three deans to head these colleges.

“They would have their own separate budgets. There would be good, strong leadership in each college,” Olson said.

Another plan that would facilitate the St. Pete campus in creating its own identity is the introduction of four “Programs of Distinction.”

“(These) areas would receive special attention, special focus and some extra resources,” Olson said.

Florida studies, environmental sciences, policy and geography make up these programs.

In addition to giving these programs some extra funding, the number of teachers will be increased.

“We’re searching for 61 new faculty members and 10 executive officers. There’s going to be a huge number of new people coming into the university and it’s very, very exciting,” Olson said.

He also mentioned that USF, a Research I institution, wants to keep the dedication for faculty members who are strong researchers.

“We’re going to look for people who have a commitment to quality education, who would be very good teachers at the same time,” Olson said.

In addition, the search for new faculty is not only done nationally but internationally as well.

“There are many people in these search pools who are from different countries around the world,” Olson said.

Moreover, the St. Petersburg campus, which has a strong and growing student body of approximately 4,000 students, also plans to recruit aggressively.

“Recruiters would go out to high schools in other states and in this state. And they would let people know about our institution and why it is a good idea to come here and generally offer incentives for the better students to come here,” Olson said.

With this new outline, Olson expects that the enrollment will increase swiftly and at the same time attract more high-quality students to the programs offered at the St. Petersburg campus.

Friday morning, Olson held an institutionwide faculty meeting which the provost from the Tampa campus, as well as a member of the USF College Board attended.

Olson announced a brand new teaching excellence award for the St. Pete campus with which the school will actively recognize outstanding teachers.

Every year, one award will be given to a professor from each of the three different colleges: Arts and Sciences, Education and Business.

“Each college would have its own excellent teacher, and that person would get a $1,000 award. However, one of those three would get a $5,000 award for the best teacher in the whole institution,” Olson said.