Turning 50

What a difference 50 years can make.

When USF came into existence in December 1956, the landscape around the University was completely different. There were no roads, no buildings, no classes. Today the Tampa campus alone plays host to more than 35,000 students and is a driving economic force in the Tampa Bay area.

The woman charged with leading the University into its future is President Judy Genshaft. Via an email interview with Oracle Editor in Chief Brad Bautista, President Genshaft shared her thoughts on the past, present and future of USF as well as what it’s like to be at the helm during a landmark anniversary.

BB: What drew you to USF?

JG: There are several reasons I was drawn to USF … excellence in my discipline, School of Psychology is one of the best in country. I have attended and worked at large comprehensive institutions throughout my education and career. USF was a natural fit. Its large athletic program, research focus, etc. (I) felt that USF had so much opportunity and I wanted to go to an institution where I could make a difference. It was young and still developing to its potential, especially being in the Tampa Bay region (which itself is growing.)

BB: What direction is the University headed in the coming (say, five or so) years? Where do you see USF in 10 years? Thirty years? At its centennial anniversary? Do you envision the demographics changing? Will USF assume the role of a more traditional university, or will commuter students continue to comprise a substantial portion of the student population?

JG: Our focus is on student success and research. Since arriving at USF, I have worked to enhance the student experience through more modern residence halls, Greek housing, leadership house experiences, a new student union (they will be tearing down the SEC in a couple weeks), entrance into the Big East Athletic conference, establishment of TAPS (student retention program), upgraded new student orientation program, etc.

It is also important that USF continue to serve the citizens of the Tampa Bay region, but we must provide alternatives based on the type experiences students would like. Today, students can live on campus in Tampa and St. Petersburg, but have two completely different experiences (one large campus environment; the other small campus environment) or commute to classes at any of our four campuses depending on the type experience they would like.

I also believe USF is the best metropolitan university in the nation. We are the ninth largest and only one of three public research universities in Florida to be named in the top tier of the Carnegie Foundation. USF brings in the second-highest research dollars in the state and USF is located in a fast-growing region.

BB: As USF continues to grow and prosper, what will its status be locally and nationally? What kind of impact do you see the University having in Tampa and on the state level? The University of Florida is widely regarded as the best public university in the state – how quickly is the gap shrinking?

JG: Currently USF has a $3.2 billion impact on the Tampa Bay region. I envision that number to at least double in the next few years. Our externally funded research dollars exceeded $300 million this year ($310.2 million), which makes us the second-largest public research university in the state of Florida and one of the top 63 public research universities in the nation. I envision our research dollars will continue to grow and our goal to be a top premier national research university will occur – not just a top 50, but a top 35. The value of your degree increases as USF moves up nationally among the top institutions.

I also envision our athletic programs to win national championships and that USF is the next Florida institution to be admitted into AAU (the Association of American Universities). Lastly, I envision that USF is voted top choice of students when selecting a higher education institution in Florida.

BB: What were some of the significant or memorable events that have taken place during your presidency, and what did those events mean for the University?

JG: Graduation is always a significant and memorable event for me. Getting into the Big East and seeing the Marshall Center facility become more than just a vision. Being President during the University’s 50th anniversary has been exciting and memorable. It has been enlightening to reflect on the founding/past, celebrate the present and plan for the future.

BB: What do you envision as your legacy at USF? Castor Hall and the John and Grace Allen building are two on-campus instances of presidential commemoration; can students expect to do their studying at the Genshaft Library in the future? Literally and figuratively, what mark will you leave upon USF?

JG: A legacy is not just a name on a building, it is about the impact one had on the students, faculty, community, and citizens of Florida. My hope is that the students we educate become global citizens and that their connectivity to USF is for a lifetime. In addition, I hope my legacy includes establishing national prominence for USF as a premier research university with a network of campuses with their own distinctive identities.

I want our students, faculty, staff and Tampa Bay community to be proud of their university and to display that pride by wearing USF clothing, purchasing USF license plates, attending athletic, cultural or educational events and by supporting our efforts statewide.