USF President Judy Genshaft delivered the Fall Address to a crowd of more than 200 students, staff and faculty Wednesday.
The crowd — donning everything from sport coats and bowties to Hawaiian shirts — eagerly looked on as President Genshaft stated the direction of the university and its goal of becoming one of the nation’s top 50 research universities within the next five years.
The Florida Board of Governors — which oversees Florida’s public universities — has set as its goal to have another Florida university, in addition to the University of Florida, ranked among the top 50 public research universities within the next five years.
“I believe the next university can, should be, and will be the University of South Florida,” Genshaft said.
With its 50th anniversary fast approaching, USF is looking to gain national reputability; becoming one of the nation’s top research institutions is widely seen as the answer.
“We can make a real progress of achieving national prominence,” Genshaft said. “This is a pivotal moment in USF history … it’s time we take pride in what USF has become and what we can become.”
There are literally hundreds of accountability measures that could be addressed to achieve this goal, Genshaft said. However, she added, “we need to focus on the measures that matter most … we have to determine which measures have the most impact on moving USF forward as a national research university.”
The university, along with several independently acting bodies — including the Florida Board of Governors, the top American research university rankings and the Association of American Universities — has determined that the future of the university depends on quality in four main categories. The first, according to Genshaft, is quality of programs.
“It’s clear that faculty are absolutely critical to our success,” said Genshaft. “We have to do all we can to recruit, retain and reward outstanding faculty.”
Genshaft urged faculty to nominate their colleagues for national awards, which are largely seen as a major factor in improving reputability.
“We have faculty members that are worthy of winning the kinds of national awards that improve our performance,” Genshaft said. “But you can’t win if you are not nominated.”
This year, USF faculty set a record, bringing in over $290 million in research grants. This, in part, has led the National Science Foundation to rank USF one of the top five fastest-growing research universities in the United States
“We need to continue to improve our research infrastructure,” Genshaft said. “I know that. But I am still proud of what we have accomplished.”
A top-50 ranking must be achieved through improving performance measures of student selectivity and achievement as well, Genshaft said.
“It is not enough to for us to simply enroll students,” she added. “We have to retain them and graduate them from USF.”
USF wants to attract students in targeted disciplines such as education, engineering, nursing and information technology. Even more so, they want to recruit the best students possible, Genshaft said.
“Top students want top faculty,” she added. “They want stimulating lectures, real-world research experience and a great campus life. We know that countless staff members — from university services to student affairs to university police — make these things happen.”
Genshaft also addressed the issue of campus living, as the number of resident students has increased from 3300 in recent years to almost 5000 presently. USF attempted to accommodate this demand by opening more resident halls, such as Cypress Hall and the recently renovated Beta Hall, Genshaft said.
The final category USF views as vital for improving its national ranking is private support. USF finished this past year with an endowment of more than $270 million, a record sum. The money is used for scholarships, professorships, research and many other expenses.
“Our endowment is crucial for our success because it provides permanent funding for our priorities and for our star faculty,” Genshaft said.
In January, USF was ranked 65th among top research universities in the country.