USF moves forward in research plan

After moving ahead in research, USF is on track to improve its strategic plan, said Ralph Wilcox, vice provost for USF.

USF moved ahead in six of the nine categories in the 2003 report on The Top American Research Universities published by The Center at the University of Florida in early December. Wilcox said this would help move USF along in its strategic plan, which details the goals for each college and the university as a whole up to 2007.

The Center publishes annual reports that are focused on the nation’s most competitive research universities. The report ranks the Top American Research Universities on nine different measures: total research, federal research, endowment assets, annual giving, national academy members, faculty awards, doctorates granted, postdoctoral appointees and median SAT scores.

Wilcox said the report shows changes from 2000-02 in some areas, and that USF is moving in the right direction toward accomplishing and improving its goals in the strategic plan.

“We are doing very well,” Wilcox said. Overall, USF was placed in the same grouping as Clemson University, Oregon State University, Temple University and the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.

In Florida, two state universities, the University of Florida, ranked 29th, and Florida State University, 43rd, rank higher than USF’s 65th place in total research among all national research universities. But USF is ranked higher than University of Central Florida in 114th and Florida International University in 82nd place.

According to The Center’s report, USF ranks 43rd for total research among public research universities, 62nd for federal research, 63rd for annual giving, 66th for faculty awards, 55th for doctorates awarded and 77th for postdoctoral appointees. All of these areas show increases from last year’s report. For example, according to the report for 2002, USF ranked 47th in total research.

However, there are three categories that USF slid in the rankings from the 2002 report, Wilcox said. In the category of endowment assets, or money that the university receives from donors, USF ranked 59th, compared to 58th last year; 64th in national academy members, which are faculty members that belong to prestigious groups, compared to 63rd last year; and 185th in median SAT score, compared to 124th last year.

Wilcox said the big concern is the median SAT score because it affects USF’s plan to compare itself to other Research I universities. The reported median SAT of 1045 refers to the 2001 academic year.

“That is one area of concern that the president, myself and other administrators are looking into,” Wilcox said.

In a memorandum to USF President Judy Genshaft, Wilcox said: “This indicates the need for immediate and significant management of enrollment if USF is serious about raising its status among the referenced institutions.”

Wilcox said he was encouraged by an increase in the median score in the last two years that will be reflected in future reports. According to Wilcox, the median SAT score for 2002 increased to 1056 and to 1084 for last year.

“There is a bit of a lag time between their data and what we have,” Wilcox said. “So there is cause for optimism.”

However, the SAT median is not the only concern the administration needs to address, Wilcox said.

“We need to work on the salary for our faculty, so they can be more inclined to stay at USF and become part of those prestigious groups,” he said.

The first annual progress report of the strategic plan to the Board of Trustees was in November. A progress report produced by the Provost’s Office highlighted faculty salaries and enrollment management as areas that need improvement. Wilcox said he sees the same priorities reflected in The Center’s rankings.

However, Genshaft said in a news release that the news of rankings is a promising sign that USF is on the right track.

“This report confirms that USF is continuing to rise in stature among research universities nationally,” Genshaft said. “We should all be proud of what our faculty, staff and students have accomplished.”