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Provost maps out the future of USF

Provost Ralph Wilcox plans to put more of a focus on affordability and diversity moving forward. ORACLE FILE PHOTO

In hopes to maintain the legacy of USF President Judy Genshaft and open the “doorway to a new era,” Provost and Executive Vice President Ralph Wilcox spoke to an audience of USF faculty members to set new academic and community-oriented standards for the new year.

Wilcox addressed USF faculty for his 10th consecutive annual address. While marveling at the achievements that have happened this year in relation to research and preeminence, Wilcox introduced new strategic plans to improve student graduation rates and methods to build stronger relationships on campus in preparation for consolidation.

Wilcox never missed an opportunity to recognize Genshaft, in which the audience applauded in full support.

“It is difficult to imagine USF without Judy (Genshaft),” Wilcox said. “Whose energetic style, dogging determination and wave of commitment to our mission has guided us through periods of uncertainty and has served us with extraordinary success.”

In mapping out the future for USF, Wilcox said he hopes to “reimagine summer” by implementing a 12-week summer B program for First Time in College (FTIC) students. The College of Engineering and Department of Mathematics and Statistics will be at the forefront of deciding the logistics for the new program.

Wilcox encouraged the faculty members to make it their responsibility to build a pathway for student graduation.

Wilcox said he has a goal to work toward reducing the skyrocketing student debt, in which he addressed the new Textbook Affordability Project (TAP). The program provides informative, effective and active solutions to the rising cost of textbooks, according to the TAP website.

Even though there has been progress in reducing debt for African Americans, Hispanic and white students, as well as first generation and Pell grant recipients, Wilcox said there are still areas in need of improvement.

“A significant inequity continues on the basis of gender,” Wilcox said. “With women graduating at much higher rates than male counterparts, this is just not acceptable. Collectively, we must take up the challenge to better support our students for a more successful path to graduation.”

Wilcox said he would like to improve the quality of graduate and faculty members success. He hopes to recruit graduate students, create an academic environment in which graduate students can thrive, better understand post-graduate needs, evaluate the quality of degrees and strengthen mentoring.

Likewise, Wilcox envisioned improving the quality of faculty members by redesigning and investing in mentoring programs, supporting expansion, institutionalizing fellowships and rewarding faculty success.

Wilcox demonstrated peer acknowledgment by allowing faculty members in leadership to stand up to represent their department in hopes to provide a “face to a name” approach and build a stronger community.

In providing support for students, a “Love Over Hate” campaign will be designed by Student Affairs in hopes to combat hate speech and create a more inclusive environment.

With the approaching consolidation of the three USF campuses — Tampa, St. Pete and Sarasota-Manatee — by July 1, 2020, Wilcox recognized the hard work and frustration faculty members have been facing over the past couple of months.

“While many of you have felt the pain first hand because I know you were intimately involved in the planning process, I am absolutely confident that consolidation will eventually come to represent a win, win, win,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox applauds USF’s self-made academic success by crediting Genshaft’s performance. However, he said to the faculty that the work is only now beginning.

“I know of no better message than that shared by President Genshaft. She reminded us that nothing has ever been handed to us. We are not bound by storied traditions and nothing has ever been handed to us,” Wilcox said. “Everything we have achieved, we have earned.

“At USF, we shape our own future.”