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USF budgets for future STEM initiatives

While regrouping from more than $25 million in state legislative cuts, USF set its legislative budget requests, approved degree programs and updated its four-year strategic work plan at the Florida Board of Governors (BOG) meeting.

The BOG convened on campus Wednesday and Thursday, when the University reaffirmed its commitment to the expansion of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs and health-related fields across all four campuses.

The board approved USF’s request of $22,993,706 from the state Legislature for 2012-13 expenditures to be used toward STEM and health-related fields, such as research and program development.

There will be 17 new degree programs, 11 of which are related to health or STEM. These new degrees will span topics such as environmental engineering and behavioral health care, as well as sports management and advertising.

USF President Judy Genshaft said to The Oracle that the University’s commitment to STEM fields helps bolster the $3.7 billion economic impact the campus generates in the community.

“(Investing in STEM fields) does play an impact because the students that are in the STEM fields are typically the ones that would be at Draper labs or in the incubator working on some technologies,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean that students from the humanities and other social sciences aren’t making a difference for the economy. (Students) in the STEM fields are usually the ones that are picked up to work with the incubative companies.”

Board Chancellor Frank Brogan said USF’s goals were in line with the state’s New Florida Initiative to create a knowledge-based economy.

“Everyone agrees that the future of Florida hinges on our ability to create through innovation or create through a talent supply chain that will give Florida a chance to grow and develop economically – creating a knowledge-based economy,” he said during the meeting.

Brogan said the commitment to the STEM fields was a necessary step for both the University and the state to take.

“If we’re going to build a knowledge-based economy, we have to take a more thoughtful look and approach to building a STEM infrastructure,” he said. “(This approach) will see more students come to a system that is better organized to capture that talent and turn out at the other end men and women who are ready to plug in to that New Florida Initiative concept.”

Genshaft said STEM fields generate the majority of research dollars for the University, due to large grants given out by the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Health.

USF received the second-highest amount in research funding in the State University System this year.

However, Brogan said the commitment to STEM fields would not come at the cost of other fields.

“We’re not talking about less degrees in the areas of arts and humanities,” he said. “We’re talking about filling areas where we are under-subscribed in the world of STEM education.”